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Jan 24, 2009 05:43 AM

I just had the best Uni I've ever experienced...

at Omi. John Lee let me pet one of his live sea urchins.

I now realize I've never understood Uni until last night.

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    1. re: tjr

      He only said he found a good guy although I'm sure you mean "where in the world". I tend to ask few questions. Sorry. For me, and especially when going omakase, it's all about relaxing and enjoying the ride.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. Once in a while, Starfish also serves live 'giant red sea urchin from the east coast'. Pretty good too. However, the best I've tasted was no doubt the fresh Hokkaido sea urchins serve by Jiro in Tokyo! Sweeeeet! The Alaskan varietal serve by Yasuda in NYC comes in a close second. Was the 'Omi' version large or relatively small sliver?

        19 Replies
        1. re: Charles Yu

          In relation to Toronto portions I found it to be quite generous.

          No offence, Charles, but I think for the purposes of this conversation comparing Toronto to NYC or Tokyo should only be done if you're prepared to hop on a plane on Friday for dinner.

          1. re: Googs

            There can be pretty huge differences in flavour profile for different uni varieties, which is why I asked originally. I'm a little more inquisitive, and I'd definitely ask the chef where he got them (everyone has a different personality)!

            The live red one at Starfish is quite good. Kaji had live green sea urchin from NB once, which is probably the best I've had in Canada.

            1. re: tjr

              So intricate and delicate it defies the descriptive abilities of this poor Hound. Sweet was the one thing that really stood out. Honestly at the time I was (and pardon me for saying so, but it's true) I was thinking 'this is almost as good as sex'. I just couldn't interrupt these moments with analysis. I know it's my CH duty to do so, but there you have it.

              Does it help you to know that the little guy I was petting it looked like this? So much to learn...

              1. re: Googs

                Unfortunately, no. I can often tell by taste where it is from, but looking at a black sea urchin doesn't reveal much information for me.

                The more important part is that the uni was very good, which is not something often experienced around here!

                1. re: tjr

                  Sorry... trying... I was hoping not being red or green and spine length would count for something. Boy, do I feel stupid.

                  Sweet, melt in your mouth, but lightly tingled my tongue. Served out of the shell.

                  1. re: Googs

                    Sea urchins by colour have a relatively wide distribution: for instance, both NB and BC harvest green sea urchin.

                    Given that the harvest out east starts in December, I think, I assumed they might be from Canada, but I guess not (I think they only harvest green sea urchin in the Canadian Atlantic, though I could be wrong).

                    1. re: tjr

                      tjr, I have had Goog's black sea urchin at Diana's seafood, as well as a green sea urchin. I found that the one I had (green and small) was quite bitter and not sweet at all (not like the black larger one). Was there something I missed? It was very much alive when I prepared him (his mouth was open when I bought him, rushed him home and his mouth was closed and there was a vapour mist near his mouth on the bag). Did I do something wrong, or did I buy a bad breed? Don't know too much about sea urchins and want to learn more. Thanks

                      This was a picture of him:
                      In the store:

                    2. re: Googs

                      On appearance alone I've had Uni that looked like that from Russia but I can't tell what the sheen on the spines looks like from the picture and that's important when it comes to identifying the exact species. Could be from the Primorye Sea? It would be a nice treat if it was. Was it expensive?

                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                        Notorious, it was part of the omakase. It isn't part of the regular menu so I couldn't break out a price for you. As selections change regularly, I'd say you might want to call before going to make sure he has them.

                        1. re: Googs

                          Ah, cool. Well, what's important is that it blew your mind.

                      2. re: Googs

                        Hey Googs, the one in the picture looks like murasaki (purple) sea urchin that similar one can be found (and seen available in here) from either Califoria or BC. It is a very common sea urchin.

                        Those from Japan, even if somehow we are able to get in here like bafun uni will be very expensive.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          Wow! You really know your Uni!!
                          Where are you now? Still in HK or in Japan?

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            Thanks skylineR33. I had assumed from the price (i.e. the omakase cost the same as always) that it hadn't been imported from Japan. I was simply trying to provide a photo to those who know much more than I for ID purposes. Either way it was mind-blowing.

                            1. re: Googs

                              Just as an aside, purple urchins can no longer be harvested in BC, so it's likely from California (pretty standard, I think). It's nice to get live ones in though, rather than packaged product with preservatives.

                              1. re: tjr

                                Uni at Hiro sushi has no preservetives as far as I know. Taro's fish used to sell it as organic Uni last year, but he doesn't carry it anymore.

                                1. re: tjr

                                  Uni from BC is low quality anyway. Roe sacks are too big for sushi.

                    3. re: Googs

                      Irrespective of whether the live sea urchins are being served in Toronto, Tokyo or NYC, they still have to be 'flown in ' from somewhere?! Therefore, if Omi or Kaji....can get their hand on some Japanese or Alaskan one ( IMHO one of the best tasting varietal ), it would be nice to know. I know better trying to compare TO with culinary centres like Tokyo or NYC!!!

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        Most sea urchin in Japan comes from California, and sea urchin is a pretty big export in Atlantic Canada as well. In Maine, it is second only in value to the lobster harvest. Flown in, sure, but some types don't have to be flown as far as others. Any live sea urchin is going to taste better than most of the junk Toronto restaurants are serving uni-wise.

                        I think it's probably harder to get the Japanese ones since they are in such short supply and only power buyers end up getting them.

                  2. Oooh, jealous. I want to know what it's like to "get" uni, because at this point, I sure don't. And I am fully convinced that I'm missing something.

                    I do, however, love how you can talk with such great affection about petting the little guy (girl?), and turn around and happily devour the same little guy moments later. It reminds me of when I was a kid, and my cousin raised rabbits for slaughter. We would blissfully play with the baby bunnies, before driving home with a couple of the previous generation in a cooler. :)

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Wahooty

                      Luckily, Wahooty, it was the other way around. It would have distracted from the experience if John Lee had brought one over before I ate 'im up. Smart man he is.

                      1. re: Googs

                        Ah, I stand corrected, Googs. You're less barbarian than I - my imagination went to more of a Restaurant at the End of the Universe kind of situation. :) At any rate, it does sound like a truly lovely experience.

                        1. re: Wahooty

                          Oh I wasn't suggesting you're a baberian my dear. It's just that when you're a child you may not make the connection between the fuzzy bunny and the delicious dinner. It's only when you're older that you have second thoughts.

                          1. re: Googs

                            Oh, no Googs, it's me calling myself a barbarian. :) I was definitely old enough to make the connection...I'm just still close enough to my farmer roots that I had it drilled into me that it's food, not a pet, no matter how fluffy and snuggly they might be. I agree that eat first, pet later IS the more appetizing sequence of events, given a choice. :)

                            1. re: Wahooty

                              A sea urchin is basically a spiked ball with an anus; not exactly the cutest thing in the world :-)

                        2. re: Googs

                          Interesting thread... what does it taste like?

                      2. how much is an average meal at Omi?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: c_snapper

                          I'd also like to know how much Omasake costs at Omi. Thanks

                          1. re: szw

                            I believe it's $65 at least alst i checked

                            1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                              Thanks! I called about Valentines Day and they said they would only offer Omakase that day and it would be a special menu. Price was still unknown as of today.

                              1. re: szw

                                Typically, yes, the omakase is $65. You can have a set sushi dinner for $20., but really omakase is the way to go at dinner time. The nigori sake is $30. BTW. Very delish.