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Sep 21, 2009 07:36 PM

Kick-Butt Uni Dishes

My best Foodie Buddy and I are planning the ultimate Uni Crawl and would like input on favorite uni concoctions around the city. Currently in the running for our proposed crawl:

Bar Crudo = Uni and Avocado on Toast
Anchor & Hope = Uni with lemon beurre blanc and crab
Tanuki House = Uni Pasta
Koo Sushi = Spoonfuls of Happiness

Give me some more ideas!

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  1. It's been a special when I've had it there, (more than once) but when you start your crawl call and check if La Ciccia has a uni/sea urchin pasta dish on the menu, and if they do, don't miss it! Definitely a favorite of mine.

    La Ciccia
    291 30th Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

    3 Replies
    1. re: susancinsf

      Also, spaghetti with sea urchin at TWO.

      1. re: susancinsf

        I agree that he makes a great uni pasta (also like the version with shaved cured tuna heart) but on a recent visit we were told that they had discontinued the high-content uni dishes. On that visit we had a tomato-uni pasta which was very good too, but less profoundly uni-tasting.

      2. If Ame offers their chawan mushi with uni (savory steamed egg custard), get it.

        Ame Restaurant
        689 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            And you know how much can change in two years -- I'm not about to research how many of those two-year old posts are still accurate...

            1. re: CarrieWas218

              I skimmed it and I don't believe any of the recommended places have changed.

          2. Nihon Whiskey Lounge does a nice Uni shooter, I believe uni and a couple other things served in a chinese-food type ceramic spoon.

            Ino sushi has had some killer uni at times, but I don't think you can go in there and just order one thing and leave...

            And if you know any place that makes Ochazuke, ask them to throw some uni in it right before bringing to the table, I've had that in NYC at Blue Ribbon and it's amazing.

            Last off, if you are up for preparing yourself, SF Fish Company at the ferry building sometimes sells whole uni, spines and all...

            8 Replies
            1. re: pauliface

              Sample size = 1, but I found the uni shooter at Nihon to have too many distracting flavors to taste the uni well, or the uni itself was undistinguished. Either way, it struck me as more gimmicky than good.

              1. re: SteveG

                Fair enough, I won't disagree.
                I've generally had it as a little referesher between other courses there, and it goes nicely.
                But it does have a lot going on...

                So Steve, who do you think consistently serves the best raw uni?
                I have found that even at the best places it is inconsistent.
                The best stuff gives me an unmistakeable body buzz, but it only happens about 1/5 of the time I get it...

                1. re: pauliface

                  Don't know. This is a tough question. I would have said Sebo and Bar Tartine, but Sebo was pretty bad on a recent effort with a distinct lack of attention to detail, and Bar Tartine has changed the entire food format.

                  It's been ages, but Ame probably has consistently good uni.

                  As for getting jaw-dropping uni only 20% of the time--I think that might just be the nature of the beast. I think even with impeccable handling, the raw product varies from stunning to merely tasty, and it's hard for a chef to control that.

                  Thanks for the reminder on Ino. Especially after our last visit at Sebo, we need a new sushi default.

                  1. re: SteveG

                    Steve, Ino is my sushi default as well... Although I was a bit put off the last time I went in (solo) and I was not allowed to sit at the counter.

                    Ino = good fish, mediocre wasabe, rude service.

                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                      Ino was my favorite for years. But it was recently dethroned by Yume in Alameda.

                    2. re: SteveG

                      Was the bad experience at Sebo at the bar or at a table?

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        At a table. Service was fine. The problems were:
                        1) Fish quality was not up to par--only 3 selections actually had good flavor--the rest were simply very neutral. Fresh, just not of a quality consistent with prior experiences or the price point around $10 per pair of nigiri.
                        2) Knife work was unusually sloppy, to the point where I think some of our nigiri should have stayed in the kitchen and they should have tried again instead of hiding shreds of fish tucked under the end
                        3) There was a time when nobody in the restaurant was eating, because they had all finished what food they had been given. We could see the chefs just joking around and chatting in the kitchen. This was around 7:15 PM on Saturday--they weren't drunk, just weren't interested in preparing food for their customers, who were occupying every table.
                        4) The sake list is now down to 4 selections, and my sake was served around 75-80 degrees, where it was too "hot" and unbalanced. As it cooled down in the freezing restaurant, it got much better, but no attention was paid to serving temperature--it was just whatever temperature the bottle happened to be at, which was not favorable for that sake
                        5) Pickled ginger was the sloppiest I have seen in my life, no exaggeration. It was clearly done on a mandoline, where they peeled entire roots and then just slid it across however which way it was. It should traditionally be in fairly tidy diagonal slices which are basically round or ovoid; this was all random shapes, including one piece that was 5 inches long--wider than the width of my hand
                        6) Boring tuna in the 9-piece sashimi selection. This is a bit of a peeve on my part; we don't really order tuna any more for a variety of reasons, and I thought the rest of our ordering was enough of an indication that we didn't want it in the chef's selection. The tuna we got was some crappy grade with a truly uninteresting flavor profile. The menu had a variety of better options, and not just sustainable tuna either, but they weren't included in the sampler. I'm just surprised that a restaurant that carries the sustainable farmed tuna when available would just plonk any old tuna down on diner's plates even if they haven't ordered it specifically.
                        7) The restaurant was positively freezing, because the door was open and the kitchen hood was on, pulling in cold cigarette-laced air from the sidewalk. At this price point, I expect them to do whatever it takes to keep the restaurant free of cigarette smoke and within 5 degrees of 70.
                        8) Fish variety was very poor. Sebo has always had a limited selection, which I accepted because quality was uniformly high. This time, the selection was smaller, and of what was actually on the menu, 4 or 5 items were sold out, despite us being there early in the evening, probably the 4th group of the night to get its order in.

                        In the past, I have had many wonderful meals at Sebo, and have been more than happy to pay prices that are in the top 5% of SF sushi. This meal just failed on so many levels that I don't think we'll be back. It takes a lot for us to make that decision about a restaurant.

                        As for staffing, one of the two original chef owners was working that night; I saw a new face in the kitchen, and the younger guy who they brought in a few years back and trained was working as the second sushi chef. The other of the two original owners was not there. Waitresses and hostess were all people I recognized from the past few years. In short, they weren't missing their A-team, they weren't slammed, and it was far too early in the evening for them to have been goofing around on the job and out of so many of the selections on their menu.

                        Edited to add: the online menu prices are distinctly outdated. Prices are now 10-30% higher, depending on item.

                        1. re: SteveG

                          Yow. You should repost that in a Sebo-specific topic.

              2. I would have said Bar Tartine, where I've had multiple delicious dishes incorporating uni, but the new menu is generic new American with nothing sophisticated enough to benefit from Uni. Yes, I'm annoyed with the chef change there.