Uni (Boston) – Re-inventing Fish

had a meal here last night w/ 2 old friends.

Beginnings
1. they sat us at a table instead of the bar – ugh

2. my friends aren’t used to dining out; we had a ‘budget’ of $75/person.

3. my friends are husband/wife rowing partners and they had an event the next morning. we only had 1.5 hours to eat and no wine.

4. they didn’t want red meat or any derivative (like foie gras.)

5. i told the waitress – “let the chef pick, $75/person, no red meat/foie gras” and i warned her i was taking notes in hopes of not repeating my 2nd-rate yasuda meal (especially since we couldn’t watch them at the bar.)

that’s what i had to work with – sounds like a fun, huh? :-)

Conclusions:
1. This is a destination restaurant for the US. Get on a plane now, visit Boston for a weekend, and eat at uni.

2. It is a Nobu-like restaurant on steroids – each dish has 1-3 main ingredients w/ 3-4 auxiliary ingredients. Most dishes sing w/ an inventiveness that puts Nobu to shame. There are some mis-steps where things get muddied but most are top-notch.

3. The Fish is on. The quality is somewhere between Manresa and a Kuruma but he also served more exotic things like live scallops & lobster sashimi. (To continue the Nobu comparison i started above, Nobu’s fish is a level below Uni’s fish.)

4. Presentation is king. I should stop cheaping out and buy a camera – this restaurant deserves pictures. Some of the presentations were breathtaking – the scallop resting in its shell on mountain of ice; salmon resting on a large hot rock.

5. GO! Even the non-dining couple were bemoaning they wish they could: a) drink, b) spend longer than 1.5 hours, and c) spend more than $75. They reassured me they would be repeating w/ the “let the chef do what he wants” command that they found so amusing :)

6. Spend $150/person and i bet you will get one of the better meals in america. At $75/head, our meal was a tremendous value.

The Detailed Menu w/ Comments

1. Tomato/Basil Non-alcoholic Martini w/ strawberry/tomato popsicle
palette cleanser, we were a little shocked considering the ‘no alcohol’ policy but then waitress told us it was NA. the capers in the drink served as a perfect counterpoint. the popsicle was not sweet at all – quite an interesting feat considering the 2 ingredients.

2. Tuna Ceviche w/ lemon, coconut, fried shallots, & fried ginger
a nice ruby red cube of fish that was chopped into finer bits; it had a nice fiery spice that lasted for 2-3 courses. the fried shallots & ginger added a texture & taste twist.

3. Hiromasa (Kingfish) w/ yuzu & shiso vinaigrette
nice fish, a touch too much lemon

4. Salmon “something”
we were guniea pigs! a brand new dish they unveiled for us (or so the waitress said.) a nice cube of salmon cut into 4 chunks, heirloom tomatos, raw radish, chives, & sesame – the freshness of the salmon made this dish a favorite.

5. Live Diver Scallops w/ black truffle vinaigrette, lemon zest
*excellent* live scallops served in their shell atop a large bed of ice. the scallops were sliced very thin, sprinkled w/ the vinaigrette, lemon, & sea salt. wonderful and “bright” – the briny essence of the sea.

6. Lobster Sashimi w/ Jalapeno puree
mmmm…. to me, the jalapeno was unnecessary (although it was tasty by itself.) the lobster was very sweet and, to me, it was a crime to mix it with anything. wonderful. why do people cook lobster?

7. Fluke Sashimi w/ chilean peppers & saffron
this was the main misstep; the flavors were muddled together and thefluke, usually a delicate fish, had a very strange texture. i was wrapped up in conversation so i didn’t really investigate what went wrong.

8. Hamachi Sashimi w/ Shiso flowers
back to basics – a somewhat thick piece of excellent hamachi. this was unlike yasuda – i could taste the essence of the fish – when i bit down, the slight saltiness of the fish filled my mouth.

9. Seared Tuna w/ Ginger & Papaya salad
a *perfectly* seared piece of tuna – the cube of tuna was a very deep ruby red w/ less than a millimeter sear on the outside. perfect.

10. Tuna w/ Foie Gras & Pear puree
i had to get a foie gras dish but i’m surprised they served me more tuna after the last dish. the juxtaposition of textures & temperatures between the tuna & foie gras was interesting, but it was missing something – not sure what.

11. Panna Cotta w/ Dried & Smoked Corn & Shiso flowers
the dried & smoked corn & shiso flowers made this dish. the corn was kinda hard but they perfectly balanced the sweetness of the panna cotta w/ their savoriness – the anti-dessert for the american palette. excellent stuff.

An excellent meal, especially considering the limited options in Boston.

- chuck