Monday, September 29, 2014

Uni Sashimi Bar - Boston

I knew once we'd decided to go to Boston that we'd have to visit a Ken Oringer place. He's a chef I've followed from afar for years, one whose menus I'd read and feel like I could already taste them. It was tough to pass on Clio and Toro, but I've been on something of a seafood kick lately and so Uni Sashimi Bar was the choice.

Our dinner at Uni didn't start particularly well, though. It took nearly ten minutes after being seated before our waiter even graced us with his presence, and then an equal amount of time before he could make a return visit to bring menus and pour water. It was an oddly ignominious introduction to the place, particularly given that the entire restaurant is about the size of a reasonably spacious living room, and we could see him rearranging chairs around empty tables as we anxiously awaited some semblance of service.

(You can see all my pictures in this Uni Sashimi Bar flickr set).

Fortunately, it was all uphill once the food started coming out. The menu at Uni is composed almost exclusively of small plates of raw fish, but the accompaniments and presentations are much more genre-bending than the "sashimi bar" in the name would suggest. As just one example, the namesake sea urchin roe is smoked, then folded onto a soup spoon together with a raw quail egg, a mound of osetra caviar, and a sprinkle of snipped chives for one luxurious, indulgent bite.

One of my favorite fish, silver-skinned shima aji, came cut into thick ribbons and paired with orange segments, goji berries and a black sesame drizzle, the sweet-tart fruit a nice foil for the oily flesh of the fish. Lubina (sea bass) was done in a Mediterranean inspired style, with green charmoula, plumped golden raisins and a sprinkle of preserved lemon gremolata. An elegantly presented razor clam invoked Catalan flavors: romesco sauce, Marcona almonds, crispy migas.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Neptune Oyster Bar - Boston

The "to do" list ("to write," to be more precise) keeps growing longer and more intimidating. In the interest of paring it down, let me try to catch up on some of our latest excursions.

In the summer, we tend to head north in the interest of finding cooler climes than our ninety degree, ninety percent humidity weather here in Miami. This July included a long weekend in Toronto, which will be the subject of another report (the twitter version: a fun place to visit and a fun place to eat). August found us first in Boston, from where we headed up the coast to Maine, then across the border to Quebec City before wrapping up in Montreal.

Our Boston visit started with a place that's been open just shy of ten years, and has all the feel of a classic: Neptune Oyster Bar. We had fortuitous timing, squeezing in to seats at the end of the counter before the lines started to form for lunch (the tiny spot has only a couple dozen seats at tables plus another fifteen at the bar).

(You can see all my pictures in this Neptune Oyster Bar flickr set).

I can see why they're lining up. The oysters, with a choice from among a dozen primarily east coast varieties, were excellent. This particular dozen included, working clockwise from the lemon wedges, Wellfleet, Island Creek and Bee's River from Massachusetts, Browne's Point and Pemaquid from Maine, and Beausoleil from New Brunswick Canada.

But the oysters aren't the only draw here. This buttermilk johnnycake, topped with a mound of smoked trout tartare wearing a sturgeon caviar hat, then doused in melted honey butter, was a fascinating mix of earthy, smokey, fishy, salty and sweet flavors. I would have never guessed that the savory/sweet sausage/pancake breakfast type thing could be taken in an aquatic direction, but this worked. A Spanish-inspired grilled octopus salad, with crisp browned nubs of roasted cauliflower and a ruddy orange romesco sauce, was another good combination, light but hearty and full-flavored.

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