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.
Big eye tuna came both as a Hawaiian style poke, a pretty straightforward version with seaweed, slivered onions, and bean sprouts, and as a Latin American style ceviche, tugged in an Asian direction with the addition of coconut milk, lemongrass and chilies. Both were quite good.
A bowl of rock shrimp tempura, glazed with a spicy aioli, was quickly emptied. One of my favorite Japanese snacks, takoyaki, was another hit: the doughy balls studded with chewy octopus, glazed with Kewpie mayo and okonomi sauce, and blanketed in bonito flakes wriggling in the heat.
The fish and seafood at Uni were generally every bit the equal in quality of a very good stateside sushi bar, and the accompaniments and presentations, while boldly flavored, were restrained enough not to overwhelm the featured item in each dish. It also, unsurprisingly, all comes at a price: most dishes hover around the $20 range, and you will probably need to order at least four per person – probably more – to feel like you've had a complete meal. Though we didn't choose that route, the $115 or $135 "omakase" options might be the way to go.
It is also clearly not the kind of place you can bring just anyone. Though the menu is not exclusively fish and seafood, it is nearly so, and thalassophobic diners will struggle to find something to make a meal of unless they want to spring for the $30/oz. Japanese wagyu sirloin. But for those who love the ocean's bounty, they do some very good things with it at Uni.
Uni Sashimi Bar
370 Commonwealth Avenue