I was one lucky kid. First and foremost, I grew up just north of San Francisco in Northern California. And, secondly, my dad used to free dive for abalone off the coast just south of Mendocino. Dad and his buddies would paddle out on their rafts and spend hours, breath held, diving deep into the rocks looking to pry those beautiful and tasty mollusks off their rocks. They’d always get their limit. Within minutes after emerging from the water, the production line would kick in. Cut them out of the shell. Clean out the organs. Slice them into thin disks. Pound them thinner with a wooden mallet. Fire up the Coleman burners. Egg bath. Crushed Ritz crackers. Butter in the pan. In goes the abalone. Serve with a lemon. Fresh abalone fry at least once a month from 4th to 7th grade for me.
Wait. This page is about sea urchin, not abalone. Well, dad and his buddies would always bring out a few large urchins. We would scoop out the roe, squeeze some lemon on it and suck it down. One time I even spread it like peanut butter on a piece of Bordenhave sourdough.
So my love for Uni began at a tender young age. Now, much older, I would have to say it is my favorite food of all. #1 on my list. I simply cannot get enough.
Here are my favorite sea urchin dishes in NYC:
1. Flight of Santa Barbara, Maine and Siberian Uni, Sushi Yasuda
2. “Ricci” (sea urchin, melted lardo, sea salt on a piece of bruschetta toast), Marea
3. Uni Tostada, Cosme, NYC
4. Uni on a bed of raw scallop swimming in ponzu, Nobu 57
5. Squid ink pasta with sea urchin and jalapenos, Mailino
Here’s a photo of the Ricci at Marea:
The Uni Tostada:
And here’s the Nobu dish: