Thursday, August 13, 2009

Boston's Best Sashimi: Savory and Sustainable at Uni

When it comes to seafood, sustainability is a complicated equation. It's not a simple as eating local, as the marine populations you have nearby might be the very ones that are most endangered. Nor can you simply choose one type of fish over another, as much depends on how the fish is caught. The method of catch effects everything from the quality of the fish, to mercury levels, to the amount of resulting bycatch (fish and animals caught accidentally in the gear and discarded overboard). Lucky for consumers, there is the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, which offers thorough, fish by fish seafood recommendations, as well as information on many ocean issues. And just as lucky for us ecofoodies, many seafood chefs are making good use of such on-line tools in order to incorporate sustainability into their restaurant menus.

One such chef, Chris Chung of Boston's Uni Sashimi Bar, is bringing sustainable elements to the many incredible dishes on offer each night at this Ken Oringer restaurant. Chef Chung uses on line resources to research the best choices for the menu, as well as consulting with friends who are marine scientists. He uses Sea Bream instead of Snapper, many types of which are listed in the "avoid" category by Monterey Bay. He also uses Big Eye rather than Bluefin tuna, which is listed as "avoid" because all populations of Bluefin--wild or farmed--are being caught faster than they can reproduce. Chung also only uses pole & line caught fish, which has benefits across the board--little or no bycatch, much less mercury in fish where that is a concern, and also the freshest, highest quality fish on your plate, a high priority for Chung.

Indeed, this meticulous attention to freshness is evident in every dish and every ingredient at Uni, resulting in some of the most incredible flavors I have ever experienced. If you've never tried sashimi before, or if you think you're not a fan, you really must pay a visit to this cozy, inviting nook just downstairs from Clio. I can promise that you will never think the same way about sashimi again.

We started our night with the lobster ceviche, which set some high expectations for the rest of the meal. The layers of flavor seemed endless, creating a perfect medley of sweet lobster and mango, tangy citrus, brightness mint and cilantro, and just a hint of heat from the fresh jalapeno. The variety of textures was also perfection, with a little cucumber providing just the right amount of crunch.

I don't normally go for octopus, as it is so often cooked until its texture resembles a giant rubber band, but when we saw this dish being prepared for another guest, we simply had to try it. Chef Chung layered thinly sliced rounds of octopus onto a square plate, then covered them in a generous mix of sesame, ginger, cilantro, and soy sauce, followed by a drizzle of richly aromatic hot sesame oil. Result: another exciting, well-balanced blend of flavors, and the best octopus I've ever had.

The kinmedai was as beautiful as it was tasty, with a rich, smoky flavor that you would never expect from its delicate appearance. Like everything else we sampled, it was nicely complimented by the crisp, subtle flavors of my Ginko-Bai martini, made with Plum-infused sake and a Mountain Peach. Too yummy for words.

The desserts, which come from the menu at Clio, were as artful as the sashimi. My favorite? The cherry capsule: a frozen cylinder of cherry cracked open to send an amaretto caramel streaming onto the plate, surrounding a perfect scoop of sweet cream ice cream. No less amazing was the chocolate biscuit (pronounced bis-QUEE), which held its own delicious surprise: the warm chocolate cake revealed a sweet caramel center, all of which was complimented perfectly by some salty peanut ice cream--yes, it really is salty!--and the crunch of a few chopped peanuts.

Sadly, I have no dessert photos to show you here, but perhaps that is a blessing in disguise. Their gorgeousness, along with that of the sashimi plates, is much better appreciated in person. So grab some friends or that special someone and make your way over to Uni. You will be so very glad you did!

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