The Japanese delicacy gets the star treatment with Chef Andrea Carlson's deft touch.
I first tried uni at a street market in Kyoto. "FRESH UNI, ¥500," I presume the sign said—it was in Japanese which means it was illegible to me. (Words I could read included "karaoke" and "beer," which turned out to be more than enough to help me get by). The raw sea urchin sat on ice in the half-shell, out in the open air. I paid my money and scooped the plump orange portion into my mouth. It tasted like the ocean, in the best way possible: salty and a little funky, with a creaminess and an umami kick. Thumbs. Up. Japan isn't the only place in the world to find uni, obviously. (You can even dive for your own right off the coast here in B.C.) It pops up in sushi restaurants all over town, and makes guest appearances on fusion menus on a regular basis. But rarely is it treated with the respect it deserves. Uni, in a best case scenario, is a seasonal treat best enjoyed October through May, revered for the firm exterior showcased when the timing is just right; in the worst case scenario, it's a slimy, fishy blob. So ordering it sight unseen is always a bit of a gamble. But out one night recently at Main Street's cozy Burdock and Co. (a winner at our 2017 Restaurant Awards), I liked my odds. I'd already taken a risk with a glass of orange wine from the natural-wine-focused list, and found myself delighted by a slight fizz—and feeling like I was clearly on a hot streak. I rolled the dice and ordered the uni custard. Really though, there was no risk at all: under Chef Andrea Carlson's patient hand, the delicacy shone bright, enhanced, not obscured, by the bed of light-as-air custard and acidic pops of salmon roe. Pickled seaweed crisps added texture to each spoonful. It was a little taste of Japan, in a decidedly West Coast setting. Uni Custard, $21, Burdock and Co.