By Molly McDonough · 11/26/2016    Back Bay · Japanese · Sushi · $$$$

Until you see the soft orange mass of sea urchin tucked into your Uni Spoon, you may not consider the venomous, spike-covered echinoid to be so graceful. But everything about this restaurant seems to pay homage to the pillowy insides of its namesake animal—from the leather seats you sink into in a candlelit corner to the three-dimensional wall art that recalls a gentle wave.

Foie gras tataki from Uni

And then there’s the sashimi. Don’t expect three chewy morsels alone on a plate; here, each slice is like a miniature piece of art, with sprinkled layers like paper-thin banana chips and pea sprouts lending texture, color, and flavor but never overwhelming the fish’s beautiful simplicity. Soft and buttery are the dominant adjectives here; fatty cuts of hamachi belly are sprinkled with pork belly croutons, and dollops of foie gras round out already decadent squares of tuna tataki. Alongside pillowy crudos, sip a sake with an epic moniker like “Flower of the Wind,” “Soul of the Sensei,” or “Divine Droplets.” If the names aren’t enough to convince you, useful menu descriptors—silky, melon, muted earth—will be your guide.

Caviar from Uni

You’ll also notice surprises sprinkled throughout the extensive drink list: a sake brewed in Waltham, sour beer from Switzerland, a cocktail made with Pittsburgh mead-style beer Hopped Passionfruit. It’s a hint at restauranteur Kenneth Oringer and chef Tony Messina’s eclectic experience; this is a more recent foray into Japanese-influenced cuisine from a duo who have already brilliantly perfected Italian, Spanish, and French foods at Coppa, Toro, and Clio—the latter of which was replaced with Uni’s expanded space in 2015. The evidence is in those hot, meaty dishes like the Grilled Hamachi Kama (collar) in a Korean BBQ glaze; “It’ll just fall apart,” the waitress tells us. “You can definitely get in there with the chopsticks.” Don’t mind if we do.

food from Uni

First-timers might be overwhelmed by the sprawling menu, but servers are happy to recommend the best selections. Trust them.

Must Haves

  • Smoked urchin, quail egg, and osetra caviar make for a perfect melt-in-your-mouth single bite with flavors that almost recall a tiny carbonara.

  • Earthy, fatty, and lingering.

  • Abundant green papaya salsa gives a punchy contrast to the delectable duck topping mini scallion pancakes.

Fun Fact

The uni that we eat is more specific than just a sea urchin's insides. We're actually eating one of its five gonads—its sexual reproductive organs—which are its only edible parts.

Tastes of UNI

So good we can't stop writing about it. Read more about UNI!

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