The One Uni Rule Is Abandoned

Friday, November 7, 2008

I am not a particularly moderate person, but I do have a few rules. Twenty years ago in Bordeaux, I discovered those little outdoor pastis stands where all you do is step down off of the sidewalk. You are given ice, water and a shot of Pernod or Ricard. You mix your own cocktail according to taste. One of these is a bracing tonic in the middle of an afternoon of shopping, but two become a little too boozy. There's a buzz, then you start thinking about a nap. So I always stop at one. Another instance of this is uni, the sea urchin roe served at sushi restaurants. One is delicious, two become overly rich. I always regret the second. It's too much and it dims the pleasure of the first. That was then, this is now. Here in Japan, as fellow diners recoil, I snag the uni from their sushi samplers.I've found it to be noticeably more fresh here than in the United States. The flavor of the sea urchin is more clean and briney. Restraint seems less in order.

I've been blown away two nights running by plain unpretentious small restaurants. Both were in the Gion, the old quarter of Kyoto. Last night a group of us sat at what was essentially a lunch counter with a grill in the middle at a tiny corner shop called Kappa Nawate. Besides grilled items, there was sushi and tempura. I had uni and unagi, of course, some grilled chicken,a little shrimp tempura, cold beer. It was deluxe. The whole time, staring down at me from the counter was this enormous crab. I was already full by the time I gave in. The legs were shelled half way and served as sashimi. I don't remember ever having eaten raw crab before. The meaty portion of the body was cut into chunks and grilled. Delicious but messy. You pretty much had to go at it with your fingers. The carapace was grilled a second, then flipped over to become a bowl to hold the melted coral and tomalley. I wouldn't have known to even eat this, except that it came with a spoon. It tasted like hot, very salty butter with the ocean in it. Sensational. When I was finished the owner snapped away a piece of the shell just behind the eyes revealing a small mesh that contained something bright red. He indicated that I should suck the juices from this which I did. Delicious, whatever it was.

posted by Bill Smith at 1:38 AM


Blogger greg said...

sounds like good times...

November 9, 2008 7:31 AM  

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