In what might have been the fastest restaurant renovation in history, the new Uni reopened a mere four weeks after Clio served its last meal in that space. Gone are the white table clothes and hushed, formal atmosphere. Walk into Uni and you feel like you just walked into a happening party. A sushi bar lines the far wall and sleek metal fish “swim” above diners’ heads as they sit on a long, comfortable leather banquette. There is no silverware save chop sticks and denim clad servers buzz around the room like happy bees. Partners Ken Oringer and Tony Messina are the executive chefs, Akira Sugimoto, formally of O Ya, is the sushi chef and Jason Kilgore from The Hawthorne oversees the bar program.
We tried Uni a mere six days after it opened but you would never know it from the food to the service. The new menu is four times the size of the old incarnation and the servers and runners completely know the ins and outs of what is going on with each dish on it. There are cold and hot plates, nigiri, makimono and uni classics. The recommendation is three to five plates per person.
The dishes draw their inspiration from all over the world. The smoked hamachi tartare and the Chinese celery and mushroom salad were the first dishes to arrive at our table. The hamachi is in a delicate little nori cup and topped with osetra caviar. Pop it in your mouth and the flavors just come together beautifully. The crunchy celery and mushroom salad is tossed with black beans, pickled allium and crispy garlic. A little Japanese, a little Chinese and a lot of happiness.
The Yunnan eggplant salad is the dish I could not stop thinking about the next day. A Spanish romesco sauce of red peppers and almonds, toasted cumin, mint and Chinese black vinegar made the humble eggplant a true scene stealer.
The ever so slightly sweet Japanese milk bread was light as air, toasted and utterly addictive when eaten with the yellow chive and sausage butter.
A smoky shishito emulsion enhanced every airy, crunchy bite of the salt and pepper squid. It was one of the lightest fried calamari dishes you’ll find.
Steamed fluke on braised tofu skin and broccolini was finished with a yellow chive vinaigrette. The fluke was flaky perfection and the chive vinaigrette necessitated a second order of the wonderful milk bread so that there was not a drop left behind.
You cannot really mention the steamed pork bun with braised pork belly without conjuring up David Chang as it is the thing that made him a household name. I still remember the first time I tried it. Just brilliant. Uni’s version is filled with pickled vegetables, chili aioli and BBQ sauce as well as tender braised pork belly. The pork, however, is not merely sliced like Chang’s version when I had it back in the day. Before nestling into the waiting bun, the pork belly gets a dip in hot oil giving it a crisp crust that gives way to the tender belly as you take a bite. The softness of the steamed bun, the crisp exterior of the pork belly, the tender interior of the belly and the vegetables and sauces combine in a way that is ridiculously good.
King crab yakitori was with a black lime butter. Not sure how it was yakitori as it was not skewered and did not appear to have been grilled. While it was tasty it was the least interesting dish of night.
We finished with a nigiri plate of Lubina (Spanish sea bass), Geoduck, striped marlin belly and roasted carrot. The fish was sparkling fresh but the roasted carrot with vadouvan creme fraiche nigiri was so interesting and delicious that, once again, a vegetable dish stole the show.
In lieu of dessert, we decided that the Asian “Cheesy Corn” would substitute nicely as a cheese plate and we were right. Corn, cotija cheese and a hot sauce vinaigrette are served up with shrimp crackers. Paired with a couple of terrific cocktails and you have a wonderful finish at one of the most exciting new restaurants to open in Boston in a long time.
370 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: (617) 536-7200