I love Japanese food. Like, I really love it. And to think there was a point in my life I was repulsed by the mere thought of sashimi, indifferent to cold soba and unimpressed by Japanese curry. What foolish days.
Fast forward to today, and I’m quite hooked on this cuisine that I could eat it every day. But to be fair, there are some things in Japanese cuisine that still receive a hesitant response, like uni (gonads of a sea urchin).
I rarely eat this by choice, simply because there really hasn’t been an opportunity for me to say “this is amazing uni!” — till I tasted the ones at Uni Gallery by Oosterbay.
Not only did I get to try a wide selection of uni dishes, but I also got educated on how varied uni can differ.
My first dish was an Uni Oyster Shot ($28) comprising a complex combination of Canadian Aka uni with house-marinated ikura atop a Canadian oyster.
One would think that with so many elements, things just wouldn’t make sense, but stop the presses, ‘cos this was divine. The silky tofu-like texture of the oyster was unparalleled, while the burst of saltiness from the ikura gave just the right depth. The uni itself was like butter; providing a fattiness to the entire mouthful, as well as serving as a binder to bring all the elements together.
Next up, was a platter of three different types of uni that are meant to be enjoyed as a DIY roll using seaweed sheets. The far left was the Ruibe Uni Shintou ($60), which is uni preserved in salt water. Surprisingly, it wasn’t really salty. In fact, it was still maintained a good sweet-salty balance, although it did coat the palate a little more than the previous uni I tried.
The middle one was the Bafun Uni ($30), which are generally considered to be one of the best and are harvested from Northern Hokkaido. Out of the three, it was my least favourite, possibly because the texture is one-dimensional, I would like the flavours to be just as contrasting as well.
The third and last one was the Murasaki Uni ($30), which many know as the one with the long spikes often seen while snorkelling. It is supposed to be creamier, less intense than bafun uni. I for one, beg to differ on that point, as it was my favourite of the lot, as it proved to be salty, sweet and emit a subtly rich, savoury, meat-esque profile that instantly drew me in for seconds.
You’d think that to enjoy a large amount of this Japanese delicacy, you’d have to make a huge dent in your savings, but at Uni Gallery, they serve a hefty 70g portion of Canadian Aka uni in their Uni Chirashi Don ($28.90 for lunch, $49 for dinner).
Go knock yourself out with luxurious servings of uni atop fluffy Japanese rice, served with shredded egg, wasabi and ginger slices. If you’re feeling like you deserve a reward for a hard day’s work, this is one way to do it!
Also, if you want to be even kinder to yourself, you can go for the Uni Chirashi Ikura Don ($34 for lunch, $68 for dinner) and totally indulge. Naturally, I enjoyed this one more than the one without the ikura, as I’m biased towards ikura to begin with, but also, its natural saltiness made the dish come together a lot more taste- and texture-wise.
Who knew you could deep-fry uni in a sushi? Well, here they do a mean version of Uni Tempura ($36) that is the stuff that’s made of tempura dreams. I devoured it so quickly, I forgot to ask which type of uni is used to make this delectable dish.
No less, the crispiness provided an amazing crunchy contrast to the smooth, buttery uni within the roll, and the accompanying spicy tempura sauce gave these fried bites some welcome heat.
Undeniably my favourite dish of the afternoon was the Uni Maki Roll ($68). Good enough to feed someone as a complete meal, this dish is a home run for me. It is made with snow crab, Japanese cucumber, salmon and fresh uni. I recommend to not even think twice about the price, because one bite of this (with just a smidge of soya sauce, because too much will make everything too mushy) will make you return to Uni Gallery specifically to order it.
The best part is that, as the sushi rolls warm up to room temperature, the uni starts to melt a little, and then it becomes almost like a sauce that dribbles down the roll, and coats the delicate snow crab meat and fatty salmon, to give off this exquisite multi-layered umami experience.
To end off the meal, I was blown away with a 7-type Uni Tokusen Sashimi (starting from $38 per person). What you get is dependent on the chef’s choice, and I received a good mix of fishes like salmon, otoro (tuna belly), monkfish liver, squid and codfish sperm. Safe to say, the monkfish liver and codfish sperm took me a while to appreciate, although I was informed there are diners who have an affinity for it, that they explicitly request for it.
Both have very gamey nuances, while the codfish sperm had a metallic finish, which reminded me of innards. And of course, the obvious winner was the otoro, with its excellent marbling, unforgettable fattiness and sublime texture.
Uni Gallery by OosterBay may seem like just another Japanese restaurant, but trust and believe that the crew here know their uni. If you’re a stickler for quality and want your money’s worth, this place will not let you down. Everything is freshly flown in (on average) every other day, and many of them straight from the world-famous Tsukiji fish market. I dare say, u-ni-ed not look elsewhere for your uni fix.
Expected damage: $30 – $120 per pax