Restaurants that serve up specialty dishes are really nice to come by when out on the road. One of the appealing aspects of living in Japan is that there're so many niche restaurants that offer up regional delicacies. In this post I will be introducing one such rare place called Uni Murakami, a restaurant that prides itself on serving the best sea urchin or uni in Japanese, in Japan. Below is a video of me enjoying this dish.
First off, what do most contemporary Japanese regard as good taste? What is uni? And where the hell is Uni Murakami? I think if cuisine can bring out the most original flavors then this would be what Japanese regard as good taste. In Tokyo, or any other major city, more eclecticism is emphasized in cuisine. Chefs want to experiment and compete with other culinary specialist, they want to test the bounds of sensible taste. Why? Because it's Tokyo and it's the capital and here is where you get to explore those boundaries of sensible taste. However, some boundaries aren't meant to be crossed. Take for example Mr. Hirokazu Handa of Kobe who is a stubborn Japanese purest through and through, a man who has devoted his entire life to cooking and refining his culinary skills. This is a man who has never veered from the course of tradition. A man who believes that the foundation of all Japanese cuisine is a grain called rice, and that this prized commodity at no given time should ever be compromised or minimized in level of importance due to changing trends and attitudes towards taste. Rice is the foundation of Japanese cuisine
What "uni" or sea urchin is to the Japanese is what sole meuniere is to the French; fish cooked in a butter sauce with a little bit of flour and lemon juice. Sea urchin is a spiny little ball of deliciousness. It's expensive and can be purchased almost anywhere in Japan, but in order to experience the best tasting sea urchin you most go to northern Japan where the waters are icy cold and mineral rich. Sea urchin just taste better up north; it's sweeter and creamier. For us folk from California sea urchin, or purple sea urchin is not so popular. Most Californians have never heard of such a dish as ugly and as spiny as a sea urchin. American's are visual eaters. We love chili-cheese fries, and greasy cheeseburgers. The only uses for sea urchin is for medical research. Researchers are now discovering that this black spiny invertebrate shares hundreds of the same identical genes as the human eye, and that some day, science will crack the mystery on why this is so, and maybe shed some light on future medicine!
in the top picture is a baked in its shell sea urchin, in other words a sea urchin gratin? Lovely. Where do you eat this stuff? Sea urchin can be enjoyed anywhere in Japan, but up north is the best. There's a city located in Hokkaido called Hakodate, which is famed for having an amazing fish market selling every kind of fish known to man. There's a restaurant called Uni Murakami that not only catches the sea urchin, but also farms it. They also have a restaurant that serves sea urchin in every way imaginable. The branch I went to is located in Sapporo and was only a 15 minute walk from the Sapporo Station. Excellent staff, timely service. Amazing.
In the top picture is a huge bowl of sea urchin over hot Japanese rice. And "oh" how it went so well with the cold nihonshu I was having.
All - in - all the experience was epic! I especially loved the owner - a gorgeous Jukujo who spoke English. The wait staff was excellent. Great sake recommendations too. I was drinking local jizake(sake) the whole time I was eating. I must've drank five koboyashi brewed sake that night and all of them were exceptional, one of the oldest breweries in Hokkaido I think. I sampled every sea urchin dish on the menu.
A great place to stop by if ever up this way.
This article is features in Show Me Japan