Uni Sashimi Bar’s Sakuramasu

Get fresh
By KENJI ALT  |  May 14, 2008

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Do a quick Google Maps search for "sashimi" businesses in the Boston area, and you turn up around 475 results. But there are a few things that make perfect sashimi. First, freshness: without pristine, glistening, just-killed seafood, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. This eliminates about 375 of those 475 restaurants. Second is consistency: I want the sashimi I eat for dinner on Saturday to be just as good as what I get on Monday. There go another 60 restaurants. The next factor is respect: all too often, a chef’s ego gets in the way of the fish. There’s no point in getting immaculately fresh fish if its subtlety is going to be destroyed by overbearing ingredients and misguided fusion elements. This leaves us at about 10 options. The final factor — and the one that sets Uni apart — is exoticism: tuna and salmon are all well and good, but they’re about as exciting as a molten chocolate cake. Go to the Eliot Hotel’s Uni and, unless you’ve spent time working as a fish buyer in Japan, you’re going to see things on the menu that you’ve never heard of, let alone eaten.

The highlight of Uni’s fleeting spring menu (which can vary depending on what’s fresh and available for same-day delivery from fishing ports around the world) is the Sakuramasu (Japanese spring river trout). Like salmon, Sakuramasu spawns in freshwater rivers, but spends a good deal of its life feeding on salt-water-dwelling crustaceans, lending its flesh a deep-orange hue and a good amount of flavorful fat. Though yuzu-kosho (made from Japanese hot peppers and citrus) is more commonly served with grilled chicken, here the robust river trout stands up to the salty-spicy paste that sashimi chef Youji Iwakura uses as the base for a delicate shiso-scented vinaigrette. A sprinkle of pickled mustard seeds, which take on the consistency of caviar, and a few glistening shards of Champagne gelée pack a palate-cleansing acidic punch that precludes the need for the usual pickled ginger. Finally, a purée of greengage plums with faultlessly fresh flavor reiterates that of the fish, providing a sweet note that brings the rest of the flavors into harmony.

Available for $17 at Uni Sashimi Bar at the Eliot Hotel, 370 Comm Ave, in Boston. Call 617.267.1607.

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