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Sea Urchin


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I'd appreciate members' input on where sea urchin dishes can be had at non-Japanese restaurants (preferably French restaurants) in NY.

Sea urchins were available at Bouley last week (Steamed Malibu sea urchins served with Kaffir lime, shiso and baby celery leaves, Oscetra caviar -- not a tasty dish, although the sea urchins were integrated into an egg-based custard similar to a flan).  ADNY's sample Shellfish Menu from its website also describes "Veloute and Royale of Sea Urchin, Lightly Whipped Cream, Chervil" (unclear if currently available).  :wink:

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GT serves a sea urchin 1st course but in the winter only.

Christopher, why in the winter only?

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Rocco DiSpirito's signiture appetizer at Union Pacific is Taylor Bay scallops topped with Uni in tomato water. One of the finest things I've ever tasted.

I'd think Aquagrill would do something interesting with it as well.

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Liza -- I wonder if the tomato water is like Raymond Blanc's (of Manoir au Quat' Saison, UK) tomato essence, which I have not yet sampled and which is described in one of the chef's cookbooks.  I read Steve P's description of the UP dish, and look forward to sampling it shortly. :wink:

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recently had pasta with what amounted to a sea urchin "sauce" with crab meat at esca with another egullet-y person.  i thought it was quite good, and i don't usually eat sea urchin.  the butteriness and richness of the sea urchin seemed like perfect qualities for a sauce.

full disclosure:  i mention i was with an egullet-y person to make newbies feel uncomfortable and to send them running for the hills.  i don't need no stinkin' new egullet-y people.

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damn it Tommy, you might have invited me.  You know I like sea urchin.

Cabrales, the dish to which Christopher alludes is a smooth and comofrting combination of pureed potatoes and sea urchin served in the urchin's shell.  Roll on winter.   :smile:

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I assume GT only offers Sea Urchin in the fall and winter because that is the season when you get fresh Urchin not the cured Uni.  I much prefer the fresh to the cured; Uni is very salty.  One exception would be the Tuna Tartare at Bid made with an Uni Vinagrette.  Other places to find Sea Urchin: Le Bernadin, Union Pacific, Etas Unis (I think).

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Billy D -- It's the same season you describe for French sea urchins ("oursins"). I find them markedly better than uni. However, some restaurants in the US appear to be sourcing their urchins from unexpected places (Malibu?).  I wonder if that might extend the period during which they are available.  :confused:

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jordyn -- When you have a chance, could you describe whether the Ilo "tidal pool" is cooked/uncooked, and what some of the other ingredients might be?  :wink:

I'll confess I didn't partake of the "tidal pool" when I visited Ilo, although one of my dining companions did.

My recollections is that the various sea creatures are raw when brought out, but then they pour some hot broth into the bowl tableside, which will have the effect of cooking them shabu-shabu style.

This seems to be confirmed by William Grimes's review of Ilo, in which he mentions the dish.

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Picholine serves a great sea urchin panna cotta as an appetizer. Blue Ribbon also have sea urchin on their raw bar on occasion, but it was far from being the best I've tasted (I believe it was in January). I believe Aquavit have (or at least had) some dishes featuring a sea urchin "sausage"

M
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I appreciate that Sushi Yasuda would not fit within the restaurants initially requested in this thread. However, I had a good-plus meal recently that included good-plus uni (which is still, for me, not as tasty as fresh urchins from French waters).

robert brown had eaten at Yasuda recently, and noted the availability of monkfish liver there. I visited the restaurant in search of that item. Below is a summary of the meal:

-- Ankima, Steamed Monkfish Liver (names not from menu; between $7 and 10): This appetizer offered a decent amount of the monkfish liver, in three slices.  As robert had mentioned to me, the liver tasted like foie gras -- the harder kind that would be included in, say, a terrine and not the softer "inside" of appropriately seared foie gras. I liked this dish. The slices of monkfish liver had a bit of an orangish tinge to the exterior that appeared to have been artificially applied. It was coupled with ponzu sauce (i.e., the sauce deep-fried softshell crab tends to be served with at NY Japanese restaurants) and accompanied by intense-tasting seaweed nestled in a clump in the ponzu.  I liked the acidity in the ponzu with the liver.

Note that the monkfish liver was not included in the regular menu. It was on a special appetizers menu that also featured the Chilean sea bass described below and even a fugu item (I believe; members should verify if interested). At the sushi bar, this special appetizers menu had to be requested specifically.

-- Chilean Sea Bass in Plum Broth ($9-10): This appetizer offered an unexpected combination of ingredients, at least to me. I was immediately drawn to ordering this dish. Two good-sized pieces of bass were tender, smooth and tasty. They had a very limited portion of skin still attached. The broth offered the taste of Japanese sour plums (i.e., in the cured or pickled sense, and not referring to the intrinsic sweetness or lack thereof of the plums).  A sourness that very noticeable, but that might be viewed as having a gentleness to it as well.  I liked this dish.

-- Sashimi, a la carte.  1 Abalone (4.50), 1 sea trout (3.00), 2 Alasaka white salmon (4.00 each), 2 King Salmon (3.75; the waitress described these as Copper River when I asked by name; somehow her response left me less than confident; fatty and tasty regardless of what variety was involved), 4 uni portions.

The sea urchins (4.50) were good-plus as far as unis go. They were from Santa Barbara, and the sushi chef's addition of some freshly squeezed lemon juice to them enhanced them substantially.

-- Mochi, Green Tea Flavor. While the portion size of this dessert was very small (a medium-sized mochi cut in two), the way the mochi was served was better than most. First, the skin of the mochi utilized a "dough" that had green tea flavors. Also, the exterior of the mochi and the plate had been dusted with a matte, chalk-texture-like green tea substance. This not only furnished the appealing "feel" of that type of texture when the item was initially taken in, but also conferred an initial burst of bitterness that pleased me.  :wink:

Overall, a good-plus meal.  :wink:

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  • 2 weeks later...
jordyn -- When you have a chance, could you describe whether the Ilo "tidal pool" is cooked/uncooked, and what some of the other ingredients might be?  :wink:

I'll confess I didn't partake of the "tidal pool" when I visited Ilo, although one of my dining companions did.

My recollections is that the various sea creatures are raw when brought out, but then they pour some hot broth into the bowl tableside, which will have the effect of cooking them shabu-shabu style.

This seems to be confirmed by William Grimes's review of Ilo, in which he mentions the dish.

I had dinner at Ilo today, specifically for the Tidal Pool (percebes, olympia oysters, sea urchin, wakame, edamame, siverears and woodears, for $25, served as an appetizer). The dish was average.

The presentation of the dish was above-average. An oval, white-colored ceramic dish with a limited amount of height on the side is brought to the table. There was a small-sized mound consisting of one or two sea urchin specimens, two small oysters (fairly good), crispy, textured items that resembled (or were) grey "cloud ear" mushrooms and their translucent cousins (their Chinese name sounds like "snow ear"), various seaweed-like sheets of green-colored wakame, and small peas (not necessarily edamame as one usually sees them).  A silver-colored, covered bowl was brought to the table. The bowl's lid was lifted close reasonably close to the diner, so that the released aroma was intended to be concentrated for the diner's enjoyment. Unfortunately, the aroma was like that of any other bonito-based broth. In the silver-colored bowl, the color of the broth was indeed quite appealing -- a reddish, clear color. This color became a clay orange when the broth was ladled onto the white ceramic dish. Then, a dining room staff member came by with a medium-sized, unusually-shaped glass container with EVOO and used a large extraction tube (also oddly shaped) to add some of the oil to the surface of the dish.

Bonito-based broth is slightly interesting, because it does not have the usual sensations of a fish-based stock and has very slight connotations of smokiness. Unfortunately, it is also quite prevalent in Japanese cuisine, as was the utilization of seaweed-liked materials and the urchin. The urchin was no better than that one could find at the average Japanese restaurant. I did like the miniature oysters, but they were utilized in small quanitites, like everything else, in the dish.  My overall assessment of the Tidal Pool dish was that it was average, and too Japanese in general orientation.

I took in the dish with a glass of 1990 Pommery Brut, magnum ($19). The dessert and mignardises were fairly good. The dessert was Warm Meyer Lemon Cake, Vanilla parfait, mandarin sorbet and candied zest sauce. Meyer lemon is generally something I order whenever it is on a dessert menu, and this dish did not disappoint. The cake was in the shape of an inverted, flower-shape, and the cake material was interesting and tasted almost undercooked (but in a way I liked subjectively). The inside of the cake was molten, and contained a very interesting-tasting runny, custard-flavored, thin material that likely also contained Meyer lemons. Nice accompanying parfait, and appropriately tart mandarin sorbet. The patissier appears quite classic (in a good way), and even the mignardises were appropriate. A pineapple panna cotta had appropriately subdued flavors of pineapple (not a preferred taste for me), and rang of coconut flavors.  

Overall, an average meal, but with a fairly interesting dessert of Meyer lemons.

Appropriate service (including a French and French-speaking maitre d'); location in a hotel. The pricing is high for things like water (bottle of sparkling at $7) and coffee (double espresso at $7). Nonetheless, I was provided with free dessert wine.  :wink:

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More on Ilo. Appetizers on the dinner menu included Stuffed Duck Neck, with smoked beet and onion soubise, upland cress and coronas ($10), and terrine of smoked duck foie gras ($24), with compote of kukicha-infused prune and kumquats, Ilo-cured magret.  Mains included Grilled Passamaquaddy Bay Rainbow Trout ($28), asparagus, pattypan squash, cherry tomatoes, whipped potatoes, sorrel sauce. Sides included Heriloom tomatoes, ricotta salatta ($10), and aligot potatoes, tomme fraiche and leeks ($8).  

There is an After-Theater Supper, with 3 courses for $38. There are four selections for each of the appetizers and mains.

Appetizers- Fruitwood smoked salmon; Gold beet, endive and goat cheese salad; white mushroom soup (oyster mushrooms, with peekytoe crab); Jambon Iberico, watercress, picon cabrales, sherries fig condiment.

Mains -- Grilled Hangar steak; roast Amish chicken, wilted greens, grilled portofbello, broccolini, pepato cheese, natural jus; Sorrel and Chanterelle risotto, lobster, roast cherry tomatoes; Suateed filet of salmon, asparagus, fennel puree, oil cured olives, wild fennel pollen (?)

Desserts -- Passionfruit tart; Silken Chocolate pudding; Creme brulee; Sorbet/ice cream

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you should try the Ilo tidal pool.  It's sea urchin, perbebes, olympia oysters in a bonito broth.  There are also various seaweeds and mushrooms with fines herbes throughout.  It's one of their signature dishes and it just returned to the menu for summer.

sometimes they do stuff with urchin in the dining room at Tabla as a first course but the menu is forever changing so hard to say what's happening at present.

GT does a really nice first course with urchin as well.

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Wilfrid -- The Tidal Pool is an appetizer, but it was the only item I took that night before the Meyer Lemon dessert. Note the dish is not particularly large. Also note there are very few pieces of sea urchin (2, I believe) in the dish. One can taste more sea urchin by ordering 2 pieces at a Japanese restaurant.

I arrived very late (around 10 pm -- I can't be sure, and there were plenty of tables to be had; the exact closing time varies slightly depending on a night's business). I believe tables late can be readily had.

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I had dinner at Ilo today . . . .The dessert was Warm Meyer Lemon Cake, Vanilla parfait, mandarin sorbet and candied zest sauce. . . . The inside of the cake was molten, and contained a very interesting-tasting runny, custard-flavored, thin material that likely also contained Meyer lemons. Nice accompanying parfait, and appropriately tart mandarin sorbet. The patissier appears quite classic (in a good way), and even the mignardises were appropriate. . . . Overall, an average meal, but with a fairly interesting dessert of Meyer lemons.

The patissier at Ilo is Patrick Coston, who is among the 10 Best Pastry Chefs in America 2002 per Pastry Art and Design (July 2002 edition).  

Coston notes: "I'm self-taught. . . . I have an open mind about learning. I read a lot and I have an extensive library. . . . I think my flavors are very clean and sharp and I try to keep it simple. No more than thhree flavors on a plate. . . . And I'm trying to get the money together for my own pastry shop . . . ."  Coxton's Meyer Lemon dessert ws good.

The other awarded patissiers are: Patrice Caillot of Lespinasse; Remy Funfrock [no kidding], Cafe Boulud; Vicki Wells, Mesa Grill & Bolo; Andrew Shotts, The Chocolate Loft (apparently a pastry school?), NYC; Michael Laiskonis, Tribute, Detroit; Keegan Gerhard, Four Seasons, Chicago; Jean-Philippe Maury, Bellagio Hotel, Vegas; Jean-Claude Canestrier, Paris Hotel, Vegas; Robert Ellinger, Baked to Perfection, Port Washington, NY.

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I appreciate that Sushi Yasuda would not fit within the restaurants initially requested in this thread. However, I had a good-plus meal recently that included good-plus uni (which is still, for me, not as tasty as fresh urchins from French waters).

I sampled herring roe at Sushi Yasuda recently. The yellowish very small beads were clumped together and have a much more integrated and dense texture than certain other roe. They were presented in small-ish clumped slices, which had a thin layer of seaweed embedded in them. Not particularly tasty, but worth a sample if a diner (like me) has never had them before.

Other items available recently included: conch (at $3.50 for one order; nicely sweet and less "hard" in texture than abalone; fresh salmon roe (there is a Japanese name beginning with the letter "S") marinated in soya and some type of Japanese wine (better had as sushi); sea trout (average); and sumi squid (tasted like, and may have been ?, cuttlefish; not particularly interesting). I had more of the uni -- creamier than at most Japanese restaurants in NY. :wink:

By the way, some of the unis had a thin line of purplish color running on one side of them. I have noticed this phenomenon before. I wonder what accounts for that feature.

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Wilfrid -- There may be a need to book (even if 15 minutes in advance) during lunch, from my limited observations. Sushi Yasuda has a sashimi option (at the back of the menu) that enables a diner to receive 3 types of fish, etc. for less than $20. I did order that as a "base" for my subsequent tastings. Note the range of potential selections in the sashimi option was (expectedly) limited relative to the a la carte. However, yesterday evening, the selection included scallops, squid (ordered), orange clam (ordered) and various other decent items. It is easy to spend more at Yasuda because the uni is $4.50 a pop and there were other appealing things. The Chilean sea bass dish described for an earlier meal is worth sampling. :smile:

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