— Noted.

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I very clearly remember the first time I had uni. My cousin forced me into it. I was resistant because her description of the texture sounded scary. We were at this restaurant in soho, before I lived in NYC, the kind of restaurant that my uncle (this cousin’s dad) would scoff at for its fancy prices and delicate portions.

I don’t like obsessing over expensive food, but uni is definitely the thing that makes me weak all over and swiftly becomes the topic of my conversation on the internet.

My best friend from junior high school was just in town and there is something that happens when we get together and all we want to do is eat. I’ve thought about it, and I think it is about the comfort of it, sharing a meal, taking us back to the days when our biggest worries were spanish homework and how we were going to get to the beach after school. It’s our solace. Our escape. Our time to indulge in each other’s rare in-person company and couple it with good food.

Somehow or another we boarded the crazy train for an uni craving. It started with the uni panini at El Quinto Pino. Then we decided we should get it while having dinner at Tomoe sushi. They were out. We were sad. I told her we would make up for it the next day by going to get the best uni don in town at Robataya. They were out. I remembered Soba-ya next door had it on their menu, so we proceeded to eat dinner #1 (we had to eat my favorite dish at Robataya which is the salmon kamameshi) and then went next door for dinner #2. They no longer had the uni don on their menu, so we settled for uni soba. It was disappointing.

This is all a long-winded way to say, that I have rounded up my favorite uni dishes in the city in hopes of luring my dear friend back to town for more successful uni adventures.

 

Hands down, best uni don at Robataya, served with ikura. Currently not on the menu (see sob story above) but they tell me it should be back. I’m also realizing this is potentially more reliably available on the lunch menu. PSA: Robataya is closed for a few weeks for renovation.

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Photo by Robyn Lee

 

 

Uni panini at El Quinto Pino. This dish came out at the start of the uni surge in NYC a few years ago. It has been cherished and also bashed by people who were expecting more. I don’t usually like the fusion of foods like Japanese and Spanish, nor the idea that uni needs bread to make it better, but I thought it was tasty.

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Photo by Melissa Hom.

 

 

Linguine with uni at Basta Pasta. I don’t usually like fusion foods like Japanese and Italian, but I crave this dish. It’s very satisfying with the uni mixed into the sauce and hanging out in-between noodles.

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Photo from Yelp.

 

 

Uni Lover at Wasan. I did not make this name up, it is actually on their menu. It’s a generous piece of uni on an uni cracker. I just had this for dinner tonight, followed by an uni don. It fulfilled my craving.

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Photo by Niko.

 

 

And here are the places I have not tried, but are on my uni radar.

15 East (uni sushi)

Sushi Nakawaza (uni sushi, best of NY Mag)

Toqueville (sea urchin and angel hair carbonara)

Soto (various possibly fussy sushi dishes, named unipalooza by former NY Times food critic Frank Bruni)

Neta (uni porridge)

Red Gravy (bucatini with sea urchin, and a skip from my home)

And many of these are ridiculously over-indulgent, but I can’t deny my curiosity is piqued.

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My best friends recently treated me to dinner at Murray’s Cheese Bar in the west village. We ordered the seasonal cheese flight, with the recommended wine pairing. It was so memorable, and something I am already looking forward to doing again. We went on a Saturday and there was a wait, so you might want to call ahead if you know you don’t do well waiting for food.

They also have an excellent happy hour every Monday through Wednesday from 5–7pm.

$10 cheese flights

$2 off any draft beer or wine by the glass

Yes, please!

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Also, here’s a cheese tidbit for you. I just learned from a recent cooking class that cheese (like a fruit) has a “ripe” moment, when it tastes its best. The best way to make a selection is to go to cheese shops that have a  cheese monger at the counter who can help make recommendations on what’s best right now and give you tastings.

Oh, and also! Murray’s served their cheese with a perfect cracker. We had to ask our waiter about them — it is a brand called Z Crackers. Now you may proceed to create your own perfect little (or big) cheese tasting at home. Cheers!

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I am fond of Food52, a website co-founded by The New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser. It is a place that makes food less intimidating (let’s face it, cooking it, eating it, and/or buying it can make or break my day), and will cheer me up just by looking at its beautifully art-directed photos. I recently discovered their online shop, which is filled with all kinds of goodies, objects that imbue the food-related philosophies the site preaches. Here are a few things that caught my eye:

 

Brass ladle, hand-forged in Japan:

brass ladle

 

 

 

Spherical hanging basket, handmade in CT:

spherical basket

 

 

 

Waxed canvas market bag:

market bag

 

 

 

Twine and tags gift box:

twine

 

 

 

Alphabet cookie cutter set:

cookie cutter

 

 

 

Superior servers (I might buy these just for the colors):

servers

 

 

 

Flower vase:
vase

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Photo by Ángel Franco/The New York Times.

If you get the chance to go to Puerto Rico, you have to seek out this fluffy bun called the mallorca. It is covered in powered sugar, and you can ask the bakery to press it in the sandwich maker with a slice of cheese inside of it. Some even go so far to also add ham, but that seems a bit much if you ask me. Sugar and cheese melt into a gooey mess and there is this perfect mixture of sweet and salty, low (sliced cheese) and high (local delicacy), evil and good.

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frankies_olives

Just discovered that Frankie’s Spuntino sells their bright green olives at Cafe Pedlar. These olives are heavenly—super young and not too briny. I first had a similar olive in Spain, where my youngest (and by youngest, I mean oldest) friend and her mother, Tia Maria, took me to buy a large jar from a harvester who sold them in a warehouse where large vats congregated in a dreamy olive heaven. Thankful the jar made it through customs, but this was years ago, and haven’t found that perfect olive since…

Not in Brooklyn? Buy it online here.

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