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Uni Porn at CHAYA

Uni Porn at CHAYA

IMG_8294.jpg

IMG_0929 Forget foie gras, uni has been the Foodie’s luxury ingredient that has been popping up on menus everywhere. From chefs including them on tacos, Japanese udon noodles, Italian pasta, on bone marrow, or on sushi, no dish is off limits. To celebrate March, which is peak Santa Barbara uni season, Chaya is doing a special uni-centric four-course menu starting March 10th through March 31st. Chaya invited me to preview their unique menu before it was available to the public so get ready for a whole dinner dedicated to some serious uni porn! Here's my article on LA Weekly! IMG_8267Homemade Uni Tofu with Wasabi Soy, $12

The first dish to arrive was the homemade uni tofu with wasabi soy served over ice. Chef Inoue said this was his uni take on a traditional Japanese cold sesame tofu dish. The uni tofu was a strong start to the meal. The dish ended up as a tie for the best dish of the night. The sea urchin tofu was thick and creamy which melted in your mouth leaving behind a very intense nutty flavor. Its consistency was more like eating a custard flan rather than tofu. The wasabi soy sauce complimented the tofu very well and kept the dish from being too one dimensional. Although delicious, uni tofu is most definitely not for the first-time uni eater. Serious uni-devotees only. This stuff is strong. IMG_8294Live Uni Sashimi with Dashi Jelly, $22

The live uni sashimi with dashi jelly was the second dish to arrive of our uni-centric meal, as well as the most photo worthy one. A live uni is cut in half and used as a presentation vessel. The dashi jelly, which is made with Mirin, soy sauce, water, and sugar is turned into a gelatin. The jelly juxtaposed well with the buttery uni sashimi. It starts off with a tart, fruity taste and transitions to a slightly salty aftertaste that is almost reminiscent of salmon roe. The sashimi itself melted in my mouth. The quality of sea urchin is connected to the creature’s location and what it has been eating. And this uni has been eating well. According to Chef George Inoue, the Santa Barbara uni he uses is larger and more flavorful than the Japanese varieties. It also holds more moisture and has a softer texture making it very versatile in his different dishes.IMG_8312Uni Snow Crab Cake with Mitsuba Leaf, $18

The third dish of the menu was the uni snow crab cake with Mitsuba leaf. First, the snow crab is marinated in a spicy dashi and soy sauce mixture. Then chopped onions, Shiitake mushrooms, and miso are added to the crab cake. Instead of having a crispy crust on top and bottom, Chaya’s crab cake is soft and baked. Uni is placed on top of the cake and garnished with raw Mitsuba leaf, which has extensive levels of Vitamin C and calcium. Although the snow crab was tasty, of the four uni dishes, this one was the least unique.IMG_8319Uni and Abalone Akitakomachi Risotto, $28

The last dish of the menu was a crowd pleaser and ended up as a contender for one of the favorite uni dishes off the menu. The uni is mixed in with the risotto along with white wine, chicken stock, and Parmesan. Seared abalone slices, chervil, and pickled purple cauliflowers topped off the dish. The risotto rice dish’s creamy consistency was packed full of buttery and creamy uni flavor. Each bite was so rich and oozed of the nutty, briny uni taste. The seared abalone was a unique twist to the risotto. When the dish was brought out, the abalone was still bubbling from being taken right off the pan. The pickled purple cauliflowers gave it a good crispy chew and upped the texture in the dish. Two thumbs up!

CHAYA Downtown is located at: 525 S Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90071, (213) 236-9577. Other Chaya locations that will be featuring the uni menu include Venice and San Francisco! 

The entire uni menu is $80, but you can order each dish a la carte as well. To see all the behind the scenes fun of my trip, make sure to follow me on Instagram at @kristiehang. Thank you to Chaya for having me preview and taste-test the menu. My opinions are strictly my own.

Full article here: http://www.laweekly.com/restaurants/chayas-all-uni-menu-is-serious-uni-porn-5424078

 

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