Glance at the menus of many of Denver’s hottest restaurants, and you’ll likely notice one or more de rigueur luxury ingredients: foie gras, wagyu beef, caviar, truffles, and, increasingly, uni. Otherwise known as sea urchin, uni (the edible part of the creature) is actually the gonads of the spiky echinoderm. Although the Japanese delicacy was once confined to sushi spots, chefs with a variety of backgrounds have taken note of its uniquely sweet, briny flavor and custardlike texture. Here, an array of ways to enjoy the ocean’s gift in the Mile High City.
Stoic & Genuine
Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop St., 303-640-3474
Oysters get a lot of play at Stoic & Genuine, but don’t overlook the uni. Order the whole, live California black urchin on the half shell, or for a more approachable experience, go for the uni fried rice. The bold flavors of house-made kimchi, yuzu ponzu, and scallion are the perfect foil to the rich, creamy uni.
3927 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-4732
Solitaire, Highland’s 10-month-old neighborhood eatery, may seem like an unlikely place to encounter an uni shooter. But this spot does the West Coast tradition justice by serving a port glass filled with Pacific uni, a raw quail egg, and yuzu-sake ponzu. Wasabi caviar and a dash of Tabasco sauce lend some heat.
2615 Larimer St., 303-555-5555
Jeff Osaka’s conveyor-belt sushi spot brings urchin to the forefront many times over: Find it as sashimi, in a roll, and (occasionally) live. And then there’s the uni brûlée, in which the custardy urchin is topped with brown sugar that is then caramelized. The dish is served with strawberry compote and a drizzle of sweet sesame oil vinaigrette.
Central Bistro & Bar
1691 Central St., 303-477-4582
If diving into a wobbly mound of raw uni is intimidating, consider ordering the ABC plate at Central Bistro. This dish features seared ahi tuna, bits of bacon, and crisp cucumber. Uni plays the supporting role in a buttery, mayo-like vinaigrette that adds subtle richness. Consider this an introduction to sea urchin enjoyment.