Imagine a place where they center their *entire* menu around this tastiest of delicacies.
And then imagine that a *bowlful* of this fantastic sea urchin costs UNDER $13.
And then completely die of happiness when you realize that this place is REAL, and it's just a short drive down to Torrance. That was me, having a lucid dream that came to life, last Saturday night.
Asanebo, Sushi Iki (post to come), Sushi Gen and Marugame Monzo.
Maruhide Uni Club also has this qualifying trait - it's in a strip mall off Redondo Beach Blvd in Torrance, neighbor to a beauty salon, dental and optometry offices and other shops that are far from making the mall a dining destination.
Once you're inside, it's a serene escape from its outer surroundings: the design feels like what I would imagine a family run restaurant from the 90s that aspired to emulate a western tea room from some resort hotel/country club in Japan would look and sound like, complete with soundtrack of classical music.
And, as an unrepentant uni fan, I had to go for the bowl with ALL uni. The first thing to arrive was the uni soup, a light and refreshing clear broth with slivers of onion and pieces of uni - a great tease for what's to come.
Here's how each one breaks down:
Fresh: fantastic Santa Barbara sea urchin, among the freshest I've had in the city, though not the absolute best - leaps and bounds above anything you can get at the farmers market (live uni doesn't always mean great uni), or at Quality Seafood and SO MANY MORE PIECES for the price.
Boiled: I've never tasted uni boiled before Maruhide, and this prep really tames the pungent marine funk that I love (but that may make it more palatable for people who don't love that as much) while creating a texture that for some reason reminds me a bit of bottarga - not at all as dense overall, but I mean in terms of each orb of 'roe' (ok really, gonad on uni) comes to stand out and make its presence known, texturally. I still love the fresh more but it was really interesting to taste uni made this way.
Marinated: this is also a first for me - uni marinated in kombu-shoyu or kelp soy sauce. It's like the different ways uni is prepped as it appears on this bowl can be placed on a spectrum of intensity of funk: in which case, it would go from boiled (mildest) to fresh, to marinated (super funky). Its creamy blast of umami is scooped onto what looks like a lilypad but is a thin slice of radish. This tastes amazing with the perfectly cooked sushi rice underneath.
Uni 'omelette': this was my second favorite after the fresh uni. It's basically tamago - slightly sweet egg formed into a smooth textured 'cake' - with uni paste rolled into its layers. Amazing. I could eat these (plus that fresh uni) every day for the rest of my life and die a happy uni-eater.
Aside from the specialty bowls, they do also have other delicacies that will light food lovers' eyes on fire, like sea cucumber carpaccio, 'tongue stew' and things that I need to try on my next visit: grilled sea urchin, and sea urchin cream pasta (need to see how it compares to Marugame Monzo's uni udon!).
Here's a look at the Specialty Bowls page of their menu:
Maruhide's restaurant has only been open for a few months. I loved that I was able to slide in for a table easily on a Saturday night. But since the LA Times scouted and wrote about the place, I'm not sure how much longer before the place starts popping, and was glad that I was able to experience it before the place is overrun. So ecstatic that a place like this exists and Maruhide, may you live long and prosper!!!!
Yeah so I went back last night with friends @miffyeats and @munchabout, and made much better (and many more) choices. We went on a bit of an uni bender!
served on Japan Airlines in the first class cabin! - so it was fun, on our way out, to check out their refrigerated case of goodies. They do offer trays of uni to go, at various tiers of quality / pricing from factory farmed at $14 to fresh Santa Barbara uni in brine for $19.50 to premium fresh at $55.
*For those who don't live within driving distance of Maruhide (i.e. out of state!) they do have an online store as well - enjoy!
Update Spring 2016: unfortunately Maruhide the restaurant has now closed for business.
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 5.5 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$ (2 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%
Maruhide Uni Club
2130 W Redondo Beach Blvd., Torrance, CA 90504
Parking: free in strip mall open air lot attached to restaurant