You probably have a friend who either hasn’t been to Boston in a long time, or has visited solely via SNL skits. One who still clings to the Casey Affleck image of the city, who breaks out his Tawwmy From Quinzee accent at the mere mention of the Sox, and who can’t name a single Boston neighborhood outside of Southie. This person is why Boston needs Uni, a flashy izakaya in Back Bay.
Uni will never be the filming location of an Affleck film. It’s loud, it’s cool, and there isn’t a single old guy in a Members Only jacket playing Keno at the bar. More importantly, though, it’s a Japanese-inspired small plates restaurant that will keep you ordering dish after dish, because they’re all so good.
You could come here and just do sushi and sashimi if you want - it’ll be a great meal - but this is a fully realized izakaya and you’re better off exploring the whole menu. Some of the very best dishes are seemingly simple offerings that will blow you away, like the cheesy corn, which is kind of like a queso dip, but is a million times better than anything you’ve ever dunked a chip into while watching a football game.
Other dishes, like the wagyu beef that costs $30 an ounce and is served on a tableside hot rock, seem like they’re designed mostly for shock factor. This also includes a single spoonful of food that costs $16. The Uni Spoon is quail egg applewood-smoked sea urchin, and osetra caviar with yuzu juice and chives. It’s also a night at the movies, a Lyft ride, or a week’s worth of laundry, that you slurp down in less than a second. We’re not going to recommend that you move exclusively to the Febreze method in order to budget for it, but we will tell you that it’s one hell of a spoon.
As you’ve come to expect from this kind of trendy spot, you’ll practically be blinded by camera flashes in the dining room from people taking photos of their food. But the good looks are backed up by real flavor, and a lot of what seems gimmicky at first turns out to actually serve a purpose. The flowers on the cocktails aren’t just ornamental, they also add an earthiness to drinks that would otherwise be too sweet. And the nori cup the hamachi is served in gives the fish a savory crunch that makes this dish more than just the high-end equivalent of an Au Bon Pain bread bowl.
Uni is sceney - sometimes overbearingly so - but if that’s what it takes to convince the outside world that Boston is more than four million Sully’s with shamrock tattoos and special occasion sweatshirts, then so be it. Besides, there’s room in this city for both the spoons and the Sullys. Let’s just make sure they don’t spill on their special occasion sweatshirts, because we’re pretty sure Febreze doesn’t work on quail egg.
It’s a spoon with a bunch of expensive stuff on it. It might be better to put all that expensive stuff on top of a clam or a pat of rice or something, but then it would cost even more, so maybe we shouldn’t complain.
Chiang Mai Duck Carnitas
We’d like to replace the giant cod hanging in the statehouse with a 6-foot tall scallion pancake. Then let’s put it on our flag, stamp it on our license plates, and swap out Patriots Day with a solemn week of scallion-based prayer and introspection. If you think this is a little overboard, then haven’t had Uni’s open-faced duck carnitas yet.
Smoked Hamachi Tartar
The nori cup it’s served in crushes the taco shell salad bowl in the Edible Food Conveyance Olympics.
Just when you think we as a species have run out of ways to cook Brussels sprouts, someone goes and chars them with dill. Now we’re wondering what else we can put dill on to make it better. Bologna? A hardboiled egg? The Sox’ middle relief?
Berkshire Pork Belly Steam Bun
At this point, we’re pretty sure that even Cumberland Farms sells pork buns. This one’s better than the one at Cumby’s, but it doesn’t come with a 32 oz. slushy for an additional 89 cents, so it’s kind of a wash.
Order this, but consider yourself warned: for the rest of your life you will never again dip a chip into anything that tastes better. Your football Sundays are officially ruined.
Wagyu Sirloin on Hot Rock
Have you ever eaten wagyu been and thought, “This is great, but I wish I had to do the work of cooking it myself, and it would also be nice if I had to risk burning my hand on a scalding hot lava rock?” If so, you’re in luck.