The gears in my head started turning the instant I heard about Maruhide Uni Club in Torrance. An entire restaurant specializing in all things uni, you say? Sign me up! Fortunately, it’s not a real club, so there’s no need to be a member or pay dues to eat there. Still, there’s a certain air of exclusivity surrounding the restaurant due to it’s easy-to-miss strip mall location and the fact that the focal ingredient hasn’t reached “mainstream” levels of acceptance…yet.
The interior isn’t particularly noteworthy, though the classical music wafting through the air is a nice touch, but remember, you’re not here for the décor, you’re here for the uni. The menu can be a bit overwhelming at first glance, with urchin offered in just about every conceivable preparation – sashimi, over rice, with pasta, and even grilled (which I’ve never seen anywhere else) – but the specialty bowls seemed to be the most solid choices for a first-timer, with different combinations of uni and other seafood over sushi rice.
Nigiyaka-Bowl | Fresh sea urchin, marinated sea urchin, tuna, salmon roe, salmon, boiled sea urchin, sea cucumber & uni-egg omelette [$23.80]
The Nigiyaki bowl is a serious undertaking comprised of uni four ways, tuna, salmon, and scallop sashimi, a generous scoop of ikura, and sea cucumber, all served over sushi rice. I found the tuna and salmon to be solid, and the scallops were sweet and plump. The salmon roe was expectedly salty, while the sea cucumber was more of a textural bite with its slight chewiness, but both were enjoyable in their own right.
Now, for the uni. The fresh uni was exactly what you’d expect: creamy and sweet with the slightest aroma of ocean. Strips of squid were coated in the marinated uni (similar to the version at Sushi Zo, though not as refined), which carried a more robust, concentrated flavor than the fresh version. Boiled urchin was certainly the most interesting, as the normally soft texture became dense and the marine flavors more subdued. The uni-tamago was considerably better than what most sushi bars offer, with the uni imparting just enough of its essence into the sweetness of the omelette.
Needless to say, if you’re at all a fan of uni then Maruhide is an absolute must-visit. The extent of their menu requires several trips in order to fully indulge in all of the various preparations. On my next visit I’m eager to try the sea urchin cream pasta and the grilled uni. It seems as though the delicacy, for some time seen exclusively at sushi restaurants, is beginning to make its way into the mainstream as one of the next “it” items in the culinary world.
Maruhide Uni Club
2130 Redondo Beach Boulevard
Torrance, CA 90504
Dine date: Wed 07.17.13, 11:45am