Numero Uni

Sea urchin is a sea change for area menus

Spiny outside but silky and rich inside, sea urchin roe has long been a favorite order of ours at the sushi counter. But the creamy roe has recently become a staple of area chefs for its ability to anchor bright spring vegetables, adding instant richness and a burst of salty sea essence:

Et Voila This brasserie's new mussels menu expands beyond the traditional white-wine bath. Chef Claudio Pirollo uses sea urchin roe to flavor his Moules à La Crème d'Oursin ($22). To create the sauce, Pirollo caramelizes shallots with butter and vermouth, then simmers cream and silky urchin roe with fresh lemongrass.

BLT Steak Chef Victor Albisu loves to contrast the rich, silky uni with spring's bounty. In a squid risotto ($18), Albisu whips the urchin roe into butter to flavor his ink-stained rice, which he serves with grilled and sautéed ramps and a drizzle of ramp oil.

Kaz Sushi Bistro This creative sushi restaurant gives uni the truffle treatment. In the Bird's Nest ($15), chef Kazuhiro Okochi juliennes squid and shiso leaves, then wraps strips of both around the roe. He seasons the dish with truffle oil and house-made soy sauce, then creates a nestlike appearance by attaching shredded seaweed along the outside and topping the preparation with a raw quail egg.