Our One and Uni

Maruhide Uni Club is your source for fresh sea urchin

You don't need a membership card to dine at Maruhide Uni Club, located in an unremarkable Torrance strip mall.

But for fanatics of fresh Santa Barbara sea urchin, finding this Japanese restaurant and retail outlet feels like stumbling onto a sushi-grade secret. Consisting of a few refrigerators filled with uni-related products and some chintzy banquet tables, the decór isn't much of a priority. 

It's really all about the uni. 

Every morning, owner Hideo Kawamura sends a fleet of ships to the Central Coast, which returns with cargo loads of the spike-covered delicacy.

Much of the harvested sea urchin is made into jars of Uni Shutou, an extremely funky, soy-marinated condiment popular in Japanese supermarkets.

The rest is served on Maruhide's singularly focused menu: in crunchy croquettes ($13), creamy pasta ($14) and pilaf ($12), and as oil-slicked uni carpaccio ($12). The undisputed highlights, though, are the straightforward rice bowls overflowing with sweet-saline fronds of fresh uni. The marquee Nigiyaka bowl ($19)–essentially a fisherman's lunch–is stacked with a mosaic of uni, tuna sashimi, scallop, sea cucumber, salmon roe, and a wedge of uni-egg omelette.

Of course, the most popular dish is the pure, unadulterated bowl of uni over rice ($12 to $18), heaped like a succulent pyramid of bright orange bullion.

If Maruhide did start offering membership cards, we would be first in line.