To Hokkaido, In Search of the Uni Grail:
For the past decade, I have sought out sea urchin like a zombified bipedal sea otter. I have eaten giant red urchins—uni, in sushi-speak—alive and wiggling in slow motion from the dock in Santa Barbara, California, and I’ve slurped from split shells in the street markets of Catania, Sicily. I’ve eaten it in $15 panini in Manhattan and off of a trompe l’oeil seashore of frozen rocks and ice in Copenhagen.
Many times I have heard the sotto voce benediction of “Hokkaido” delivered when the sushi chef hands over that trumping-everything-else piece of uni nigiri. Many times I have thought, Someday. Someday I will go there, to the northernmost island of Japan, and eat that most revered of urchins in full view of the waters from which it was plundered.