Noodle Tuesday: uni pasta

So far, all the noodles for Noodle Tuesday have embodied down-home comfort. This week, here’s one that’s more luxe in its ingredients, and yet more simple in its preparation than any of the others: uni pasta—ocean's butter melting into hot pasta, its creamy brininess coating every strand.

While it's taking a while for sea urchin to jump from its rice pedestal at the sushi bar to more creative preparations in other Honolulu restaurants, Japanese-Italian places have been combining uni with their spaghetti for years now. Here are three restaurants where uni pasta is as much a staple on the menu as spaghetti and meatballs at an American-Italian spot. In order of preference:

Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare at Arancino at The Kahala
Pure decadence. Uni heaped over the mound of spaghetti, uni bound in a cream sauce tossed with the pasta—the uni is so abundant and mesmerizing. If you are the kind of person who believes “too rich” is such a thing, then pair this pasta with the recommended sauvignon blanc; its acidity cuts through the cream, leaving only the lingering taste of uni in your mouth.
$27 a la carte at lunch,

Uni pasta at Chez Kenzo
This one will not sing uni the way Arancino’s does, but instead offers a beautiful harmony of shiso, tobiko, nori and uni, with just a touch of acid that brings out the best in everything. The price also makes it the one I'd eat the most often.

Ricci di mare at Bernini
I am rarely disappointed at Bernini, but when I am expecting a creamy uni pasta, this is an utter letdown. The uni has been overcooked (perhaps cooked in a pan sauce instead of being tossed into the hot pasta), leaving only an eggy flavor and none of the sweet creaminess. It's topped by a lonely lobe that serves more as a garnish than any meaningful component of the dish.