The Uni Craze Turns Boozy at POT
The uni cocktail at POT bar
The story of Maruhide is a fun one, and I hope you read about it. But within the review I made a larger point about uni's current popularity. From the review:
As a cult food item, uni is currently unrivaled: Waxed about by adventurous eaters and presented as a delicacy on tasting menus, it would normally be right on the cusp of oversaturation, but it's such an acquired taste that it's unlikely to become truly commonplace.
As if to put an exclamation on that point, Roy Choi's POT Bar in the new Line Hotel in Koreatown is serving a cocktail made with uni.
The cocktail list at POT Bar is the work of Matthew Biancaniello, one of the city's (and world's) most creative bartenders. Biancaniello first came to prominence at Roosevelt Hotel's Library Bar, known for his wild use of botanicals and culinary ingredients, many of them foraged. For POT, Biancaniello worked closely with Choi to bring serious elements of fun and kitsch to the list, serving many drinks popular in the '80s and '90s, such as the Fuzzy Navel, and Long Island iced tea on tap.
But there's also a set of "original" cocktails that show off both Biancaniello's and Choi's aesthetics. From Biancaniello we get high creativity and ingredients usually reserved for dining not drinking; from Choi we get the cultural mashup of flavors that represents the city itself.
So there's kimchee soju and curry soju, served up in a cocktail coup. And drinks made with arugula, mushrooms. And most outrageous: uni.
The uni cocktail actually seems almost subtle, because you can't really taste much fishiness or intense uni flavor. Biancaniello uses sous-vide Santa Barbara uni and mixes it with reposado tequila, nori and a generous dash of cumin. The result is toasty and savory, with the barest hint of uni's creamy seafood funk. The most assertive component is probably the nori, giving the drink an odd sensation, like you're consuming a cocktail hand roll. As an experience, it absolutely works, but only if you're looking for something very cerebral from your drinking. If you're just looking to toss a few drinks back, perhaps the Fuzzy Navel would suit you better.
Of course, all this is only the first tastes of what we can expect from POT when it becomes a full-fledged restaurant. "My real food is coming soon," Choi says, handing us a bag of intensely spicy chips.
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