About a month ago, David Varley at RN74 called to tell me about some great Puget Sound uni he’d gotten his hands on. He was doing all kinds of experiments with it, including a geoduck uni dish, and asked me to stop by sometime and try it. He wasn’t sure how much longer the local uni would be available.
I didn’t get there until last week, and though local uni was indeed over, he was getting the product from Santa Barbara, Calif. While he was still serving it with geoduck (local) crudo, he was more excited about his latest trial, which he’d just debuted as a special the night we came in. When he began telling me about it and the word “tofu” came out of his mouth, my heart sank.
I’m no tofu fan; the only kind I’ve ever managed to enjoy was in a Chinese dish called mapo doufu, a homey tofu stew with chili, fermented black-bean sauce, and sometimes minced pork. Varley continued excitedly about how he’d made his own tofu (it’s all about the soy milk, he said, which should consist only of soybeans and water). To this he added Wagyu beef tips (essentially just fat from the meat) as well as the uni. I nodded, smiled, and pretended to be excited about his new dish.
And then it arrived in a pretty white cup meant to resemble a uni shell, and I dipped my spoon into something truly delectable and inspired. Varley had layered his warm tofu—the silkiest I’ve ever had, like panna-cotta smooth—on the bottom of the shell. To it he’d added housemade kimchi (not overly spicy) and the Wagyu beef tip. The result was a savory stew balanced in flavor by the sweet elements, a manila clam and the uni, and all topped by several jewels of salmon roe for a final briny blast. It was an exquisite dish—even for this tofu-phobic diner. Get in soon if you want to try it, as uni availability is unpredictable.