Uni is one of those things that you either love, or you don’t. What is uni, you ask? Simply put, uni is the Japanese name for the edible part of a sea urchin. A delicacy in Japanese cuisine, its sea-like taste and gooey texture, may turn some (less adventurous) eaters off. At Naoki Sushi in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Chef Naoki Nakashima is serving up both Santa Barbara Uni and Hokkaido (or Japanese Uni) to guests, and believe us, they are both delicious in their own right. Here, Chef Naoki tells us a bit more about the different types of uni and which one you may prefer based on your palate and if you’re still not sure which is for you, he is offering a side-by-side tasting at the restaurant.

Uni trey at Naoki Sushi
Let’s start state-side with Santa Barbara Uni.
California Gold” is the highest grade of uni that has a vibrant, bright color and is more firm in texture. It’s melt-in-your-mouth sweet and delicious.
Uni from Naoki Sushi
Santa Barbara Uni
Tell us about the Hokkaido uni.
Grade A Hokkaido ” is the highest grade, best quality uni from Japan, and Chef Naoki’s personal favorite. and is the highest grade and best quality. It has a deep orange color and a balanced flavor that is sweet and has a delicate ocean freshness.
Japanese Uni from Naoki Sushi
What is the main difference between the two?
The uni from Santa Barbara tends to have a sweeter flavor, whereas the uni from Japan tends to have a creamier, smoother texture and a more balanced sweet, yet ocean-y like flavor. 
Two Types of Uni at Naoki Sushi
Hokkaido Uni on the left. Santa Barbara Uni on the right.
If you’ve never had uni, here’s why you should try it.
High quality uni is both rare and delicious. Rumor has it that uni contains a natural euphoria causing chemical that affects the pleasure receptors in the brain.
Uni from Naoki Sushi
Hokkaido Uni
And how you should try it?
Chef Naoki suggests eating uni as a nigiri or sashimi. Pair it with a crisp, dry sake or Champagne and you’re set!
Japanese Uni Nigiri
Japanese Uni Nigiri


At Naoki, chef is offering uni both a la carte or as a tasting of the two different types side-by-side for $39, which includes two nigiri pieces of each the Santa Barbara Uni and  Hokkaido Uni to compare and contrast.
Japanese Uni Nigiri
Japanese Uni Nigiri
To make your reservation at Naoki Sushi, click here. If you’re not up for leaving the house, Naoki also does carry-out and delivery!
Not into uni, but really into sushi? Let Chef Naoki school you in the art of sushi, here.