Whenever I’m craving creamy, delectable and downright moreish sea urchin roe – rare, as it usually comes with a hefty price tag – my mind turns to Japanese izakayas, high-end sushi bars or (more often than not) imitation fishballs from my local Asian grocer. I didn’t expect to find myself in front of a converted warehouse deep in Melbourne’s east.

Uni Boom Boom is in a boxy grey building in the heart of Glen Waverley, plastered with images of the roe and other, less familiar delicacies. Inside you’re greeted by a mannequin in diving gear and the spiky creatures on display – fitting for a restaurant dedicated to sea urchin (uni in Japanese) served every which way.

“I always say it’s an ocean-flavoured custard. Even just on its own, it’s very creamy and slightly sweet,” says co-owner Johnson Teoh.

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He looks after the venue as restaurant manager, while co-owner and sister Jessica is more involved in the harvest and export side of the family business, which trades as Pacific Sea Urchin.

All of the urchin roe served here is sourced from waters around Tasmania and New South Wales, where long-spined sea urchin is considered a pest. The invasive species has been stripping seabeds of vital kelp and seaweed, leaving “barrens” that jeopardise the rest of the ecosystem.

“I’m a diver myself, and when I go out I love to look at all the coral and starfish,” Teoh says. “Sea urchins endanger the biodiversity underwater. They’re not native to Australian waters, and have essentially no predators.”

Harvesting and consuming sea urchins could potentially save the oceans (from this one particular threat, anyway). Uni Boom Boom’s extensive menu makes it easy to better the environment and your appetite simultaneously.

The roe is served and prepared in different ways. Sometimes the urchin is untouched, to highlight its freshness, as when it’s piled on top of tender wagyu beef. Sometimes it’s cooked into something else, as in the curry laksa paste that eventually becomes a spicy broth with fishballs. Other times it’s rendered unrecognisable: dehydrated, ground into a powder, then sprinkled on popcorn or even mixed into coffee.

But the uni shines brightest in the signature seafood platter, a simple but luxe mix of sea urchin roe, blue fin tuna, king salmon and Hokkaido scallops – all served raw, sashimi-style.

“We visited Japan and tried many restaurants to give ourselves more ideas and inspiration,” Teoh says. “Japan is one of the pioneers of serving sea urchin, so when we were looking into starting this project we thought we had to learn from the best.”

But Uni Boom Boom doesn’t consider itself a Japanese restaurant. It takes inspiration from different cuisines (Malaysia for the curry, China for its urchin omelette, Thailand for the tom yum broth in its hotpot set, among others), and the team considers it a “sea urchin experience cafe” above all other labels.

Also on the menu is edible bird’s nest, a delicacy made from the solidified saliva of swiftlets (a type of bird) that’s prized for its rarity in some Asian countries, like caviar or truffles. It doesn’t have much flavour on its own, so here it’s mixed into milk tea and desserts such as macarons.

Uni Boom Boom
63 Myrtle Street, Glen Waverley
(03) 5611 3330

Hours
Sun to Thu 12pm–7pm
Fri to Sat 12pm–8pm

uniboomboom.com.au

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on February 8, 2021. Menu items may have changed since publication.