We reckon Glen Waverley doesn’t get the recognition for its food offerings that it deserves. It’s the kind of suburb that you don’t really go to unless you live nearby, and outsiders really only know about the high-end Japanese restaurant Shira Nui. Located in a warehouse next to an MMA gym, there’s a relatively hidden restaurant specialising in long- and short-spine sea urchin, which is given away by the high number of poorly parked BMWs, Audis and Mercs with personalised number plates on an otherwise nondescript side street.
The set-up of the restaurant is unusual in that it is a fairly understated restaurant with black wooden tables and chairs pushed up against red-clothed walls, leading to multiple stand-up fridges and freezers holding thousands and thousands of dollars of fresh sea urchin and frozen bird’s nest (solidified bird saliva considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine), next to a low-fi open kitchen. It’s important now to say that this is neither a Chinese or Japanese restaurant despite all the braised abalone, sashimi and sea urchin on the menu; the owners are the second generation in a family who wholesale Australian sea urchin (uni) and bird’s nest and want to show the versatility of these ingredients to a different audience. After all, what’s fun about showing a chef how to use their own ingredients?
For the uninitiated, sea urchin is a rare and pricey treat that sushi enthusiasts, chefs, food snobs and urchin divers have been keeping to themselves. Think of it as custard of the sea. Servings are usually small (unless you’re making some over-the-top frankenfood to post on Instagram) and savoured in one bite, but not at Uni Boom Boom. Their access to freshly harvested and packed sea urchin (all done within 24 hours of fishing and processed in 4 degree temperatures) means that the servings are generous and don’t break the bank. For a bowl of 100 grams of grade A long-spine sea urchin and fresh salmon roe on rice, you’ll be set back $45. Other luxury items like foie gras, fatty tuna belly, fish roe and Hokkaido scallops play pivotal supporting acts and appear on the tasting board ($25) alongside a lychee-flavoured bird’s nest drink, dons (rice bowls starting from $45) and sashimi platters.
If you are an uni enthusiast, you’re going to want to order everything. Luckily, the accommodating (if not a little green) staff are experts in assisting you to not overorder. The aim of the game here is appreciation and enjoyment, not gluttony and palate fatigue. Every meal starts with a free bowl of miso soup ladled over a raw tongue of uni and popcorn seasoned with powdered, dehydrated sea urchin. The dons are a tough one to pick from, but if you’re like us and want the best of all worlds, we advise forking out the $88 for the Luxury 8 Don (and yes, you eagle eyes, that is a lucky 888 dish), seasoned sushi rice adorned with warm, sweet tamago, raw salmon, raw tuna belly, a fat Hokkaido scallop, unagi glazed with teriyaki sauce, braised baby abalone, flying fish roe, salmon roe and a generous mound of the smaller, brinier and more expensive short-spine uni. This bowl is a perfect mix of affordable luxuries that provide a range of temperatures, textures, sweetness and brine, which encapsulates the very reason why people dine at Uni Boom Boom.
When you think you’re done, you’re not. You’re given a complimentary cup of roasted rice tea as a palate cleanser. There is no dessert on the menu, but we recommend making your way to the fridge, taking home a pack of long- or short-spine sea urchin that the kitchen packs away for you immediately in ice with roasted seaweed sheets, wasabi and ginger for you to enjoy as a snack later. It’s good for a week, but no self-respecting uni lover could leave fresh sea urchin in the fridge for longer than an hour.
Uni Boom Boom has been catering to the local Asian demographic for the last year and a half and has garnered popularity purely through word of mouth. So, the not-quite million dollar question is, is it worth the trip out to Glen Waverley? Definitely, especially if you like your seafood raw, your uni fresh and in abundance without sending you broke until your next pay cycle.