I finally found it. After years of trying to live with the bleak understanding that I may never again taste one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth, the bite of my dreams has resurfaced at Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar (907 Foch St, 817-720-5330): uni (sea urchin), salmon roe, and a raw quail egg swaddled in a thin nori wrap. This is the sexiest delicacy on Earth – fine, rich, and sweet, with a voluptuous texture, like that of burrata paired with tiny balls of roe bursting like pockets of brine.
I first discovered this holy trinity at Little Lilly Sushi (6100 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-989-8886), back when Jesus Garcia – now the owner of Oni Ramen – helmed the kitchen. My main squeeze and I frequented the Ridglea eatery, and it was our weekend tradition to saddle up to the modest sushi bar, give Garcia the dollar amount we were willing to spend that night, and watch him work. Every dinner, without fail, ended with the combo of uni, roe, and egg.
Garcia then moved away to the Left Coast and spent some time overseas honing his ramen game, and we were left here in the lurch like abandoned baby birds rejected by their mother. (That’s a myth, by the way. Mother birds don’t do that.) Garcia’s absence sent me fruitlessly searching for the dish at other area sushi joints and even trying to recreate it at home. (What a waste of uni that night turned out to be.)
It’s a wonder humankind found its way to certain foods, given the homeliness of the creatures that bequeath them. The sea urchin may be the most repellent treat of all. It’s the hedgehog of the deep, a bristly orb that’s clearly designed to wave off the hungry, not to invite them to dig in, so I believe special thanks are due to whoever first dared to scoop out its orange roe and discovered the haunting flavor — briny nuances, sweet undercurrents, an overarching richness — of this inimitable grainy custard.
My first (long-overdue) visit to Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar revealed more than a new place to gorge on one of the greatest bites of food. This might be the best new restaurant in Fort Worth. The handroll craze may have taken years to arrive in Cowtown, but its first ambassador was near flawless on my visit.
There’s an austere serenity to Hatsuyuki. The décor is minimal, and the entirety of the seating, as the name suggests, is a horseshoe-shaped bar that fills the room. The atmosphere is pleasant but feels more like a space for craftsmen than a restaurant designed to dazzle the eye – the food takes on that role ably.
Here their cooking continues to uphold the rigorous techniques of washoku, classical Japanese cuisine. Rolls or whatever you order are served as they’re made. My lunch of four handrolls ($13.50) – the daily handroll, crab, salmon, and tuna – were each impeccably, precisely perched on a cluster of show-stealing sticky rice and wrapped in a gossamer-thin nori that retained its crunch.
It was on the daily specials board that I noticed the Uni Plus and, with childlike zeal, ordered two. The morsels arrived, their ingredients spilling out of their wrappers. Roe and uni, two cosmetic outcasts of the sea, interplayed like a violin and cello – the roe’s salinity playing foil to the urchin’s fois gras-like rich sweetness, and there was more color and luxuriance in the quail egg, perched on top of the flower, that ruptures on your palate.
Go elsewhere for what you already know and like. Come here to eat more adventurously. You might just find the dish of your dreams, too.