This is my food. Watch it move.
I guess that’s to be expected when you order raw sea urchin from a restaurant that has several aquariums full of the spiny echinoderms. The most shocking part, however, was when I started eating it.
It wasn’t moving at first. I tried the mildly fishy, creamy roe that was inside, and it tasted fine to me. Not particularly delicacy-worthy but, then again, what do I know about what sea urchin is supposed to taste like?
And then I noticed it. A purple half-inch needle-like extensions beginning to wag back and forth like a stoned metronome.
I touched it, and it touched me back. (Now that’s a sentence you really hope you never have to encounter in food writing.)
I spent a few minutes hyperventilating and poking my food in horror. I vacillated between guilt and disgust and considered taking a vow of vegetarianism right then and there. I asked an amused waitress when my food would stop moving. “Maybe in about an hour. It’s a sign of freshness, you know.”
In my defense, the orange stuff that was inside was in no way continued to the moving part of the sea urchin. It was really just my plate that was moving, I told myself.
Well, I did end up eating it. And I ended up okay, both physically and psychologically. One of my life philosophies is to live to accumulate experiences and this was certainly an experience.
By the way, this is the restaurant that made all of the above possible- the wonderful Cafe Leto in Murmansk, Russia. Probably one of my favorite restaurants in all of Russia, and not just because they have sea urchin on the menu. Really great service, beautiful decor, spotless surroundings, and very high quality food for reasonable prices. The dessert counter is full of immaculate beauties, and the bathroom has jungle noise recordings and cacti. Really, what more can you ask for?
Update: Just looked up sea urchins on Wikipedia. “The gonads of both the male and female sea urchin, usually called sea urchin roe or corals, are culinary delicacies in many parts of the world. I ate…sea urchin gonads?!?
Needless to say, that’s not how it was listed on the menu. Ignorance really is bliss sometimes.