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Uni Modern Japanese: Can it break the curse of Wharf and Yates?

Monday Mag’s restaurant reviewer Allan Reid visits the newly opened, highly-rated restaurant
The spicy seafood udon. (Allan Reid)

On the corner of Wharf and Yates, there has been a progression of restaurants going back years. Does anyone remember Sauce? Most recently it was J.R. Slims. Before that The Flying Pig. Somewhere along the line, it was the splendid New Asian Village, but even that fell to the curse. And now, here we go again with Uni Modern Japanese.

Uni opened at the end of April, and I am visiting at the end of its first week in operation. I don’t usually visit a new restaurant during its first week, for there are inevitably kinks. A restaurant is functionally complicated, so the first week is almost always about perfecting the processes.

The newly painted black exterior floats atop the familiar old red brick, creating a striking three-faced façade that commands this corner. The dark-toned interior features a large table-less space big enough for dancing – not that anyone does. Against the Wharf Street windows, a line of tables for two offers views of century-old buildings, traffic, tourists and the modern Johnson Street Bridge. Across the dance floor, a long red banquette extends just below the elevated service area, with the open kitchen behind. There is also a raised seating area against the Yates Street windows, and yet another seating area at the back is closed for lack of staff.

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My husband, Dennis, and I are offered the only unreserved table remaining in the house, along the Wharf Street windows. Perfect. The extensive double-sided menu offers soups and Japanese salads, Temaki (hand cones), Tempura, Bowls (with or without noodles), Oshi-Zushi (pressed sushi), numerous sushi rolls, Sashimi, a variety of grilled seafood, A5 Wagyu beef, and a short list of deserts.

I opt for a bowl of Spicy Seafood Udon ($28.). Dennis chooses Wonton Soup and a side of pan-fried Gyoza. And then we watch, patiently, as other patrons fill the reserved tables and receive beautifully-plated and unusually massive sushi rolls delivered while our table remains empty. Forty-five minutes after ordering, our food arrives with a great deal of apology. A slow opening week has left the kitchen staff unprepared for this Saturday evening tsunami washing over them, and our order became entangled in the mayhem.

But now that the food has arrived, Dennis and I agree it is delicious. My soup is presented in a bowl with the texture and colour of Nori, of which four paper-thin pieces are fanned on one side. A wooden ladle is provided to scoop and sip the intensely flavourful and modestly spicy red broth, which is filled with slivers of white onion, bean sprouts, diced scallion, baby bok-choy, a peeled whole egg boiled soft and udon noodles as thick as the squid tentacles and ribbons of eel they hide. I also find a pair of Kamaboko fish cakes, two modest prawns, two green-lipped mussels on half-shells and a single large scallop still on its half-shell. Impressive. So I forgive the long wait, this time.

Once Uni works out its kinks, with food this good, maybe that old curse can finally be dispelled.

Uni Modern Japanese | 1245 Wharf Street, Victoria

778-430-6999 |

The exterior of Uni Modern Japanese. (Allan Reid)