Purple sea urchin season is in full swing with venues such as love.fish at Barangaroo expecting to go through 40kg of live urchin a week over the summer.
“Always a favourite with tourists, it has really been embraced by local diners too,” owner Michelle Grand-Milkovic says. “During the winter months, purple urchin is off-season spawning, so we only have red urchin. In December, purple urchin is back. It is considered to be superior in both flavour and texture.”
The delicacy also meets love.fish’s model of sustainability; fisherman Greg Finn’s method of hand harvesting NSW sea urchin is low-impact with no bycatch and his bounty can be at the restaurant within eight hours.
“The harvesting and consumption of purple sea urchin is doing the marine environment a favour,” he says.
“Purple urchin harvested on correct algae offers a bright yellow roe, less sweet than red urchin, though offering a slightly creamier texture.
“They are higher yielding in roe content and are ripe for harvest during summer and autumn through to early winter.”
At love.fish, executive chef Michael Milkovic prefers to let the high quality product speak for itself.
“We are serving it simply. Freshly shucked and served with lemon, salt and bread to let the salty, sweet and umami flavours shine.
“We also prepare a unique taramasalata where we use sea urchin in place of the traditional cod roe. It is more subtle and a good introduction to urchin for those who haven’t acquired a taste for it yet and we serve it with rye toast and baby vegetables.”
While diner demand for seafood peaks over the summer, most species are at their best in the cooler months, meaning it’s important for restaurants to seek out optimum options.
“It’s the dilemma with seafood,” says Grand-Milkovic. “Demand lowers in winter and people want to eat more of it in summer.”
To combat this problem, the love.fish team recommend talking to you seafood supplier daily about what species are at their peak, where they’re from and how they’re caught. Sourcing local is another key concern, with roughly 75 per cent of the seafood consumed by Australians imported.
“We have always listed the provenance of all our seafood,” says Grand-Milkovic. “We should all choose Australian seafood.”