In terms of sushi, we can all generally agree when it's great and when it isn't. But when it comes to picking favorites, suddenly raw fish becomes a passionate matter of personal preference. I don't expect everyone to agree with me that Sushi Of Gari serves the best omakase in NYC (they do) - that's just my opinion. We're sure you've got an opinion on the matter too, and we're pretty sure we're gonna hear all about it after writing this review. Bring it on.
Soto has long been a part of the "best sushi in New York" conversation. It received two stars from the NY Times a good seven years ago, but doesn't get seem to get discussed much amongst the food illuminati these days. Regardless, Soto still has legions of loyalists, most of whom are carryovers from back when a high Zagat rating actually meant something. But it also attracts plenty of local West Villagers who view Soto as the best Japanese restaurant in the 'hood. Now we see why.
Soto is a fine restaurant. The decor is minimal, but it's got a boisterous vibe compared to most hushed high-end sushi spots. And while the omakase element is quite good, it's the imaginative hot and cold dishes that really got our attention. We hit the menu hard a couple of weeks ago, and left incredibly satisfied with the overall experience. House specialties like the uni cocktail and tuna tartare are unique and crazy delicious. Each dish is intensely labored over and dressed up with all manner of glazes, reductions, and sauces, and then topped with roe and caviar. Half of them incorporate uni in some manner too. As a matter of fact, there might be more uni on this menu than any we've ever seen.
At sushi restaurants, it all starts with the sushi chef. How meticulous and particular they are tends to translate to not only high quality food, but a high quality operation as well. Rumor has it Chef Sotohiro Kosugi once fired an employee for not smiling enough, and may or may not have once asked a patron to leave for ordering a hamburger in his establishment. Those could be old wives' tales, but clearly this guy takes both his service and his fish very seriously. And as you might imagine, both are on point at Chef Soto's restaurant.
Alas, Soto still isn't our favorite sushi restaurant in NYC. However, it's definitely a place we'll be coming back to. We have a feeling you'll be coming back here too, even if it doesn't end up at the very top of your list.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Liebman/NY Mag
Start off your Soto meal in style with one of their signatures, the uni cocktail. Served in a martini glass, there's a serious helping of fresh sea urchin in here with a soy reduction, some fresh wasabi, and Japanese pickles. Sea urchin is an acquired taste, but if ever there's ever a time to try it, this would be it. The soy and wasabi in the mix balance out the bottom of the sea flavor a bit.
Another one of Soto's more popular dishes, this is thinly sliced fluke with chive, shiso leaf, ginger shoots, and scallion under a mizore ponzu sauce. Don't forget to mix it all up before you eat it. That's the key.
Impressive. This is not just miso soup, but miso soup with lobster and uni broth, with more lobster, sliced fresh ginger shoot, and chive thrown in. You definitely have to like uni to get down with this.
OK. We've had a lot of tuna tartare in our day, and this is one of the best. Chopped Big Eye is cut into a huge circle and then dressed with pine nuts, Asian pear, cucumber, scallion, and sesame seeds in a perfect spicy sesame sauce. The only thing missing is some more crunch, but we're not complaining. This is an incredible, flavor packed dish.
These are deep-fried, shiso-wrapped pieces of scallop and fluke that come out crispy on the outside, making for an awesome contrast of textures enhanced by a tasty dashi broth. Order it.
Another dish that was impressive. Cured sea trout with black truffle sea salt, chive, and caviar. Throw some black truffle sea salt and caviar on any fish and it'll probably be good. But still.
The best part of an Amberjack (and also pretty much every fish), the cheek, is broiled and served with ponzu sauce. It's complex and incredibly flavorful.
We went with a singular order of the 12 piece omakase to split amongst two, which was exactly the right move. We had fatty blue-fin tuna from Ecuador, seared Scottish salmon, Amberjack, white sweet shrimp, and seared sea bream from Japan. Horse mackerel is also imported from Japan (not from Ikea) and included in this omakase, along with more uni, which was f*cking incredible.