Soto Japanese Restaurant - My Favorite Omakase to Date!
We came for the sea urchin (uni), but discovered our latest favorite omakase in the city! [For those confused about omakase, it's when the chef serves you different dishes of her choosing. Trust me, you'll always be very grateful at the end.] Whereas Sushi Yasuda is the best in traditional dishes and Sushi Inoue is still discovering itself in trendy Harlem, Soto knows how to serve an excellent traditional toro (fatty tuna) sushi and then turns around and makes a cyu toro tartare (chopped fatty part of big eye tuna with avocado coulis, garnished with caviar, chive, served in sesame ponzu sauce). You get the best of both worlds. And did I mention Soto is known for being a sea urchin expert?! All of their sea urchin dishes are exquisite, none with the ocean aftertaste that some lesser chefs leave in the dish. The two of us had 26 dishes each, a bottle of nigori dassai sake, and a bottle of Riesling totaling $495.00 plus tip. Not bad at all! We had spent $1,000.00 for three people at Sushi Yasuda and $261 for two people at Sushi Inoue. I don't even remember how much we spent at Sushi of Gari or the other places. We still have to go to Sushi Nakazawa, but that's another adventure for another day. Soto is one of the places in the city you really have to search for, because there's no sign. The facade is just clear glass covering staggered white walls. I'm always in the West Village, and on 6th avenue in particular, and I never knew it was just right there between W4th St. and Washington Place. Walk in, and the interior is just as unassuming but makes for a peaceful ambience. The sushi bar was populated with foodies, with everyone discussing differences among the omakase's in the city. Seated at the tables were people on dates. The overall feel is just laid back and casual, with people in sneakers and others smart casual. The staff worked in wonderfully coordinated silence, and the only thing you'd hear from them was one of the servers on the radio saying, "First omakase agedashi 80%!" Wonderful coordination, excellent service.
Over the course of three hours, we had:
1. Goma tofu: black sesame and white sesame tofu, served with wasabi soy sauce and soy foam. The server told us to drink the nigori sake served with the dish first. Biting into the tofu, I was happily surprised by the nutty taste of the sesame
2. Chawan mushi, a traditional organic egg custard soup with shrimp, chicken, shiitake, mitsuba, ginko nuts, and yuzu zest. They brought this out steaming hot. It was excellent, but I'm partial to the chawan mushi from Ootoya.
3. Fluke ponzu: thinly sliced fluke with chive, shiso leaf, ginger shoots, scallion, under mizore ponzu sauce. You can never go wrong with fish and some kind of soy sauce.
4. Sea trout carpaccio, a cured sea trout with black truffle sea salt, chive, and caviar, served with water cress with sweet miso mustard sauce and sesame seeds.
5. Scallop and fluke shiso agedashi: deep fried shiso wrapped scallop and fluke, served in dashi broth
6. Next we had our first uni course: the uni cocktail, a sea urchin sashimi, served with shiitake broth. It was nice and sweet with a hint of spice at end, eliminating the aftertaste.
7. Wild snapper carpaccio, a New Zealand sea bream with aged vinegar, sea salt, and sesame oil, garnished with chopped ginger shoots and cilantro. The vinegar lent a nice kick to it.
8. Botan ebi tartare: chopped botan sweet shrimp with fresh ginger, topped with sea urchin, and served with shiitake dashi broth. Basically this dish was sweet on sweet, but it was awesome!
9. Next we had the soft shell crab, crisply deep fried and served with ponzu sauce. On the side was my favorite shishito pepper. Like bacon is for Americans, anything with shishito peppers is a win for me
10. The hokki nuta is a thinly sliced surf clam with myoga ginger shoots and sesame seeds, marinated in sweet miso mustard sauce.
11. The cyu toro tartare featured the chopped fatty part of a big eye tuna, served with avocado coulis in sesame ponzu sauce, and garnished with caviar and chives. Cyu toro, enough said.
12. The next was such a pleasant surprise. We had the uni ika sugomori zukuri, which was sea urchin wrapped in thinly sliced squid with shiso, and served with quail egg and tosa soy reduction. Yum!
13. At this point we started the sushi nigiri, or the all sushi section of the meal. First up was the sea bream, or madai, from New Zealand.
14. Next the squid, the yari ika, from Shimane, Japan.
15. Then the grant fish, or isaki, from Fukuoka, Japan.
16. Once more we had botan ebi, spotted prawn, from Western Canada
17. Then we had more sea trout, sakuramasu, farmed in Scotland.
18. Then salmon, also called sake, farmed in Canada.
19. Next, the soy marinated big eye tuna, or zuke, from Marshall Island.
20. Next, everyone's favorite fatty blue fin tuna, or toro, from Massachusetts.
21. The aji, or horse mackerel, from Saga, Japan.
22. The salmon roe, or ikura, from Alaska.
23. A seared sea bream, or madai yakishimo, from Ehime, Japan.
24. We had the unagi, fresh water eel, farmed in Taiwan.
25. The unagi was supposed to be our last course, but we had to have another dose of uni, and he gave us the uni-bafun, from Hokkaido, Japan.
26. The end of the meal was served with green tea and mochi. The mango mochi was my favorite, but we also had green tea, red bean, strawberry, and vanilla