Picture this: Thin slices of squid sashimi cover a mound of sweet West Coast uni, shaped to look like a sea urchin shell and crowned with shredded nori and a raw quail egg. This signature dish is the kind of thing you can expect at Soto, Chef Sotohiro Kosugi’s two-month-old restaurant in the Village.
OK, it looks fabulous, but what does it taste like? “I must say I was skeptical, but I was blown away,” testifies FattyDumplin. “You had to get a bite with everything in it to really appreciate how all the flavors and textures worked together.”
Other new-style sashimi creations from Kosugi, an ambitious and exacting chef who got his start in Atlanta, include chutoro tartare (with exceptionally good ponzu sauce) and shima aji carpaccio, razor-thin slices of striped jack seasoned with truffle oil, sea salt, and shredded ginger. Sushi is very good to exquisite, though catches strongly advises staking out one of the dozen counter seats, preferably right in front of the boss: “If you’re seated in front of the master, the sushi is discernibly better. Same fish, but the devil, and all else, is in the slicing technique and handling of rice.”
Cooked dishes, from a kitchen headed by Kosugi’s wife, Maho, are exceptional. Look for New Zealand langoustine, a giant specimen split open, broiled to a turn, and covered with thin-sliced shiitakes. Cold steamed lobster is arrayed in a ring with lotus root, layered with uni mousse, garnished with house-smoked uni and caviar, and laid out over thin cucumber rounds. Also recommended: beautifully fried karei (flounder) kara-age and uncommonly light chawan mushi (savory egg custard). “Expensive (even without drinks) but worth it,” says guttergourmet.
Another high-end sushi place, 15 East, takes a more traditional approach. This serene spot opened late last year in the space once occupied by sister restaurant Tocqueville, which moved down the block. In charge of the sushi bar is Masato Shimizu, who first gained a following at Jewel Bako—in part for his enthusiasm and knowledge, which he shares freely. “He’s very informative,” observes foodiechan. “That’s why we had such a good time.”
Sushi and sashimi are top quality; recent reports describe pristine tuna, anago (sea eel), Copper River salmon, sweet white ebi, and Japanese wild bass (which the chef “shocks” in ice water before serving). “No rush, no fuss, just pure sushi heaven,” declares vvvindaloo. Beyond sushi, don’t overlook the short list of appetizers, which includes a knockout octopus dish, tako yawarakani. It’s marinated in sake, thoroughly massaged to soften the flesh, gently poached, and served with a pinch of sea salt. “I have never tasted octopus so milky and tender,” vvvindaloo sighs.
Service is impeccable, décor minimalist and clean, and they take care of the little things (soy sauce is made in-house, fresh wasabi is grated at your table). For quality and price, Wilfrid ranks 15 East up there with high-end hound favorite Sushi Yasuda, though he notes that the newcomer lacks Yasuda’s range of unusual and exotic items. “This does not mean it isn’t very good,” he adds. “It is.”
Soto [Greenwich Village]
357 Sixth Avenue (near Washington Place), Manhattan