REVIEW #29

Soto

Uni, or sea urchin roe, is omnipresent in Sotohiro Kosugi’s creations at Soto, his discreet and transporting restaurant in the West Village. A single piece of uni sushi from California, impossibly creamy and rich, is alone worth the price of your dinner. Kosugi deftly combines uni with an array of other luxuries and it is sometimes unclear whether he is wielding the uni’s richness as a grace note to enhance the flavor of, say, lobster or vice versa.

Kosugi is a third-generation sushi chef who hails from a small town in northern Japan and who then spent a decade in Atlanta, generating substantial buzz and attracting a loyal clientele before relocating to NYC. Soto’s design is very Japanese: there is no sign on the door and a solid wall with blind-like slits as well as an outer wall with various geometrically-shaped holes is interposed between the windows and the dining room, preserving a sense of mystery and seclusion. The whitewashed dining room contains a long polished maple bar and a small collection of seats. In our view, Soto is less successful than some of NYC’s other fine Japanese restaurants (Masa, Sushi Yasuda, Nadaman Hakubai, Kaijitsu) at creating an atmosphere that is minimalist without being austere. However, this drawback is amply redeemed by the quality, inventiveness and beauty of Kosugi’s creations.

One delectable dish combines steamed lobster with uni mousse, which is wrapped in lotus and garnished with smoked uni and caviar. Another wraps uni in thinly sliced squid with shisho, served with a quail egg and tosa soy reduction. The light and crispy tempura is among the best in the city, with gulf white shrimp, fluke, scallop, shiso, shiitake, renkon, kabocha and asparagus. Kosugi’s brilliant version of the staid tuna roll includes Asian pear, pine nuts and scallion and comes wrapped in white kelp rather than nori, creating a beautifully variegated white and green exterior. The drink selection is heavily concentrated toward sake and the service sometimes can sometimes be charitably described as leisurely, however these peccadilloes are immaterial infractions in view of the sublimity of the food. Although Soto currently possesses two Michelin stars, it is not nearly as well known as it deserves to be, and we hope to see its star continue to rise.

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INFORMATION

West Village
357 Sixth Ave.
New York (nr. Washington Pl.)
212-414-3088
Mon-Sat, 5:45pm-11:45pm
    Sotohiro Kosugi, Chef

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