The casual vibe with funky music playing in the background at Neta is rather atypical for a Japanese sushi restaurant, but in New York it is becoming the new normal. Neta is quite sizeable for a sushi restaurant, but the 20 seats along the counter are the most fun to spy on the chefs’ knife skills. Wear anything from jeans to your work suit as as the interior is very laid back.
Now the executive chef Sungchul Shim brings in his Korean background, American schooling (CIA) and training from Le Bernardin and Per Se three Michelin stared kitchens to the Neta’s innovative plates.
Its former founding two head chefs Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau gathered their sushi skills from the master chef Masa Takayama (Masa – 3 stars Michelin), yet they unexpectedly packed their knives and opened another, smaller and more trendy upscale sushi bar a couple of blocks away. They named it Shuko, which has omakase or kaiseki menu only, and this funky venue was faring very well until my last meal there in March 2017. After dining there regularly we were disappointed and rumours whisper explanation that some of the staff has left and the chefs struggle to keep it going consistently. Neta has been faring well since their departure though as the impeccably trained staff was up to the task of creating innovative small plates and sushi from locally sourced seafood and meat. Hudson Valley provides foie gras, Snake River Farms Kobe beef and the Atlantic the fish.
Richness defines the food menu at Neta. The Toro Tartar & Caviar served in a tall martini glass is reference to founding chefs’ past work at Masa. Spread the rich, almost creamy, tuna belly and the popping sturgeon roe on the accompanying lightly toasted bread, and enjoy the symphony of texture and flavours in your mouth. Add uni, and this tiny cocktail of succulent hedonism will cost you $59! Along with the tender melting Grilled Diver Scallop Uni, garlic soy butter, wild mushrooms and lime and the Uni Porridge with Mochi sticky rice and mitsuba these are the stars from the small bites menu. Well, the Grilled Snow Crab Legs with Chili sumiso tofu glaze and pickled enoki mushrooms are also excellent when in season.
On the other side of the taste spectrum is the piquant and refreshing Kanpachi Sashimi Salad served with daikon radish, red shiso leaf, black garlic powder, and roasted garlic chili sauce. The Szechuan Spiced Salmon sprinkled with smoky bonito flakes, daikon pickles on a bed of crispy rice is remarkable, yet not as refined and refreshing as the seasonal seabream Tai & Truffle wrapping the crisp Mizuna greens in yuzu-balsamic juice (I hope it will come back soon).
The vegetarians are welcomed at Neta, not for the omakase, but a la carte selection of meat-less and fish-less rolls that taste great and are not boring, except perhaps for the shiitake sushi. The Miso Tofu Avocado roll is exquisite, tender and rich. The umami bomb melts softly alongside the perfectly cooked grains of rice.
Seasonally changing sashimi, sushi and rolls rotate on the a la carte options, with A5 grade wagyu and the unsustainable bluefin tuna often included. The Salmon roll with dried hair of bonito is superb. Originally presented and looking like a blonde scientist in a white coat of rice that has just explored the electricity plug with his/her wet fingers.
The omakase is a good value for money at Neta, as it usually includes most of the à la carte options. My favourite creative omakase in New York still remains the Sushi of Gari for its unique and exciting, regularly changing toppings on the rice.
From the rotating ice cream selection we tried the rich and creamy Peanut butter ice cream reminding me of a frozen snickers bar. Unfortunately, the intriguing Truffle flavour was not available.
An intriguing wine list with a passionate sommelier are always a great combo and Neta scooped it. We went for a bottle of a pre-phyloxera relative of Chardonnay from the Romorantin garden by Domaine de la Charmoise 2010 “Provignage” from the Loire Valley. Highly acidic and suitable for the fatty and rich dishes dominating the menu. A unique finding and rare on wine lists anywhere in the world. More enjoyable and pronounced was the slightly oaky California Chardonnay from the Staglin Family Vineyard. The Salus 2010 vintage expressed vanilla, crème brûlée and its long finish also called for more intense dishes.
Price: Very high – top quality ingredients start with the $110 omakase menu soaring up to $230 per head for even finer cuts and meats. Daily at 1pm lunch seating you can do a more affordable 10-course omakase tasting for $99. Whole table must go for the omakase otherwise you must go a la carte, which if you eat a lot can cost you much more.
Daily for lunch: 12noon-2pm; dinner SUN-THU: 5PM – 10:30PM & FRI-SAT: 5PM – 11:30 PM
61 West 8th St., New York, NY 10011, USA
Near the corner of West 8th Street and 6th Avenue.
+1 212 505 2610