New York / February 13, 2010 / dinner
Winederlust Rating (details below): 7.9 out of 10 / Winederlust Worthy: Yes
Jay and I are a little obsessed with uni,
the gonads of sea urchins (ok, sounds awful, but is so good) with a rich, creamy, nutty flavor. We’ve enjoyed
fresh uni straight from the shell at 15 East and wrapped in salmon at Bozu.
And so we were really excited when we first went to Soto a
couple of years ago for my birthday: The chef, Sotohiro Kosugi, ran a
successful sushi restaurant in Atlanta before opening this intimate place in
the West Village that specializes in uni in many guises (pics and descriptions below). And we weren’t alone in loving our uni here –
Soto was named the place for the best high-end uni in New York Mag in 2008.
Because Soto is on the pricey side, we hadn’t been back in
while, but it seemed like the perfect spot for a delicious Valentine’s Day
dinner. The restaurant is unmarked on the outside and fairly stark within, with
bamboo poles decorating the front of the room and white walls all the way back.
To start us off, we ordered the yuki no bosha junmai ginjo sake. It
was nice and fruity upfront with a subtle banana flavor and white pepper notes
at the end.
Our first dish was the sea trout carpaccio – cured Tasmanian
sea trout with black truffle sea salt, watercress and sesame sweet miso mustard
sauce. The fish was very soft, nearly melt-in-your-mouth, and nicely balanced
with the savory sea salt and crunchy watercress.
We moved on to the first of many uni courses, the uni with
yuba – black soy bean milk skin with uni, served with a shiitake broth. This was
one of our favorite dishes of the meal. The texture of the bean milk skin contrasted well with the smoothness of the uni, and we eagerly polished off the
rest of the shiitake broth at the end.
Next came the hokki nuta, thinly sliced surf clam with myoga
ginger shoots and sesame, also marinated in the sweet miso mustard sauce and served in half of a lime. This
one wasn’t our favorite. The ginger flavor was too strong, overpowering the
taste of the clam.
Then we were back to the uni – this time the uni ika kelp,
California sea urchin sashimi and shiso squid, rolled in white kelp. This dish
was delicious – the delicate uni contrasted well with the chewy pieces of squid
embedded within the roll
Our absolute favorite dish of the evening was the steamed
lobster with uni mousse – layers of steamed Maine lobster and uni mousse in a
lotus wrap, garnished with smoked uni and caviar. All of the flavors in this
dish were delicious, especially the tasty smoked uni, and it was a nice mixture
of different textures on the tongue.
Next we had the chawan mushi, a traditional organic egg
custard with shrimp, chicken, shiitake, mitsuba, ginko nuts and yuzu zest. The
chawan mushi wasn’t as good as versions we’ve had at other Japanese restaurants.
It was a little runny and stingy on the shrimp (there was only one).
On to the sushi. We started with two pieces of the greenling
(ainame) sushi, since we’d never heard of it before. Unfortunately, it didn’t
have a whole lot of flavor. Our next sushi was the sea clam (aoyagi) from Canada –
yummy, with a nice, crisp mouthfeel.
Then on to one of my other favorites (though I know it’s not
sustainable and feel somewhat guilty for eating it), unagi (freshwater eel)
from Taiwan. Soto’s version was delicious, particularly because it was served
warm, something we experienced all the time when we used to live in San
Francisco but is a rarity with New York City unagi. (Though please tell us if
you know of other places that serve it warm!)
Soto only offered fairly standard mochi ice cream for
dessert, so we decided to end with another taste of the treat that we love even
more than any dessert – uni! We ordered two pieces of the uni sushi from
California. Though still tasty, it didn’t seem as fresh as other uni we’ve had
elsewhere, or even other pieces we had that night. (Plus it didn’t help matters
that we waited nearly a half hour just to get our two pieces of sushi. At some
point the service started falling apart a little and became unevenly paced.)
Overall, we didn’t think that the quality of our meal was as
high as the first time we went, and the service was definitely spotty. That said, we still really enjoyed most of our
uni dishes and, since we’re such uni-holics, we’ll likely be back to eat more!
– by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief
Winederlust Rating Details (out of 10):
Food: 8.0 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Wine (sake): 8.0 (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service: 7.0 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 8.5 (location, view, decor & vibe)
Price Range: $$$ (Pricey)
Soto / 357 Sixth Ave., New York [map]
Direct Line: (212) 414-3088
Monday-Saturday 5:45-11:45pm; reservations suggested, especially on weekends.