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Soto New York


toniomi
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:biggrin:

Sotohiro Kosugi is opening a new restaurant May 2007. Being a regular patron of Masa and Urasawa as well as a long time afficionado of Soto-san's cuisine, I am truly ecstatic about his new restaurant. I will post after eating there. Some of us may remember: ika truffle, uni ika sugomori, live lobster, shima aji with truffle oil, THE langostine, kobe spoon with foie gras and dashi broth, and the list goes. Old friends, we'll see you there.

Edited by toniomi (log)
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As an Atlantan and long-time Soto fanatic, it broke my heart when he left.

Perhaps I don't fully appreciate the level of the NY dining scene, but I think his Atlanta operation would have been a top 5 NYC sushi joint. He is an uncomprisining perfectionist who already has a terrific stable of fine dishes. With his increased access to top notch fish and his ability to charge more, he'll be able to take his game up to another level. Perhaps never to the Masa-level in price, but maybe in quality. Not sure. Never been to Masa. And now that Soto is in NYC, I never will.

I'll be interested to see where Soto's price point is in NYC.

See you Sotophiles in four weeks!

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Oh, so it's at 6th & Washington Pl.! My mental image of where I walked by it is farther north. (You can't miss it, BTW -- even though, at least as of a few days ago, there's no visible signage.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Before dinner at Perilla yesterday evening, I grabbed some solo pre-dinner at the bar at Soto. I don't want to write a full review, as I only ordered a few dishes and was out in about 40 minutes to make my next appointment.

With that said, I really liked Soto. I wasn't blown away but it felt "right." The space isn't as cool as Yasuda but its not unattractive either. Staff was very accomodating and friendly, although I was one of like seven diners in the restaurant at the time and the only at the bar. No attitude whatsoever when I walked in an explained how I wanted to just try a few things before continuing on for the evening.

People have made a big deal about the Atlanta location's $80 15-course omakase menu. I have a very hard time believing that he'll be able to offer the same meal at that price in NY. Prices here are not cheap. I spent like $65 on just three small dishes. While this could be a meal for some, it was but a substantial snack for me. I'm not saying its overpriced, it just probably won't be the deal that the Atlanta location was.

As has been posted elsewhere online, the restaurant is small with only two itamae. There are 10 seats at the bar. The restaurant lacks the sleek serenity of some sushi bars I've been to but also stays away from the big-box design vibe of many newer Japanese eateries.

I had the shima aji carpaccio ($18), broiled langoustine ($16), and the sushi roll of the day ($12). The carpaccio was aji with super thinly shaved ginger and green onion, topped with a spoonful of potent truffle soy sauce. This dish was really successful despite its simplicity. The aji is a very subtle fish yet was not terribly overpowered by its condiments. I kept thinking I was eating like truffle butter, thanks to the silky texture of the fish and umami, earthy assertiveness of the sauce. The langoustine was nice, but I thought there was too much mayonnaise in the shiitake topping. The tender and sweet langoustine was enhanced by the mushrooms and the creamy sauce, but in a less-is-more fashion. The roll of the day was tuna tartare, asian pear, cucuumber, avocado, sesame, pine nut, and scallion, wrapped in nori and green kelp. Usually I'm not one to order this kind of new age sushi roll, but it was the only non-traditional item on the sushi menu, so I thought I should try it. While it won't keep me from ordering negitoro rolls in the future, it was actually better than I thought it would be. The buttery tuna and soft avocado serving as great foils to the crunchy cuccumber, nuts, and pear. My favorite part was how each of the latter elements had its own distinct texture.

All in all, not bad way to start my evening, though not cheap. An eight piece sushi set is $40, making it significantly more expensive than Yasuda, if I recall correctly. It will be interesting to see how this place sets itself apart from its competitors and attempts to make a spot for itself among the city's best. As it stands right now, it's more creative than Yasuda by a long shot, yet its sushi is more conservative than somewhere like Gari. We shall see.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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People have made a big deal about the Atlanta location's $80 15-course omakase menu.  I have a very hard time believing that he'll be able to offer the same meal at that price in NY.  Prices here are not cheap.  I spent like $65 on just three small dishes.  While this could be a meal for some, it was but a substantial snack for me.  I'm not saying its overpriced, it just probably won't be the deal that the Atlanta location was.

The a la carte prices at his restaurant in Atlanta were the same, which is one of the reasons people were so excited about the multi-course prix fixe. We considered it a splurge restaurant (despite non-existent decor and generally inept and slow service), particularly when we took our kids (so of course it was the kids' typical birthday choice).

Can you pee in the ocean?

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All in all, not bad way to start my evening, though not cheap.  An eight piece sushi set is $40, making it significantly more expensive than Yasuda, if I recall correctly.  It will be interesting to see how this place sets itself apart from its competitors and attempts to make a spot for itself among the city's best.  As it stands right now,  it's more creative than Yasuda by a long shot, yet its sushi is more conservative than somewhere like Gari.  We shall see.

You know, with such a large sample size now, Id say, with few exceptions, traditional and authentic sushiya that can stand alongside those of Japan are for the most part traditional and authentic with their pricing, while new-breed, creative sushiya are, well, creative with their pricing (in both directions).

Pricing in Japan is pretty consistent, first by ingredients (many advertise that their fish is direct from Tsukiji) and then by location, longevity and popularity. This is why you may hear many Japanese baseball stars pining away about eating sashimi up in Hokkaido, where the North Pacific fishing oversupplies and the real estate is cheap (and it's damn cold up there). Or Kyushu, Shikoku or Akita-ken. On one trip last year, in Tokyo, my best friend's girlfriend was sent a freezerpack bursting with Uni, which her elderly father up in Akita had weighted himself down to retrieve for her. That was some good uni.

It also occurs to me that now with the sushi situation in NYC (and America by proxy) so improved, much of the enjoyment of the bevy of sushi I ate just a few weeks ago in Japan was the sheer variety of fish available, often 40 or more species, vs. here, combined with a population who, having grown up with up with, actually order all these lesser known varieties... I'm often loathe to order some of the lesser known whitefish at even some of the top places in NYC knowing that their turnover is very low compared to the toros, salmons, yellowtails and eels.... I mean, try to find a really good kanpachi (yellowtail belly), amaebi (sweet baby shrimp) or iwashi (like a sardine) around town!

Which is why I praise so many of you who order omakase and/or put so much effort into educating themselves -

Bryan I'll post the rest of those pictures as soon as things calm down, got looooooooots of good ones....

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People have made a big deal about the Atlanta location's $80 15-course omakase menu.  I have a very hard time believing that he'll be able to offer the same meal at that price in NY.  Prices here are not cheap.  I spent like $65 on just three small dishes.  While this could be a meal for some, it was but a substantial snack for me.  I'm not saying its overpriced, it just probably won't be the deal that the Atlanta location was.

The a la carte prices at his restaurant in Atlanta were the same, which is one of the reasons people were so excited about the multi-course prix fixe. We considered it a splurge restaurant (despite non-existent decor and generally inept and slow service), particularly when we took our kids (so of course it was the kids' typical birthday choice).

The one time I did the omakase, it was the most expensive meal I ever had at Soto. There were several times at Soto that I got everything I wanted off the a la carte menu (within reason - could've just ordered a dozen pieces of toro) and came away spending less than the omakase. My point here is that I preferred a la carte to the omakase, especially since I had the ability to pick which specials I wanted. Hint: every special with lobster is amazing, especially the lobster/mango/ portabella cake.

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It's a bit apples and oranges in the end, but we generally managed to drop a fair amount of money at Soto on the a la carte menu. The omakase menu was more, but then we didn't usually spend anything like four hours eating off the a la carte menu (and the two bottles of champagne didn't help with the bottom line either).

I didn't find the prices outrageous (by upmarket Atlanta standards, anyway), and he clearly had no problem filling the restaurant every night (at least every night that I was there) when he offered the a la carte menu, so I wasn't the only one. Filling the restaurant for the omakase menu every night an entirely different story, but New York presumably offers a much larger number of clients who don't have to get up and go to work in the morning. :wink:

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Ordering omakase, they usually tabulate it the same as ordering the same items off the a-la carte menu, rounded off roughly in different ways... it can get real pricey as more unique items are introduced, which the customer might not normally order or wouldn't know is in stock anyway, or if you keep ordering after the chef is done with his presentation

One of the best ways to enjoy an omakase is tell the chef what you like and what you don't like and what to substitute for

Bryan, is the 8-piece like a standard sushi deluxe (which would surprise me), or is it 8 separate dishes that would normally run $5 a piece? I think I saw pictures of a similar layout from Le Miu, which would then sound more realistic

I just hope another chef hasn't come to NYC to "cash in" (well I guess why else would you come), it really doesn't need to be as expensive as it gets here

Edited by raji (log)
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Stopped by Soto late on Saturday (11:30, which they said was their last reservation), and ate at the sushi bar. The room is very bright, but not in an unpleasant way...more in a clean, modern way. Everything looked spotless and pleasant.

I was the last person there, and they were trying to shut things down, so I didn't get to try some of the dishes I'd like to go back for, but had a nice, brief omakase sushi sitting at the sushi bar. Since I had mostly standard sushi items (and not the more fusion-y items he's best known for), I'll have to go back before passing final judgement.

Overall, everything was of very good quality, and the employees were very nice. The two itamaes were skilled and friendly, and the waiters seemed nice, if a bit green. I had pieces of chu toro, ika, aji, shima aji, uni, hirame, madai, sake (seared), saba, anago, and hotate, as well as a few pieces of sashimi. All was of excellent quality, and served edo style, with slightly warm rice and pre-sauced in most cases. The fish was sourced from a combination of places, including Japan, Spain (tuna) and Seattle (uni).

Soto himself was very gracious and apologized repeatedly for not being able to serve many of the things he has on the menu due to the late hour. As a gesture he sent over a very nice aji tartare with fresh ginger, shiso and other seasonings. Very tasty. If it's any indication of the menu items I didn't get to try, it's definitely worth a trip. At the end of my meal, he also sent over a cod dish from the kitchen that would be best described as his iteration of the miso cod at Nobu (which it seems everyone and their grandmother has a version of these days). It was also very good.

In the net, I'd say the sushi was of excellent quality, but probably slightly below the level of the top few best places in town (Ushi Wakamaru, Yasuda, Masa, etc.). However, with the focus being on the more "modern" dishes, Soto will probably be better compared to others that do that sort of thing (e.g. Le Miu, Bond Street, Nobu, etc.). That said, if he uses ingredients of this level, the results may well be better than any of those mentioned. I'll give a full report when I go back for a proper dinner.

A couple of notes: Apparently, they are not yet serving the full "omakase" tasting dinner that they offered in Atlanta, which combines kitchen dishes with sushi bar items. However, they seem very willing to put together any combination of items you want in the interim, and should have an official omakase worked out soon. Also, as of Saturday, they didn't yet have a liquor license, so BYO if you're going before they have it in place (they said they've already been approved, but I'm not sure how long that sort of thing takes).

(As for the price discussion that was started earlier on this thread, the individual nigiri prices seemed pretty much in line with the other high end sushi places in town, which is to say expensive, but not more so than some others. Most pieces were in the $4-$7 range. The prepared dishes were similarly priced to Nobu, Le Miu, etc. (i.e. $15 - $25). So overall, I'm guessing prices are higher than they were in Atlanta, but about right for this market. It's definitely not a bargain, though.)

Edited by LPShanet (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

8 p.m. Saturday, June 2nd for me. I can't wait. Sounds like he's not the relative bargain that he used to be, but that's only fair now that he's able to command the prices he deserves. I understand that his omakase he had in Atlanta cost him around $50 in food costs and he was only charging $80. That's insane!

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Four of us went to Soto last weekend and frankly, I was not too impressed. First of all, they completely ran out of hamachi by 7pm... not because the so many guests were ordering it (in fact the room was half empty then) but because they just didn't have their act together. I ordered sushi omakase. The uni I had was fine but nothing to swoon over. Everything else I had was good but not blow me away good.

The best app we had was a cod, i think, with miso. We also ordered chawan mushi, a not too memorable vinegary crab dish, and tempura.

Staff was really nice ...altho some seemed a bit inexperienced. It's still byob. I would stop in if I was in the area but as an upper west sider, I don't find it is worth the trip at this point.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I finally made my appearance at Soto this past weekend after waiting a year and a few months for him to reopen. Several of my old favorites are still on the menu like the broiled lobster with mango and portabella, shima aji carpaccio and steamed lobster with lotus root, uni mousse and caviar. All, predictably, were superb. Some of his newer offerings were excellent, but some are clearly works in progress. I also thought his nigiri, while very good, is not quite to the level he was known for in Atlanta. Then again, nigiri is not where he specializes...it's his creations that make him great. Word around the campfire is that the owner of Jewel Bako was in recently and was very impressed.

I really like his new space. It is very clean and simple. The table at the end of the sushi bar is neat. I don't think I've ever seen that.

His prices are roughly 50% higher than Atlanta, and the menu is much smaller and more special-based. I personally don't think it's out of line with other places in New York, but it is by no means a bargain like it was in Atlanta where his main competition was 25% more expensive.

One legit knock on Soto is that he puts little to no effort into his dessert dishes. I'm not sure how it is at either top sushi places in NYC, but Soto basically offers ice cream and that's it.

To the poster earlier who expressed concern that Soto came to NYC to "cash in," I can assure that is not the case. He was doing very well in Atlanta, but the market was not challenging enough for him. After growing frustrated with the increasing number of "boring" dishes being ordered at his restaurant (california rolls, tempura, etc), he went omakase-only. The omakase was spectacular, but his business took a massive hit . Ultimitalely, there are not enough foodies in Atlanta to support more than a handful of high end restaurants here, which is why three of our best chefs left the city (Gunther Seeger, Soto, Richard Blais) last year alone. Blais is back, but I know that Soto left Atlanta because he wanted a new challenge, not for more money. On the contrary, he was losing tons of money for the 1+ year he was out of business.

Edited by Voodoo (log)
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I have restrained myself from commenting on Soto as I am friendly with him from his time in Atlanta and didn't want to offer biased commentary. So here it is, I am biased. . . towards Soto. He is a special guy. Deep thinker. Fanatical about ingredients and eqaully so about the way he prepares them. Every time I go (and I go often) he has different tuna. It's always stunning on top of his rice but he is searching for something in the tuna. Tonight it was wild bluefin from Morocco. Last time it was part wild, part farmed from Italy. Maybe next time it will be from the fjords in Norway. Who knows. At eight bucks a slice for chutoro, who cares? It's awesome. I ate his uni tonight also. Yikes. I thought about ordering eight more after the first one.

For the bargain hunters as well as the guys with Wachau wines stacked up in their cellars that need drinking with sushi, let it be known that for the moment, Soto is still byob. Dotingly so. Me, I like red stripe.

I've got more ideas about Soto but I'll save them for later.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

With respect, I'm equally disinterested in Richman's opinions about the finer points of sushi as I am in his comments on interior design. Of value in his review is that he calls out the incredible food coming out of the kitchen at Soto's and gives a nod to Maho-Soto's wife-who is very ably and with remarkable consistency running the show back there.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Bruni two-starred it.

http://events.nytimes.com/2007/09/05/dinin...&pagewanted=all

Why not accompany the article with a photo of a bunch of the uni dishes rather than the unremarkable entryway?

Can't complain too much about the review, it's more informative than most, except that he focuses entirely on the hot and cold plates and disparages their sushi. It's a sushi bar, right? Meanwhile, he one-starred Ushiwaka Maru, which is a crime, most likely because he misread a few of the sushi pieces.

I still haven't tried Soto personally, and I would certainly like to. The conclusion I would draw though, is that I would do better doing a traditional sushi dinner elsewhere, and see Soto as more of a hybrid, and based on the similarities I see between dishes at Masa and Soto, such as the obsession with uni, a "Masa on the cheap", while not all that cheap...

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