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Soto in Atlanta: newest prix fixe tasting menu


Gifted Gourmet
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Went to Soto Saturday night...very, VERY impressive. I'll post all the "gory" details a little later, but suffice it to say that Sotohiro is finally doing things his way with this format and he seems to be very happy with the result (I know I am!).

If you're in Atlanta, love Japanese cuisine (believe me, this is so much more than just sushi) and have 3 hours to "kill"...you owe it to yourself to make the trip to Soto. For those afraid of the 15 courses (with multiple components per course), Soto is trying to scale back some of the portions - he mentioned he's still trying to figure out the right amounts - so it really doesn't seem overwhelming at all (then again, if he offered 30 courses, I would still be frothing at the mouth for more at the end of the service!).

Again, details coming later - think it would be nice to post the menu we had so you can see how much changes/remains on a day to day basis against the other previous posts.

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is he still doing a sake pairing with the meal?  Im dying for the details of saturdays meal.  im so excited!

-oren

No. Or at least none was described or offered at our dinner there last Saturday. I think that one of TheFoodTutor's courses came with sake, but none of ours did.

Based on the experiences I've heard so far (not just here on eGullet but from others in Atlanta) you'll likely see many dishes already described here, possibly a few new ones.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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OK, time for the menu...

"Pot"

Dobin mushi soup (great start to the evening - light, clear broth with shitake in the background, plus shrimp and some flounder to eat out of the pot)

"Tray"

Sashimi - chu toro and shimfuri tuna with sumi ika shomen broth

Sushi - negitoro roll (chopped fatty tuna and scallion) and zuke tuna

Hasson dish - cured mullet roe (SO good), steamed sea eel, monk fish liver pate inside a shitake mushroom, slow steamed abalone (one of my favorites for the night) and garlic pepper toro

"Cup"

Yellow pepper mousse with grape tomato, fried ginger julienne and steamed lobster (you've seen the picture - it tastes much better than it looks)

Chawan mushi - steamed egg custard with shitake and shimeji mushooms (a dish from my childhood...really put a smile on my face)

Egg plan with a sweet miso and foie gras sauce with "a touch of balsamique" (ridiculously good...thought this one could have/should have been served in a demitasse or espresso cup because of the color, but oh my god was it good)

"Bowl"

Tempura fried founder with shiso leaf, served in an agedashi broth (essentially age tofo, but with a piece of flounder tempura...nice)

"Spoon" (Three spoons with just a taste of each...left you wanting more...until you ate the next spoon!)

Uni capuccino (playful approach to uni and it works)

Octopus julienne with an asian pear vinaigrette (the only dish I could find a fault with...and it's a minor nit, but I thought the vinaigrette was a little too sweet and overpowered the tako)

Idaho Kobe grade beef and foie gras with dashi broth (Soto himself comes out to spoon the broth onto the dish - such a nice touch and it makes it a little more personal experience...even if he's making the rounds to every table!)

"Aji tataki"

Japanese horse mackeral with ginger soy sauce (as a big mackeral fan, I loved this dish...I was surprised how light in texture the aji was)

"Flash steamed with flash scallion oil" (this was the description - probably needs a little work! :cool: )

Seared Japanese red snapper with ginger and scallions (done in a similar fashion to Nobu's new style sashimi...Soto was not shy with the ginger - which added a very spicy bite to the dish)

"Sunomono"

Mackeral and ginger roll, Uzaku fresh water eel, snow crab with kimizu sauch (guessing there was yuzu in this - the sauce was delicious), japanese cucumber and wakame seaweed

"Beef tataki"

Idaho Kobe grade beef with ponzu and daikon radish

"Tartare" (you picked one of two)

Hamachi tartare - yellow tail with wasabi tobiko and pine nuts, served with soy sauce froth (this was definitely my favorite of the two - the fat in the hamachi really went well with the spicy crunch of the wasabi tobiko, plus the pine nuts added great texture)

Tuna tartare - tuna with pine nuts, cucumber, pear, scallion, sesame oil and avocado (good, but not quite as good as the hamachi...the maguro just didn't have enough...character, I guess)

"Refreshment"

Asain pear sorbet with pear and frozen plum wine (very nice, acidic, but sweet course that was a nice break at this point)

"Soto's popular item" (you again picked one of the six options)

Aoyagi clam carpaccio - live aoyagi clam with ginger soy and truffle oil (I'm a sucker for truffle oil, so this was a relatively easy selection. The clam had great texture and the whole dish had a very fresh feel to it - could have been the result of the sorbet)

Steamed sea eel with micro arugula (the eel was tremendous...firm and tender at the same time and even though it was steamed, it had just a taste of char - maybe he grilled the eel first?)

Other options were two different lobster preparations (one broiled and the other steamed), hamachi kama (nearly went for this, but was craving the taste of truffle), and a broiled langoustine dish.

"Fried and Broiled"

Fried karei and atlantic sole with ponzu sauce

Fried soft shell crab (had a hint of curry in there somewhere...I swear I tasted it)

Asparagus, kabocha squash and lotus root tempura with a tea salt (great, I repeat, great tempura...crisp and not oily in the least...the lotus root was fantastic - crunchy, fresh and sweet)

"Sushi" (you pick 3 of 12)

We went with chu toro (2x), seared Japanese red snapper, live scallop (2x...tender, light...simply fantastic), and sea eel

Final course is a choice green tea, red bean or plum ice cream

So, there you have it...15 courses - all perfectly prepared. Everything as fresh as possible and left as uncomplicated as possible...very pristine.

The bill? $78 per person...I have NO idea how he's doing this, but I am not going to question. It's simply the best deal you can get in Atlanta for this type and amount of food.

Oh - almost forgot about the question regarding the sake pairing. It was NOT offered the night I went - don't think that was a normal thing for Soto. We went with several different sakes throughout the meal and the tempura and fried course was crying out for a beer!

A couple of notes regarding service - it's just fine. Not quite "5 star" caliber, but certainly they are very attentive, patient and more than willing to take time to try and explain what you have in front of you. The best part is Soto himself - he made it a point to come out to each and every table after their meal and ask how everything was - he really wants this to work, I believe, and I would encourage you to tell him just how much you enjoyed not only the food, but the format as well (provided you do enjoy it!). I was a big fan of Soto before the format change and you can count me as an even more avid fan now. Looking forward to the next experience!

Edited by Collins (log)
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I was at Soto's on Friday the 22nd. My experience was as others have described above, stunning. I know that Soto has been struggling to find a format that works for him both financially and aesthetically. It was in the service of this struggle that Soto closed down and retooled to make the restaurant what it is today. It bears mentioning that a less passionate man, a man less willing to risk his reputation and his well-being wouldn't have done what Soto did. A more reasonable man would have become more conservative. Soto went the in other direction. The current menu is 12 courses at $80 dollars a person. I haven't eaten at every restaurant in America so I can't say this for sure but it seems likely that dinner at Soto's is the best bargain going in the country. He orders all his fish from the Tsiji market. He changes his menu daily. His only assistant in the kitchen is his wife, Maho. The menu is littered with expensive materials: caviar, foie gras, kobe beef, uni, chu-toro. He began at twelve covers per night at $70 a head serving a seventeen course prix fix meal. The concept as I understand it was based on a kaiseki meal. When questioned about the meal's size and the length of time it takes to consume it, Soto explained that to meet the parameters of a proper kaiseki meal, he had no choice but to serve seventeen courses. All of this sounds insane to me. There is no way this restaurant can succeed. The meal, as people have reported here, takes between two and a half and four hours. It is a tremendous amount of food. I've heard that unsuspecting Atlantans were asking for the bill when not even halfway through the menu. Not a few of them. This is a recipe for disaster. But it's my impression that Soto has decided the only way to success is to be true to his own bent sense of integrity. He will make the food the he finds best and serve it in the way he wants us to eat it and in the way he would eat it himself. In our world of dumbing-down the dumbness for broad market appeal, this is a rare sentiment. And in Atlanta no less.

Some dishes we ate that I haven't seen in other reports:

Dobin mushi soup: A dashi broth served in a teapot (dobin) with shrimp, flounder, ginko nuts, zest of yuzu and a mitsuba leaf

"Eggplant with sweet miso and foie gras sauce. Touch of balsamic."

"Uni cappucino"

There were some other things but as I was so rapt in experiencing them at the time, I can no longer remember what they are.

With the utmost humility, I have a few criticisms.

It seemed to me that the new booking policy of 30 covers a night had Soto on his heels. He wasn't quite at pace getting the food out.

I think that despite that he has shrunk his menu, the amount of food is still challenging. He can resolve this not by knocking off more courses but by decreasing their size. The sushi course for example, the fish is very big. It seems almost out of the spirit of the meal. I'd like to eat slices that are more the size range that is served at Yasuda in New York.

It's starting to look like Soto's contrary approach might actually bring him the kind of success and recognition he deserves. Still, I reiterate what I wrote in a previous post. Run. Don't walk. And if you have the privilege of actually living in Atlanta, do so as often as possible.

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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And if you have the privilege of actually living in Atlanta, do so as often as possible.

Well, I'll see what I can do.

It is a tremendous amount of food. I've heard that unsuspecting Atlantans were asking for the bill when not even halfway through the menu. Not a few of them.

Really? One would have to be clueless indeed after having had the whole thing explained in detail when making reservations (obligatory, at least 24 hours in advance), and then again when you're seated, and then again in writing, as you're given the menu at the beginning of the meal.

I didn't find the amount of food to be overwhelming, actually, and I'm not a fan of large portions. More than I'd usually eat, true, but not so much that I was uncomfortable, or would have turned away more food. Pacing the meal over hours (ours was 4 hours) certainly makes it reasonable.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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It is a tremendous amount of food. I've heard that unsuspecting Atlantans were asking for the bill when not even halfway through the menu. Not a few of them.

Really? One would have to be clueless indeed after having had the whole thing explained in detail when making reservations (obligatory, at least 24 hours in advance), and then again when you're seated, and then again in writing, as you're given the menu at the beginning of the meal.

I didn't find the amount of food to be overwhelming, actually, and I'm not a fan of large portions. More than I'd usually eat, true, but not so much that I was uncomfortable, or would have turned away more food. Pacing the meal over hours (ours was 4 hours) certainly makes it reasonable.

Well, you may be right that one would have to be clueless. . . but Soto himself is the one who reported these premature evacuations.

I can only say, as far as portion size goes, that it was quite a lot for me and I feel I've got a pretty good appetite. Our meal was only three hours, maybe three and a half by the time we were out the door. Perhaps that accounts for the difference.

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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Well, you may be right that one would have to be clueless. . . but Soto himself is the one who reported these premature evacuations.

The three seatings part of it may be the confusing point. If you're told that there are three seatings, one at 6:30, one at 8:00, and one at 9:30, it's not much of leap to assume that the tables are actually turned twice. So if somebody had made plans to go to a movie after the 6:30 seating, or had a promised a babysitter that he'd be home by midnight after the 9:30 seating that might lead to an early (and tragic) departure.

The night we were there included some lengthy pauses between courses, and eventually several of the courses were served out of order.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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When I made our reservations, I was informed that it would take roughly 2 1/2 to 3 hours for the meal (which I was planning on based on the earlier posts - one nice advantage of egullet!).

Not sure if everyone is being told the same - I would hope so.

My one fear is watching them turn away the walk-ups. I realize (and completely agree) that this is necessary to help Soto with his food costs and planning, but I'm fearful that a lot of folks who aren't aware of the new format will simply say "screw it" and go elsewhere or not be willing to devote the time and energy to a meal of this scope.

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When I made our reservations, I was informed that it would take roughly 2 1/2 to 3 hours for the meal (which I was planning on based on the earlier posts - one nice advantage of egullet!).

Not sure if everyone is being told the same - I would hope so.

My one fear is watching them turn away the walk-ups.  I realize (and completely agree) that this is necessary to help Soto with his food costs and planning, but I'm fearful that a lot of folks who aren't aware of the new format will simply say "screw it" and go elsewhere or not be willing to devote the time and energy to a meal of this scope.

They hand out that nights menus and encourage them to come back. I hear weekend book early and is forcing some to try it on weekdays.

BTW I had no problem with the portions.

Nate

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest MNewman

Soto is one of Atlanta's top chefs and clearly the top destination for sushi in our town. He is recoginized as a genius by most every top chef I know in town.

I recently had his $75 "sushi fest". It did not top a similar meal I had last year at Tojo's in Vancouver, but was better than anything I've had in NYC to date. It is a very good value for 17 courses.

That said, after 4 hours, my rear end fell asleep. Soto came to our table and asked us our opinion of the new menu (we have been monthly diners there for a good while) and I told him that 17 courses were too many and 4 hours was too long. I suggested he nix several courses and get folks out in 3 hours....max. They were seeking feedback from others, so it will be interesting to see if he tweaks things a bit.

Folks have bitched about the service at this place for years, but other than a time or too, I've never had an issue. We've gotten to know our server and enjoy conversing with her during our meals.

Edited by MNewman (log)
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"I recently had his $75 "sushi fest". It did not top a similar meal I had last year at Tojo's in Vancouver, "

Glad to hear this is still great, one of my all time Japanese meals.

"I suggested he nix several courses and get folks out in 3 hours....max. "

I would like to have a choice of two menus, maybe a $60 menu (12 courses) and a $85 (18 courses)

Nate

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  • 1 month later...

article on Soto from Atlanta Creative Loafing

Time For A Fixe : Soto mixes up his mtier with both prix fixe and à la carte menus

BY BILL ADDISON

Around the middle of March, three words flittered through Atlanta's foodie grapevine: Soto. Prix fixe.  Come again?

It was true. Chef Sotohiro Kosugi, our tempestuous maestro of sushi and Japanese fusion, had made the executive decision to vanquish his sprawling la carte menu. Having reopened Soto Japanese Restaurant last June after a 10-month hiatus, he now intended to solely serve omakase: a multi, multi-course menu of small, exquisitely precise dishes that changed nightly....  It was now, more than ever, Soto's way or the highway.

Verrry interesting article which fits in with some of the posts here and the exquisite photographs by our members ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Thanks for the article - REALLY hate to hear he went back to the a la carte madness, but perhaps business was just a little too slow, unfortunately, for him to keep things completely omakase.

It's a shame - he creates some of the best examples of Japanese cooking in Atlanta...some really pristine and austere in their makeup and others involving more modern approaches...but the city still wants to go back to california rolls and a la carte orders.

Makes you wonder if he'll continue with the effort of juggling both approaches - I couldn't agree more with the article's author when he talked about how happy and peaceful Soto was with the omakase format.

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It's a shame - he creates some of the best examples of Japanese cooking in Atlanta...some really pristine and austere in their makeup and others involving more modern approaches...but the city still wants to go back to california rolls and a la carte orders.

I don't think it's anything to do with Atlantans not appreciating the omakase/multi-course format, but with the fact that most of his target audience can't invest 3 or 4 hours in dinner on a weeknight. True, it could be such an incredible success that people would be willing to move their expensive/late night dinner out from a Friday to a Tuesday, but instead they're actually more likely to go someplace else if Soto happens to be booked.

Do people really order california rolls at Soto? I've never seen anybody do so, but then I'm not usually paying too much attention to what other people are eating. Many of the a la carte items on the regular menu are also on the "favorites" section of the omakase menu.

Anyway, I think that the compromise is a good one: I can still do the long dinner with my husband (I'm waiting for seasons to shift a bit for the menu to change more drastically than I've seen so far), but my kids can go with us earlier in the week---my 11-year-old daughter's response to the news that Soto had gone all omakase (and that we wouldn't be taking her along) was positively anguished.

So it's not a shame at all IMO.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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The california roll comment was more tongue in cheek than anything else - I'd be very surprised if it was available at Soto...more of a comment on what I consider Atlanta's slower adoption rate of true ethnic foods.

I totally understand your POV on people not wanting to or being able to invest such a lengthy period of time during the week. My comment about it being a shame was more directed at what Soto wanted to do versus what he's being "forced" to do as a result of the change. I was really rooting for this format to work because it was what he truly wanted to do and seemed to enjoy doing greatly.

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The california roll comment was more tongue in cheek than anything else - I'd be very surprised if it was available at Soto...more of a comment on what I consider Atlanta's slower adoption rate of true ethnic foods.

Whew, what a relief. :wink: California roll indeed...

I don't know if Atlanta's faster or slower when it comes to new foods. Based on my personal experience and my friends' reports I'd say that we're by and large fast adopters. But that may be skewed by where I live and the sort of friends I have. Certainly there's no shortage of ethnic restaurants.

I totally understand your POV on people not wanting to or being able to invest such a lengthy period of time during the week. My comment about it being a shame was more directed at what Soto wanted to do versus what he's being "forced" to do as a result of the change. I was really rooting for this format to work because it was what he truly wanted to do and seemed to enjoy doing greatly.

I may just be a "glass half full" kind of person on this question. I see Soto as particularly lucky to be able to play to both audiences, both of them enthusiastic, well-heeled, and willing to endure suboptimal dining conditions to enjoy his food. That Soto ends up with a near riot on his hands on those nights when he offers the old format speaks to pent up demand for his food, even if not offered in the omakase setting.

I've got a holiday week of multicourse dinners coming up---I hadn't included Soto, but now I'm thinking I may need to. Let's see now, which dinner should I switch?

Can you pee in the ocean?

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  • 8 months later...

Is there any restaurant that has a fanbase more loyal than Soto? I went Saturday night and again last night. I saw numerous people who were there both nights. The lady I sat by at the sushi bar Saturday night had been there three nights already that week, was there last night and will be there again tonight. Wow.

Soto is going to New York to work at another restaurant for a while, but fear not, because it's only a matter of time before Soto opens up a place of his own in Manhattan. New Yorkers are so lucky. Soto, without having even really had to exert himself from a skill standpoint, is better than all but a handful of places in New York already.

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article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (free registration required)

Chef Sotohiro Kosugi would not give The Atlanta Journal-Constitution a reason for shuttering his award-winning restaurant after service Tuesday night. But he has privately told colleagues and customers that softening business and the high cost of fish — only the best, hand-selected for him at Tokyo's Tsukiji market — were taking their toll.

On slow nights, Kosugi was known to toss out $45-a-pound bluefin tuna because he would serve only the freshest.  'It was like theater' Kosugi's intense perfectionism won him adoring food groupies, but it also might have scuttled his small business and contributed to the notorious mood swings and explosive outbursts that, in recent years, were as much a part of the dining experience at his restaurant as the celebrated food.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Two questions:

How do you know for sure that Soto will be moving to New York?

Where will he be working in the interim?

I await responses with baited breath.

Signed, devoted patron of Soto who lives in NYC.

PS: Now all that's left is for Seeger to move up here and we'll have hijacked all of Atlanta's treasures (not including the aquarium).

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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Two questions: 

How do you know for sure that Soto will be moving to New York?

Where will he be working in the interim?

#1 Seeger says that Soto will be moving to NYC ...

#2 In the interim? I imagine, he'll be packing and working on getting into a location in NYC ...

and it is quite doubtful that Seeger will be moving anywhere anytime soon ... NYC has plenty of great dining options already, no, ned?

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Sources remain anonymous, but Seeger is indeed looking for a move as well.... his condo is up for sale in midtown, and has been traveling much lately looking for a new spot.

And why shouldn't he leave???

This town has no appreciation for for cuisine other than bar food....

I wish Soto best of luck. We'll miss him greatly.

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Sources remain anonymous, but Seeger is indeed looking for a move as well.... his condo is up for sale in midtown, and has been traveling much lately looking for a new spot.

And why shouldn't he leave???

This town has no appreciation for for cuisine other than bar food....

I wish Soto best of luck. We'll miss him greatly.

Seeger's has been looking around/talking about moving for pretty much forever.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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... NYC has plenty of great dining options already, no, ned?

Too true, too true. Still, there's only one Seeger.

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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