Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Omakase at Neta

It's funny how most menu items cost about same across the board -- a good burger is about $18, a nice roasted chicken dish is $25, a filet's about $32 -- and tasting menus are completely all over the place. We had an awesome four-course meal at Cava in Portsmouth for $35 and 11 courses at Europea in Montreal for $70 -- not including the multiple courses of desserts. It's hard to go from getting so much bang for your buck to paying high end for omakase -- $135 at Neta -- and getting so much less. Yeah, you have to factor in where you are (West Village is not New Hampshire) and the quality of food you are receiving (high-end sushi is not Spanish tapas) but when the difference of two tasting menus are over $100 apart, its hard not to wonder where all that additional money is going.

Anyway, with that rambling cost analysis aside, I have to say that Neta's sushi is great, fresh, high-quality and all that, but it's not very memorable. It was funny going through Europea and Au Pied de Cochon pictures and remembering what every bite tasted like, and then looking through Neta pics -- literally taken the day we got back from Montreal -- and only having a few items stand out.

While I waited for my dining counterparts to show, I sipped on this Rangaku, a punch made from "merlow barrel aged birds eye chili mead" from South Africa (so... red spicy honey wine?) and rooibus ginger tea and yuzu sorbet. It was kind of like a sake -- clear, sweet, balanced.

I asked the difference between the $95 and $135 omakase. Like I expected, the higher priced omakase includes higher quality ingredients, and isn't necessarily larger save for a course or two.  

We started with this. I don't remember what it was. Was it fluke and shrimp? Maybe.

Then one of the dishes for fancy omakase only: toro tuna tartar with sturgeon caviar and toast. It was pretty decadent.

Then Spanish Mackerel Tataki topped with a myoga vegetable salad with ginger and soy. Not as memorable. But then back to the kickass...

Sea urchin with raw scallops! I mean, what more can I say. It's more about the freshness and the fact that they're my favorites than anything else. The preparation is an afterthought.


This next tempura dish was meant to flaunt their veggies, I think. The Times review said they had respectable vegetable sushi, and most people aren't going to ask for it by name, so here it is. Shisito peppers and tofu and a little bit of soft shell shrimp. The spiciness and crispiness was a nice counterpoint to the scallop and uni from before.

My absolute favorite of the evening: rice with spicy salmon tartar and bonito flakes, served on a hot plate. It reminded me of a decadent bibimbap, hot crispy rice with cool, wet fish on top and saltiness from the dancing bonito. Sooo gooood.

Now onto the sushi. My favorite kinds to start: salmon with Szechuan sauce, spanish mackerel and toro. As you can see, the fish was gleamingly fresh, and had that perfect bite to it. Is umami a texture thing, too?

Then orange clam, scallop and kanpachi (amberjack).

The cooked fish. Softshell crab and seared toro.

And rolls. Tuna and eel. None of which were as good as the rounds of raw sushi.

Finally, a palate cleanser of rice in shiso.I thought it meant more fish was coming but...

... we were cleansing for dessert. Which was this grapefruit sorbet.

Okay, so when I left I was pretty pleased and all, but as I thought about it I realized that as one of the more expensive tasting menus we've splurged for, not just in that past week but ever, and thus it should be one of the more memorable. The fish was fresh -- can't argue that -- and the creativity was there -- sure, to an extent -- but I feel like we should have been eating less shrimp and a little more types of toro, maybe some crab, maybe that duck & foie I saw on the menu (though after our weekend in Montreal it was probably the last thing we needed). And definitely dessert! Ice cream, chocolate, something. Grapefruit sorbet is more of a palate cleaner in and of itself!

I also think we missed out on something by sitting at a table. They say there are two types of people in a sushi restaurant -- those at the sushi bar and tourists.

I'm going to Yasuda in a few days and when making the reservation I said the word "counter" and "bar" at least five times. I'm excited to do more... uh... comparison research.

Anyway, I'd definitely recommend hitting Neta for a cocktail and some a la carte sushi. I think I'm getting stingy with my omakase recommendations.
61 W. 8th St.

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