Visited in February 2017
61 West 8th Street
New York, NY 10011
I have two general rules on when NOT to eat out. Don’t go during holidays, and don’t go during restaurant week. And if restaurant week so happens to coincide with a holiday, run for the hills. Sounds a little backwards, but there is a reason for my madness.
Going out for Holidays means strict adherence to time limits on your meal, and standardized menus with no special requests. And unfortunately, those menus are often gimmicky dishes that the restaurant is not known for. I mean, restaurants can’t get away from some sort of turkey, ham, and stuffing on Thanksgiving, or some red and green with lots of cinnamon for Christmas, right? Now, how many of those restaurants are actually known for those dishes? Puh-lease!
Restaurant week is Holidays exemplified. I don’t know who invented that, or why, but it doesn’t work. Fancy restaurants that charge exorbitant prices for their lavish meals will offer a scaled down version of their cheapest items or brand new non-regular menu items to put on their “restaurant week” prix fixes. You’ll end up with some medley of their plainest dishes, an option of soup or salad as an appetizer, a pasta dish, a chicken dish, a burger platter, or hanger steak as the main, and ice cream, profiterole, or cheesecake for a dessert. Now, add up the cost of those dishes when they are on the regular menu, and you’ll find that you may have saved 5-8 bucks. YUP! That’s it. Or at most, it’s 5-8 bucks plus the scoop of ice cream. Yea, that really is it. But what is the REAL price you are paying? Ever wonder why restaurants want to know in advance whether you will be ordering the restaurant week menu? They rush you in, rush you out, and treat you like some second rate citizen while you’re there. It’s a waste of time! If you really want to try out the restaurant, just go to the bar seats on a regular day, and order the same dish or two, and you’ll pay just a few bucks more, but be treated like a normal human being, a paying and valued customer. BTW, one day, I’m going to do a whole write up and title it, “Bar seats, the most undervalued seats”. Anyway, you get the point.
Well, I broke my own rules, and visited Neta smack in the middle of prime dinner time on Valentine’s Day. My expectations weren’t high. I’ve been there a few times, and always complained to their management that they needed to have a true sushi omakase option. I eventually succumbed to the idea that it just isn’t going to happen, and just stopped going. I made an exception and visited Neta again purely for the purposes of this blog, same as I did for SUSHI OF GARI, and SUSHI SEKI! Today, I was pleasantly surprised!
Our Omakase tonight:
- Oyster – Montauk oysters served with sake beet mignonette and topped with sake beet foam – The overall flavor was OK, but too tart. I say less is more, but that wouldn’t be very Valentines-y. The shucker also needs to go back to shucking school. There was a ton of sand/shell in one of my two oysters!
- TORO and Osetra Caviar – I do not believe this was TORO at all. It was incredibly lean cut of Tuna, and the caviar was not of a high quality. Half of my caviar pearls were crushed! How does that happen???
- Nama Yuba Salmon and Crab – This was essentially sliced King Salmon mixed with Wasabi Tobiko, Bunshimeji mushrooms and Ume Yuzu jelly. What a delicious combo!
- Grilled Scallop & Uni – Diver Scallop grilled with Mytaki mushroom, parsley, and Yuzu citrus, and topped with fresh Hokkaido Uni. I was super hesitant with this serving, but again, very good!
- Spicy Lobster Karaage – Wok fried lobster with ginger and scallions served over sautéed onions. The flavors were fantastic, but this was overcooked, and thus chewy.
- Lamb/Waygu Steak
- Lamb – Deep fried with Tonkatsu sauce and pine nuts, atop a yogurt smear. I didn’t try it. I specifically requested no lamb as we made an entire rack just the day prior. Boyfriend said it was really good, but nothing compared to my rosemary rack of lamb! Ha! I got the waygu steak replacement!
- Waygu Steak – Boy was this replacement hard to get! They were so irritated with me, took 4 back and forths with the waiter and the head chef. Really? All that for one replacement for one of the two diners? Whatever uppity-two-shoes. The waygu was a very good cut, but completely drowned in all the dressings. What a waste.
- Szechwan Salmon Donburi – Just like the Nama Yuba Salmon and Crab, I was so surprised with how much I enjoyed this dish. I am not a huge fan of salmon during my omakase, purely because it is such a widely available fish, but both these servings were dressed impeccably well. The spicy Salmon had a crunch to it, not sure what it was, but it was not the usual spicy mayo flavoring. They called this “Szechwan” salmon, so perhaps some Szechwan spices? What is that? Szechuan peppercorns? Star Anise? Don’t know. Topped with chopped Nori, and fresh IKURA. YUM!
- Chef’s Choice of 9 pc Sushi
- OTORO – Super fatty Tuna – Very very good. Just so odd to start with such a strong, fatty fish. But I supposed if I just came from a spicy salmon bowl, why not!?!
- MADAI (seabream) with Yuzu zest and soy marinated veggies – LOVED IT!
- King Salmon with spicy mayo – OK, I gave them a pass on the other two Salmon dishes, even complimented them. But more salmon? And this one just plain with a dollop of spicy mayo? Really? BOOO!
- KANPACHI (Amberjack) with crispy onion – When I think Crispy onion, I think of two places, Shuko and Cagen. Shuko makes sense, they’re descendants of Neta. Is that Ok to say? The chefs that opened up Shuko came from Neta. Whatever you want to call it. Cagen one up the crispy onion, they do crispy garlic. I didn’t love the meal at Cagen, but it may be time for a revisit soon. Going back to this KANPACHI, very good, very delicious.
- AKAMI (lean Tuna) – Decent AKAMI, not funky aftertaste, no tinge of that weirdness.
- HOTATE (Scallop) –Dressed with Yuzu shavings and soy, this was very fresh, very good!
- KINMEDAI (Golden eyed snapper) – LOVE when they heavily ABURI (torch) my Kinemedai. My favorite piece of the night!
- AMAEBI (Northern sweet shrimp) – Enjoy it while you can! AMAEBI season is coming to its end… Delish!
- Santa Barbara UNI – The Santa Barbara was as usual, better than the Hokkaido UNI. YUM!
- 2 pc TORO KANPACHI Roll – The greens is the shiso. This was good, but nothing to write home about. I would have preferred the tried and true Negi-Toro roll. Or even better, the Toro Takuan roll. Oh well.
- Palate Cleanser roll – Shiso with cucumber, Ume paste and rice. Simple, and good. On this note, I have to say, I like the Lotus Root add to your successor’s palate cleanser roll… Although I didn’t like their add of the carrots…
- Japanese Monaka Ice-Cream – It is ice cream. Ok…
Neta will never be a true sushi-ya. BUT this does not mean that their sushi is not good. They still have a decent variety of fish, and of the fish they have, they do prepare it the traditional Edomae way. If you visit when it’s not a holiday, when there isn’t a restaurant week promotion going on, you CAN just sit at the counter, and order a la carte. Overall, at a rating of 27 out of 35, Neta is still worth a visit in my book!