“NETA=THE FRESH INGREDIENTS OF SUSHI”
With former alums from Bar Masa at the helm, Neta is sure to be a a crowd pleaser right? Don’t bet on it.
‘Unprecedented pricing for such a location’ was the general consensus amongst gourmands food forums. For $95 and $135, what can they possibly serve? Luckily for our ADD palates, we enjoy tastings with many courses. Naturally, the omakase at Neta was an ideal breeding ground for sushi parasites like us. Always looking for the next good sushi place, we often find ourselves not only taking stabs in the dark based on scarce information, but also sort by rating hoping to find an undiscovered gem.
The layout is very similar to that of Yopparai, which we reviewed a few days ago. A focus on bar seating and interaction seems to be the trend these days. The decor? Besides the high quality wood on the bar counter and tables, the paint looked a drab green (cheap Maeda-en green tea ice cream color, anyone?) and the booth seating was made of cloth. The placemats? Some kind of cheap mesh, alternating between 2 dark colors across and between diners. Ikea-esque, if you will. We would have preferred a more inviting decor, but this place seemed to have spent all their money on their fish.
To our surprise, Neta not only lived up to our culinary expectations, but surpassed them. Pricing is right, food is phenomenal, and service? Well, more on that later. Let’s talk about the menu. A la carte options are offered, but not surprisingly, you are almost coerced into ordering one of the Omakases due to the value proposition. The a la carte menu is for finicky eaters who don’t mind paying in exchange for peace of mind knowing exactly what they will get. The main differences between the $95 and $135 omakase is that the extra $40 will get you ‘Neta nirvana’, aka toro w/ caviar instead of maguro salad and shaved black truffle over your seasonal rice vs no truffles. That’s it.
Like its ancestor Masa, the fare at this offspring is conservative but impactful. Each dish has accoutrements that allow for the main ingredient to shine, exactly the way food should be. Don’t expect anything fancy or off the beaten path. Playing devil’s advocate, one can argue that we typically hate ‘safe’ food. This is true. However, our rebuttal to that would be that quality food sells, regardless of flare. No coaxing of flavors are needed for you to taste every nuance of each dish. Frankly put, their no frills approach works with us due to the superior quality of everything they put on your plate. Sometimes less is more.
We would be understating if we said the sushi is heads above 90% of other NYC Japanese restaurants out there. Yes, it’s that good, especially the Otoro. The Neta roll (toro, scallion) will have you doing backflips. Sustainable farming advocates should look away at this point. What about the cooked food? The Fugu Karaage (no, not a typo) was the perfect bite. Yes, the intentional large bone may have detracted from the ‘spoil me’ dining, but that would be splitting hairs. The Dungeness crab salad was presented with huge chunks of claw that defied us to knock at its simplicity. The scallop and uni dish was served in a scallop shell, which provided as a acidity vessel for a freshly squeeze lime bath. Divine. Eel and avocado roll? Oh yeah, thanks for reminding us that seaweed texture is also important and that rolls AREN’T supposed to be served inside out. My dining companion is an unagi snob and raved about this dish. The seasonal rice reminded us of a subtle version of EN Japanese Brasserie’s garlic shiso rice. Conservatively seasoned, perfectly chewy, ethereal texture. Cooked toro sushi? This was icing on the proverbial cake. The savory courses ended with ume powder sprinkled over julienned cucumber over rice over shiso leaf.
As far as service goes, we get that they only opened last Friday and we went the following Monday, but all is not forgiven. Drink orders were mistakenly handed to us as well as harmonic discord on the sequencing of dishes. The servers looked frazzled and sophomoric and the service reflected accordingly. This blemish cost them a star, but is one that could easily be redeemed.
What would we change? A few minor things, besides numero uno…
1. Get better staff 2. We loved the ruby red grapefruit granite, but that should be a palate cleanser, not a dessert. 3. Debone your fugu 4. Up your decor game
We ordered: ($95 Omakase/13 courses)
1. Dungeness crab salad
2. Maguro Sashimi salad
3. Scallop & uni in scallop shell, lime
4. Fugu Karaage, lime
5. Seasonal rice
6. Toro sushi (2pcs)
7. Salmon sushi, Kanpachi sushi
8. Eel & avocado roll (2pcs)
9. Neta roll – toro & scallion (2pcs)
10. Tuna sushi
11. Uni sushi, Cooked toro sushi
12. Ume & shiso rice
13. Grapefruit granite
Total came out to $120/pp after everything