First Taste: Soto


People in Atlanta were devastated when chef Sotohiro Kosugi announced that he was moving to New York. One devoted patron drove 30 hours to eat a final dinner there. But for those of us in his chosen city, this was good news. It's been a pretty dreary season for new restaurant openings and Soto, with his reputation for inventive sushi and temperamental outbursts, offered intriguing possibilities. I walked in ready for anything. What I found was a serenely small restaurant that is as spare as a sauna, and a waitress with a beatific smile. Soto, who looks like a character out of Alice in Wonderland, did not utter a word all evening, but his hands are a joy to watch. As for his sushi repertoire—it is entirely personal, and extremely interesting. He does amazing things with uni, which is in my book reason enough to sit at his sushi counter. He has wonderful ways with squid and he produced a weightless and magical foam, singing with the flavor of dashi. Like every high end sushi master he makes a toro tartare with caviar; his personal twist, which goes against every instinct in my body, is avocado. It's actually a great addition. I do have one major objection: I wish Soto was not so attached to truffle oil, which spreads its loathsome fumes across far too many of his fine fish. Truffle oil on shima aji? Oh, please. Soto 357 Sixth Ave, New York, NY 212-414-3088

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