61 West 8th Street
New York, New York 10011
Contact | 212.505.2610
I was worried when we sat down to an empty restaurant on a Friday at 6 pm. Jay had just spent a good chuck of change to win dinner-for-four during a charity auction, and wanted to treat my parents to good sushi. But this is a classic lesson for cover-judging eaters.
Neta doesn’t have the makings of your typical fancy omakase restaurant for the sushi elite. But if you can look past the plain tableware, faded menus and laid-back service, you’ll find that that has nothing to do with fine food.
Without the stuffiness, the 14-serving omakase builds. And by the time you’ve taken your final bite of the Japanese ice cream sandwich for dessert, you’ll realize you’ve just sat through a legitimate meal that echoes the likes of Shuko.
The meal is full of twists and turns, offering a little bit of everything in Japanese cuisine. There’s hot, there’s cold. There’s surf, there’s turf. And to cap it all off, there’s sushi that covers all the necessary bases of fish that you’ll need for a full-fledged experience.
One of the moments I remember thinking this would be good was a serving early on of diced salmon mixed with traditional and wasabi tobiko and micro-greens. The bowl was no bigger than the size of my palm, but the flavors were bold and exuding spring.
Then a few plates later, it was like the season turned fall with a small clay bowl of warm rice topped with raw tuna, ikura,uni and dried seaweed.
As a scallop and uni-lover, another standout was the seared scallops encircled in foam-like uni stars. It could have very easily been a heavy dish, but the effervescent sea urchin was almost a tease.
And perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the evening came in the form of one of the most standard Japanese dishes: the chawanmushi. My dad, in his own form, has perfected this bowl of soft silken egg at home, and it was always one of my favorite flavors growing up. Neta spices things up with heavy pork and herb essences. But underneath it all, it was the silky smooth egg tart that won me over.
Not a single plate was overbearing, serving just the right amount to leave you satisfied, yet eager for what’s to come. It was one of the very few omakase experiences where I was too busy enjoying things to count what inning we were in.
Neta was never on any of my lists of interests, but its overshadowed place among the city’s omakase giants only means easier reservations for you. And I should mention that halfway into our meal, other patrons started to file in, the first being a couple visiting from Japan.