2 top chefs from Masa branched off to open a more accessible restaurant in a less stuffy neighborhood, less bound by the gravity of the name of their mentor, and less stringent rules about flying in the fish from Japan... and Neta was the result.
Watch out, Masa. with 1/3 of the cost, the quality comes dangerously close.
Dungeness crab with cucumber and dashi vinaigrette 9/10: Great delicate dish to start the meal. the crab was shredded such that it was just bigger than the cucumber. The acidity of the vinaigrette clung onto the meat without overpowering the mild taste of the crab.
Toro tartare with caviar and toasted bread 9/10: I only docked it a point because although the bread was soft and beautifully toasted, I wish it either had a little more richness, or the toro a little more acidity. Otherwise, this delicious dish was a little too mild especially for the surrounding courses.
Spanish mackerel 8/10: By far the least fishy mackerel I've ever had. It almost had the consistency of hamachi.
Scallop, uni, and foie gras 10/10: You should know by now that I'm a total sucker for uni. But wait... this dish isn't all about the uni. That's the brilliance of it. I enjoyed every single part of this rich tender composition. I was pleasantly shocked that the flavors did not fight for my attention. I used the lime in my left hand to help scoop up the goodies.
Spicy Stina 10/10: Please tell me if I spelled the name wrong. We got all these wonderful food and drinks that weren't on the menu thanks to our special VIP foodie. This drink was made with a charred lobster head, a layer of spicy red *heat* that enveloped your throat, and a soft aromatic foam produced from what I assume is the protein and calcium from the lobster shell.
One thing that intrigued me the entire time was that somehow when I sipped this, I was consuming the cocktail, chili oil, and foam proportionally! Almost always the top layers end up getting consumed first so that the drink you start off with isn't the one that you end with!
It tasted like a meal in a glass... and it arrived just in time for....
Fried prawns and asparagus 10/10: The timing could not have been better. The prawns were 100% edible from head to tail. It was softer than a soft shell crab, and the head packed the full flavor that one would expect. You didn't even have to suck it like a savage; and crispier is better. There was even a piece of wok-fried lobster at the bottom.
But my goodness.. this dish with the spicy lobster cocktail! The drink almost became a sauce for the dish.
Rice cake with salmon tartare and bonito flakes, pickled veggies, and salmon with spicy aioli 8/10: The rice was crispy but the crust was a little too hardened and made the block difficult to eat. I always eat the meat by the bones of the fish because it picks up a lot of the flavorful oils and collagen near the spine. I really enjoyed their presentation of this very special cut that many people just discard.
Salmon, hamachi, toro 10/10: I don't have much to say here... extremely high quality fish. This is one of the top reasons why I love Masa, and why I now also love Neta. Everything just melts in your mouth, and the portions of fish to rice were perfect. The temperature begged me to pick up the fish with my fingers. The sauces on the sushi heightened the flavors of each fish and with a perfect dollop of wasabi inside, you hardly needed soy sauce.
Clam, spanish mackerel, uni 10/10: Clam was tender and extremely fresh - for some reason most sushi restaurants' clams are a little slimy... but of course, I had high standards coming here. There goes the extremely mild and delicious spanish mackerel again! The uni really highlighted... the uni! It was even more buttery and flavorful than the one in the scallop course.
Suji, fried shrimp 6.5/10: I'm just personally not a big fan of cooked sushi (with possibly 2 exceptions both at Sushi of Gari)
Eel roll 8/10: One of the best eel rolls that I've ever had. It was mild yet flavorful. One thing that I always loved about Masa that transcribed well to Neta was the restrained usage of rice - it was treated as another ingredient and not a filler.
Neta roll with toro and scallion 9/10: Although very good, it didn't stand out the way that I expected a name-sake dish to.
Rice and cucumber wrapped in shiso leaf 10/10: Very fun palate cleanser! Not as intense as the one that I had last night, but just as effective. I believe that orange sauce was plum.
Peanut butter ice cream and matcha 10/10: Peanut butter is one of those things that I almost never eat, but I loved this ice cream. It was so creamy that I don't even want to know how it was made. The peanut butter had all of the great peanut flavor and none of the offensive overly sweet aftertaste or thick stickiness. The ice cream even accurately captured the smokey finish from well-roasted peanuts.
And because we were dining with a VIP, we *had* to get a serving of this outrageousness:
Summer truffle ice cream 10/10: Are you kidding??? Before the ice cream even hit my mouth, my senses were overwhelmed with the aroma of fresh truffle. By the time the cold creaminess of the ice cream hit my tongue, I was already passing out. The barely-there thinness of the truffle meant that by the time I was eating the ice cream, the truffle was gone! It was absolutely an incredible way to finish the meal.
This was easily one of the best Japanese meals I've had in a while. For me to have enjoyed this meal so much after dining at Per Se last night is a testament to the greatness of the chefs at this establishment. I am so happy that they chose to be in West Village and not Columbus Circle. I'll be coming back again soon!