I know I can be quite enthusiastic about my dining experiences and I tend to ooze a multitude of superlatives, yet sometimes; gushing is appropriate. Sometimes even the loudest of applause doesn't properly commend an experience. Dining at Neta in NYC is one of these occasions. I implore you not to dub me "the boy who cried wolf" , but Neta was truly my favorite dining experience...EVER.
I should have known I was in for a culinary adventure when Nick Kokonas (owner: Alinea, The Aviary, Next), explicitly advised me, "If you're going to New York, go to Neta. Get the Omakase. Period. Do not ask questions." Yessir!!! .... and I didn't ask questions. When Nick gives restaurant advice... you take it.
My best friend of 22 years, Jamie, was my partner in crime and (over)indulgence this evening. Even though she is a long time NYC resident... she knows that when I am in town, I will schlep her to about 5 dining establishments each day... usually ending with pizza at 3am. She has just recently learned to go with my flow, and especially after Neta, she'll continue to.
Neta is located in the West Village and was so inconspicuous that Jamie and I walked up and down 8th street about 6 times because we failed to notice the 12pt Times New Roman font sign on one small window. Finally, once we walked in, the minimalist decor was surprisingly inviting. We were thankfully seated at the bar as we couldn't bear to not watch the master sushi craftsmen at work.
After ordering our Omakase (chef's choice, multi-course, prix fixe menu) and a bottle of dry unfiltered sake, Jamie and I became mesmerized by the energy in the kitchen. We have never seen anything like it. It was a hurried harmony... no one spoke, or rushed or moved out of place. It was like a choreographed dance of the white aprons. The service mirrored this dance. I have only seen service this impeccable and attentive at the finest of fine dining establishments. Yet this wasn't stuffy! The staff was so cool and laid back. Our Japanese server, Hiro, was hilarious and sarcastic. When he'd make us laugh and we'd tell him how funny he was he just said, "I'm not funny, I'm Japanese." Hmmmm....
Oh! There was food too! First course, Kani (crab) and cucumber with a smokey ginger vinaigrette, The fresh lump crab was so sweet and fresh and the smooth smokey finish was a perfect compliment. Great way to prepare our palette. Second course, Cobia crudo with daikon radish and a ginger bonita sauce. The Cobia literally melted in my mouth. The third course was my favorite: Scallops, uni (sea urchin) maitaki mushrooms with fresh lime. It was so buttery and rich, smooth and complex... but the acid of the lime cut through it all and balanced it perfectly. We ate this course while the sounds of Notorious B.I.G. "Juicy" boomed in the background.... how appropriate.
Have you ever had fresh corn and truffle formed in a ball and tempura-ed?? Yea, me either.... but Neta thought this was the perfect accompaniment to the Fugu (blowfish) tempura. Damn, they were spot on. I can't help but recollect a Simpson's episode where Homer eats poisonous Fugu and was informed of his imminent demise. Fortunately, Jamie and I survived our run-in with the notorious fish. Deliciously survived. Mmmmmm Fugu.
The piece de resistance was the best shot of tequila i've had to date. The stereotypical looking mixologist came from behind the sushi bar, where he was strategically stationed, and over to our seats. He had a little platter with 2 sake glasses filled with yuzu and ginger granita and a glass filled with smoked salt. He poured the Tequila Ocho over the savory slushy and added the salt with a squeeze of fresh lime. It was like a tequila slurpee, and it was refreshingly perfect. What made it even more perfect, was that these shots (2 rounds of them) were guzzled to "Satisfy My Soul" by Bob Marley. Neta really had the tunes down. It's as if they knew I was comin' in and they made a playlist just for me. It got a bit silly after multiple shots and a huge bottle of sake, as Jamie and I were dancing in our seats and singing (and rapping) along to the music. Sorry not sorry, Neta.
The sushi platter was a rainbow of variety and flavors and textures. It was it's simplicity that was the most impressive. Every bite was savored, and enjoyed.
Drink for drink, and fish for fish, not only was this the best and most thorough sushi experience I've had, but because of the service, music, decor, and creativity, it was the best overall meal i've had. I cannot WAIT to go back...fortunately, NYC, beckons to me about 3 times each year... in the mean time i'll get a bottle of Tequila Ocho to keep me company :)