New Japanese on Upper West Side
Visted Neo at 83rd and Bway last night. New, modern style Japanese. The sushi is served with a variety of sauces, each one designed for that type of fish. Sushi is very clean and fresh. All sushi is by the piece, generally in the $2-3 range. Pieces are medium sized. Among other things, they had flown in from Japan mackeral and three kinds of yellow tail.
I also tried the vegtable Tempura, which was quite good and very Japanese. The other cooked food looks good, but was not sampled. Most of the cooked food is neo-traditional, like beef cooked on your own hot rock.
The staff is quite large considering the smallish size of the place and is about 85% Japanese. Friendly.
This is not a standard place. Unless you order a "let the chef choose multicourse" ($50 and up), you will order multiple items.
I ate there the other night. Not bad. It's owned by the same people who owned the previous place (Sakura?) but which sucked. The hostess told me "Same owners, new management, much better food". So they are aware of what they have to overcome. The sushi was fresh and they had some interesting items. I especially liked a non pasteurized cloudy Sake I had. Is this worth a detour? Nah. But it's at least as good as any place in the area and better than most (from 1 trip only).
re: Ivan Stoler
Ate there on Friday night. The place was packed. The two of us had an 8:30 reservation, which I'd made on Wednesday afternoon. Enjoyed it and would go back -- so would my husband, who is a much pickier eater than I am. Service quite nice, a bit eager, definitely encourages you to eat things as they are presented by the chef and not pour soy sauce automatically. Hey, I agree!
The blow-by-blow: I had the $50 omakase, which they call "up to Neo." 6 courses:
1) salmon tartare with a light soy-based sauce and green wasabi caviar. Good and fresh, prettily presented with a pansy on top. Pansies are edible, but that's about all that can be said for them.
2) yellowtail/hamachi with sliced green chilis and Japanese citrus. UNBELIEVABLE. Large, thick slices of buttery, subtle fish, which would have been yummy on their own. The chilis, which I removed, left just a touch of spice on the flesh. The citrus juice was flowery and complex and complemented the spice and fish beautifully.
3) calamari "udon" with sugar snap peas and mushrooms. This was cooked. the squid was cut into udon-sized strips and carefully scored crosswise all along the length, which made it very tender. It was well-cooked, but the dish had a very straightforward Chinese stir-fry character to it (in fact was a bit salty and could really have used some rice), which was jarring after the very Japanese and subtle hamachi dish. The snow peas and white mushrooms added nothing.
4) Alaskan black cod in miso/citrus marinade, grilled or broiled. A REVELATION. I have to reexamine my rules that I don't like sweet sauces and I don't like grilled fish. Tender, sweet, delicious, wonderful non-charcoal tasting skin.
5) 5 pieces of sushi, each with its own sauce. maguro/tuna came with a tofu sauce. The sauce itself was nice, but was too similar in texture to the tuna. Both were so soft that the grains of rice seemed coarse in combination. Cooked Alaskan king crab came with citrus and a seaweed wrap. I don't really like cooked sushi, so I may not be the best judge of this, but I don't think the crab went well with the seaweed. Salmon was paired with onion aioli and cherry tomato -- this was too much like lox and cream cheese with onion on a ball of rice. Too unsubtle in the middle of a mostly subtle meal for me. Half a seared scallop, relatively plain -- again the cooked sushi problem, and nothing special. And hamachi/yellowtail with ponzu -- a great disappointment after the fabulous hamachi sashimi. Bland and seemed like maybe someone'd forgotten to sauce it.
6) Mango and cappuchino mochi ice cream. I'm pretty sure these came out of a box at the Japanese grocery store -- I've bought it before. Very worth eating, but not at a restaurant.
My husband ordered a la carte:
grilled/broiled eggplant: good, basically one whole Japanese eggplant cut in sections. with a pineapple-y sauce Served with deep-fried potato frisee, which went well with the smooth eggplant
lobster sha-cha: a whole lobster, cut up and stir-fried with mixed vegetables and sha-cha sauce. This was also very Chinese in character and execution, and really begged for rice. Lobster not prime. $32
shrimp, broccoli, and onion tempura: well done but not unusual. They seem to halve the onion and roast it before slicing it for tempura.
assorted chocolate dessert: clearly a selection of chocolate cookies that you can get at the Japanese grocery store. Desserts are really not their thing -- have an extra order of sushi instead.
we also had the unfiltered, milky sake. In fact, when I saw that mentioned, I was determined to go -- we had it in Tokyo and loved it.
I have been to Neo twice since it opened. It is probably best described as a Nobu style restaurant. For instance, it served black cod with a miso(?) sauce which was very similar to the corresponding dish at Nobu Next Door.
I had the $50 omakase the first time and the $70 omakase dinner the second time. Both were very good but there was almost no difference between them. Stick with the $50. Reservations are essential.
The second visit was yesterday 11/5. As a very interesting bonus, Chef Morimoto from Nobu + Iron Chef was there as a customer at the sushi bar. He was wearing a white sweater with a large American flag on the front. He is supposed to be a long time friend of the head sushi chef at Neo.