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Niko – Solid New Sushi / Japanese Restaurant in Soho

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  • Lau Feb 1, 2011 08:22 PM

**For full post and pics**: http://www.lauhound.com/2011/02/niko-...

I’ve been reading about Niko for some time as it has a bunch of well known people attached to it such as Hiro Sawatari who was formerly one of the top sushi chefs from Sushi Yasuda and Cobi Levy from defunct Charles. I was pretty excited to try it since I’m always looking for new good sushi places and Yasuda is my favorite sushi place in the city.

The restaurant is located on the second floor in the space that formerly housed the now defunct Honmura An (RIP, Honmura An was my favorite soba spot in the city). The décor is fairly minimalist with partially exposed brick walls. The front end is the table area and the back area is the bar and the sushi bar. It’s definitely got a bit of a hipper vibe than most sushi places as they have some music playing and the crowd is definitely a little more downtown chic.

I read on yelp about service problems, but our service was pretty good. Our waiters did seem a little over stretched, but that’s likely growing pains from just opening. Cobi came by and talked to us for a while and he was a nice guy.

We sat at the sushi bar in front of Nobu who is the 2nd sushi chef. He was an extremely nice guy who just moved here from LA. We talked to him quite a bit and he previously worked at Mori Sushi, which is arguably the best sushi place in LA. He met Hiro eating at Morimoto’s in Philadelphia when he was visiting a friend and that’s how he ended up working here.

Anyhow, onto the food:
- Tokyo Fried Chicken: This was just chicken karaage. However, I thought this was quite good. The chicken was tender and flavorful, wasn’t overly oily and the batter was nicely seasoned. It was served with a vinegar sauce and a sort of light sweet honey mustard, both sauces were good, but I preferred the vinegar sauce. I like simple fried foods prepared correctly, so this was right up my alley. 4.25/5
- Kanpachi (Yellowtail): This was from Japan. This was a good clean tasting piece of yellowtail, I liked it. 4/5
- Fluke: This was from North Carolina. Fluke isn’t my favorite cut of fish, but this was clean tasting and good as well. 4/5
- Big Eyed Tuna: This was interesting as it was from Ecuador and I’ve never had tuna from Ecuador. The meat was a bit firmer than most big eyed tuna I’ve had, but it had good flavor and tasted fresh. 4/5
- Japanese Mackerel: This was from Japan. This was excellent, it had the nice oily-ness that good mackerel has, wasn’t overly fishy and had great flavor, one of my favorite pieces of the night. 4.5/5
- Sea Bream: This was from Japan. This was interesting as I haven’t had sea bream that many times. It was a nice piece of fish that was pretty mild flavored. 4/5
- Sweet Potato Roll: This was interesting. It was a thin handroll with fried Japanese sweet potato, shiso and one other green vegetable which I’m forgetting right now. It was fried nicely and everything was fresh, but I wasn’t crazy about the combo of shiso and sweet potato. 3.75/5
- Blue Fin Toro: This was from Japan. This was excellent, another one of the best pieces of the night. The texture was “melt in your mouth” and the flavor was great. This was as good as any of the top sushi places in NY. 4.5/5
- Artic Char: I like artic char a lot and it was good here. Good clean flavors and nice texture. 4.25/5
- Shima Aji: This was a nice piece of shima aji (striped jack). Surprisingly flavorful, I should’ve asked where it was from. 4/5
- Umezuke Handroll: This was mashed umezuke (a type of pickled plum-like fruit) with shiso. I’m partial to ume because I grew up eating it, but I’m not sure how most people would feel about it as it’s fairly sour tasting, but it wasted good with the shiso. This was not a typical sushi dish, but I liked it nonetheless. 4/5
- Ikura Handroll: The ikura (salmon eggs) were nice and this was pretty standard, but good. 4/5
- Spanish Mackerel: This was from North Carolina. I liked this cut. It was very clean tasting and good texture. 4.25/5
- Unagi Shirayaki: This was from Japan. Unagi is fresh water eel, which is among my favorite sushi. Because of Hiro’s Yasuda heritage I was hoping this would be good. It was prepared simply with just some sea salt, which I like because you can taste the natural sweetness of the meat if it’s a good piece of eel. This piece was good, the eel had good texture and great flavor not quite as good as Yasuda’s but definitely some of the better unagi I’ve had in the city. 4.25/5
- Unagi: This was the same thing, but prepared with sauce. This was also good although I thought the piece with just salt was better. 4/5

Overall, I thought the food was very good. I think Nobu said that they’d be getting other varieties of fish soon, so that would be nice. Hopefully, they can fix some of the service problems that I read about on yelp as it’d be a shame if a place serving good food got taken down by service problems. I’d like to sit in front of Hiro next time to see how he is as well. I’d recommend trying this place out.

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Niko
170 Mercer St, New York, NY 10012

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  1. How much did you spend? Other CH posters noted heating issues--were you chilly at all?

    So no screaming and cursing when you went, I assume.

    I'm really interested in going to Niko and I can handle the occasional empty water glass or slow arrival of check, but the public dressing down of employees seems a bit much.

    http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2011/0...

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      i spent $100 / person (2 people) including tax and 20% tip, but i also had a few drinks. it was also an overkill foodwise, i felt kind of gross afterwards as i ate way too much. next time, id probably kill all the handrolls as those were kind of filling in particular the sweet potato roll (carbs on top of carbs) and i also prefer sushi to handrolls. also, i ordered two orders of the chicken thinking it was individual sized when in reality an order is big enough for 2 people. if i had ordered correctly it should have been more like $70-80 / person including tax and tip (assuming you're doing sushi omakase, it seemed like a lot of people were there to eat some cooked food and have a few pieces of sushi).

      actually i read about it being cold on yelp and i think someone there must've read about it b/c if anything i thought it was a little too warm in there.

      haha no cursing and screaming when i was there and i thought cobi was a nice guy, but maybe im the exception so far? hopefully they can fix the service issues

    2. Very thorough. Thx Lau

      1 Reply
      1. re: i8NYC

        thanks!

      2. hi Lau, i was waiting for your review coz I had hoped that you would talk about the most important thing - rice. so how was their sushi rice? was it anywhere near Yasuda level?

        2 Replies
        1. re: mow mow

          oh crap you're right, i completely forgot to talk about it even though its one of the things im a pretty big stickler about it...i wrote this when i was kind of tired! haha

          in short, the answer is its not as good as yasuda's rice (although in NY yasuda's rice is my gold standard). i thought their rice was pretty decent, but it didn't have that same sort of remarkable al dente texture that really sets yasuda apart from most of the rest in that department. definitely wasn't bad by any means just not at yasuda level.

          that said i'm actually looking forward to going back in there once they get a little more settled in with the new varieties of fish etc to see how things change. i believe hiro was literally at yasuda since inception so he knows the right way to do things, so it will be interesting to see how it evolves

          1. re: Lau

            I wrote a review on another post and I was very kind, considering the craziness of first week opening. Everything that could go wrong went wrong for them. The manager was very upset and let everyone know it. A critic from a popular magazine was so pissed he left a $5 tip on a huge bill. Hiro and Nobu are awesome, Nobu cooked for some famous folks as personal chef in LA. Hiro knows his fish. They say for sure they will have more variety next month. It will be a good spot. But it is gonna get really packed. In my other post i stated they had too many seats at the sushi bar, it is impossible to get in our out if you are on the far end. The kitchen food is excellent. The anago was very good from sushi bar. Shima aji was good
            I'll be there in March.

        2. sam sifton review: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/din...

          1. Has anybody been here recently?

            5 Replies
            1. re: kathryn

              yah i have, they actually changed chefs, but i thought the food got better actually

              1. re: Lau

                They changed chefs awhile ago. They lost the chef from Yasuda as far as I was told. Opening nite Cobe Levy, punched a wall and was yelling at people . A few staff quit, the place was in total disaray. But the sushi chefs maintiained their cool as if nothing was going on. No one knew how to work the computer ,, The sushi chef gaae us our meal for free. The kitchen food was very good. When I went back about 2 months ago the kitchen food was very good. The sushi bar was uncomfortable. You get trapped in the seats no room to get out. The quality of the sushi was good

                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  to clarify my comment:

                  i agree with foodwhisperer re: kitchen food, I thought the kitchen food improved dramatically when i ate there a couple months ago after they changed the chef

                  i think the sushi was of similar quality as before meaning it was good, so i was pretty happy with it

                  1. re: Lau

                    Do you ever get the sushi for one or two? Or always a la carte or omakase?

                    1. re: kathryn

                      always a la carte or omakase

                      last time i did a la carte + food from kitchen since we were eating at a table

            2. Just got back from dinner here. Service was good and very attentive. The clubby atmosphere was fine. We felt a bit awkward being the only people there really until 7:45pm or so. The soundtrack was very odd: oldies and 80s stuff like Duran Duran.

              The bartender...well...sucked. My husband ordered a negroni (he was craving one). When it arrived, it was 90% gin. Sent it back. Bartender made another one begrudgingly, gave us the evil eye from the bar. Oh, and also he SHOOK the drink, when it should be stirred. Sigh. The bartender seemed ticked at us for the rest of the meal. (Our server was very nice, though, and took it off the bill at the end.)

              The food was pretty good. We had a light dinner. I really loved the Shishito peppers with pepitas. There seemed also to be some sort of reduction sauce, too, maybe balsamic, and some rice cracker crunch on top. Creative, tasty.

              The grilled miso eggplant was good, too, but needed a bit more miso sauce. And maybe some more char. I liked it but not as menu as the Shishito peppers.

              We also shared the tuna tartare with caviar, yuzu, and avocado. A somewhat delicate dish that was very hard to eat with chopsticks, this was delicious. There was only a bit of avocado purée at the bottom, so it didn't overwhelm the tuna. Excellent taste, they should serve this with a fork, though.

              We shared the large sushi platter ($64). I was a bit annoyed that they only gave us four kinds of fish, three pieces each. Hard to split with another person when you have three pieces of nigiri! The shima aji was very good, but the kanpachi seemed a little flavorless. The kindai tuna was also only OK. The Copper River salmon was the star, really rich and flavorful. Their sushi rice is pretty good, but served slightly too cold for me. I thought the sushi overall was solid but not particularly interesting. They probably want you to order a la carte. We also had a spicy tuna roll, as part of the platter, which was fine, but, again, not terribly interesting.

              Overall I liked the cooked food a lot and the sushi was solid. $95 before tax and tip for two people, but we had a pretty light meal here. We could probably have kept going. I wish they had a better bartender.

              Also, it seemed very odd that they had to take an imprint of my credit card and give us a carbon copy receipt to sign. The server didn't say anything, like, their machine was broken. Just dropped it off quietly. Who still uses carbon copy credit card slips?!

              5 Replies
              1. re: kathryn

                Kathryn, if they're playing Duran Duran, carbon credit card receipt shouldnt suprise you . At least the fish wasn't old. I think if you got sushi at the sushi bar, it would have been better than getting only 4 and 3 of each of those. I've never had bad Kindai tuna anywhere. For some reason it has always been consitently good. Maybe it has GMO's. Anyway, thanks for the review.

                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  >Kathryn, if they're playing Duran Duran, carbon credit card receipt shouldnt suprise you

                  LOL!!!

                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    My mistake! Give the decor and model/actor servers, I assumed the soundtrack was ironic!

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Yep yep , totally ironic

                  2. re: kathryn

                    Too kool!
                    I'm shaving my midriff ...
                    shopping for that perfect tube-top ...
                    and dreaming of how Robuchon is going to pair my Zombie.

                  3. Looks like it may have closed:

                    http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2012/05...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: uwsister

                      wow, very interesting. Sounds definite on the closing. Maybe a great soba place will be there again.

                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                        yah doesnt sound good