Soto for Sushi ??
Thumbing through our Michelin guide, I came across a two-star sushi restaurant called Soto, named after its chef/owner Sotohiro Kosugi. Two stars in Mich is pretty good, esp. for sushi, but while New York magazine lists it as a critics' pick they also say it's "good but not fabulous" by NYC standards.
So - has anyone here been to Soto and if so, how was it? And what could two people expect to spend, excluding drinks?
I like Soto a lot, but he's more known for his composed dishes that straight-up sushi / sashimi. He's known in particular for being an uni master - get everything on the menu with uni, that'd be a heckuva start to a meal. (Or a whole meal)
They're VERY expensive, though. dishes are fairly small, and the prices add up quick.
I think kathryn has explained very well. Soto's sushi is fine, but certainly not the best in town. However, if you are a uni lover, you will fall in love with its various uni appetizers. They are great. Lobster sashimi with kimizu sauce and caviar is also my favorite.
My problem was that even the small plates weren't just fine.
1. broiled unagi — nothing special; you could get this at any half decent midtown Japanese restaurant; why is this 2* cooking?
2. squid-uni "sushi" — this is neat, but IIRC as foodwhisperer complained, this seemed to have been pre-made which detracted from the final quality of the dish
5. geoduck salad — microgreens dominated the geoduck and the accompanying cucumber pickles in the middle was repeated from the first dish.
6. dobinmushi — might as well be drinking hot water. This was the least defensible concoction. It didn't even come with yuzu, but it was so bland it didn't need or deserve it.
7. minuted-steamed tai — great potential but the miniscule slicing causes it to suffer from temperature loss by the time it gets served
9. daily roll — pushed all my wrong buttons. It was mushy and tasted like Chinese takeout. Again, confusing.
This is not to mention the overall borderline heavy seasoning using hotness (ginger) and salt, or the challenging staff experience.
Uni and lobster are great. The caviar lobsters were going out flight after flight. I would have tried the other uni, if not for the tacky martini glasses. I hold the opinion that these two seafoods are expensive crowd-pleasers. A 2* restaurant should not be relying on this as the core of their culinary offering. If so you risk catering to indiscriminate West Villagers. I have no qualms about criticizing what I have found quite lacking.
Thinking back, the other category of dishes that are pretty cool is the tartares, both in the appetizers and 2nd page. So to be fair I'm not saying it was all terrible.
As I mentioned, I recommend mostly uni dishes at Soto, which are really great. I haven't tried non-uni dishes other than lobster sashimi or aji tataki (which were good except both being a bit heavily seasoned), and I have no idea what most of the small dishes you described (mostly non-uni dishes) will be like. Incidentally, dobinmushi (especially matsutake dobinmushi) is supposed to be served with sudachi (すだち, 酢橘), not yuzu. But then, in New York a lot of Japanese restaurants serve it with yuzu. May be because fresh sudachi is hard to come by?
Reading your comments, may be I should stick with uni dishes going forward. Thanks for the tip!
Honestly, I don't care too much whether Soto is a Michelin two-star restaurant or not. Soto has a variety of unique uni dishes that are not found at most of Japanese restaurants in town, and I love them as an uni lover.
Kosmose you're good. I never noticed if I have gotten sudachi or yuzu with dobinmushi. I do believe matsutake and the sudachi when harvested green are during the same months of the year. So perhaps that's why they are served together.
I found this link describing some of the differences between yuzu and sudachi, even though they are close relatives.
By the way, the executive chef at Brushstroke, Yamata-san makes good dobinmushi. Kanoyama also makes a good one , but not always available.
As far as Soto goes, as Kathryn stated, the "small Plates" are better than the sushi dishes. However, I think Soto's quality was better when he first opened. As Calf concurs with me that some of the dishes perhaps lost quality by being made in advance. The uni dishes for the most part are good, But I think Soto is stretching it, when he says he has Russian uni. Quite often Russian boats are in Japanese waters getting uni. There seems to be a lot of illegal uni stuff going on in those Hokkaido waters.
It's expensive and uneven—some unique and interesting dishes, but a few others downright slipshod. The lobster dishes are always a safe, and popular, choice.
My opinion is that the 2 stars were awarded for boldness and taking culinary risks. If you are willing to overlook the misses and the price tag (150-ish?)—and evidently from the packed restaurant on weekends, people do—it could be a good choice. Again, it's a unique, NYC/fusion-influenced cuisine, that seems particular to the chef.
For 2* dining, I often think about the dishes at Corton, Atera, Momofuku Ko.
For high-end Japanese there's lots of good suggestions that I'd put before Soto—the others will answer this…
Soto, the one at 357 6th Ave? This one?
Soto isn't in Midtown, it is in the Village.
Have you tried doing a search? The general consensus here seems to be the sushi is fine, but it is the small plates where the restaurant shines. Especially if you like uni.
Kathryn, thanks for responding and yes I goofed on location (since corrected).
I tried a Bing search of sushi places in Chowhound but didn't see it. Will look at the threads you suggested. Re: Yelp, I do a lot of Yelping myself but not the place I go for reviews on palces like this.