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Beretta Tastes Rather Blah

September 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Beretta

It seems like people are always talking about Beretta.  I have been curious to check it out, so when Pdho’s friend CountZero came to town, I thought it would be a good place to go for dinner, especially since it was short notice and I couldn’t get a reservation at any other restaurant.  There was absolutely no wait when we arrived around 6:45pm, but it quickly got busy soon after that.

 

Eggplant Caponatina with Burrata

We started off with the Eggplant Caponatina added some Burrata for an extra charge.  The mix of eggplant, tomatoes and other vegetables was quite refreshing, and the burrata added some tasty creaminess.  It was relatively light and healthy.

 

Chicken Liver Crostini alla Toscana

Focaccia Bread

Generally, I’m a fan of anything served on a crostini but found myself sorely disappointed by the chicken liver.  Each crostini was piled with a large mound of chicken liver which had an overpoweringly strong flavor of liver.  Honestly, it was so disgusting that I couldn’t swallow it.  I tried to divide it across some of the  focaccia bread, but not only did it not help, but it filled me up more.

 

Fritto Misto di Pesce

The Fritto Misto had a mix of fried calamari, shrimp, onions an green beans.  It was pretty plain actually… not even the tomato-based dipping sauce could do much to make this taste any better than average.

 

Heirloom Tomato, Basil and Ricotta

Although I liked the basil and heirloom tomatoes on this pizza, the ricotta cheese ended up overshadowing the the freshness of those ingredients.  The tomatoes, in particular, had a natural and refreshing flavor.  I think if I had a better appreciation for cheese, I might have felt differently about this particular pizza, but that is tough since I’m not much of a pizza fan in general.

 

Grilled Gulf Shrimp

Squid Ink Risotto with Calamari

Service started to slow down as the meal continued, so we started losing light pretty fast.  By the time the Grilled Gulf Shrimp and Squid Ink Risotto came out, it was pretty dark and there wasn’t very good lighting for the pictures.

The Grilled Gulf Shrimp was a special for the day, but unfortunately, we decided to order it without asking how it was prepared.  In addition to the fact that it was dark, I was not able to figure out at all what went into it.  There were 5-6 large gulf shrimps that were covered in some sort of cream and served over a bed of risotto.  The shrimps had a distinctly shrimpy taste, but after that the rest of the dish was sour.  I couldn’t figure out what made it taste that way.

The Squid Ink Risotto looked even darker than usual with the lack of lighting, but it tasted okay.  The risotto was a little nuttier, maybe because it wasn’t as evenly cooked.  At first bite, it tasted a little plain, but with each bite, the flavor seemed to grow increasingly more buttery and creamy making it a little bit better by the end.  The calamari was fine, but it didn’t add much to save the dish.

Overall, the food was pretty uninteresting, but maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised since Beretta is supposedly known for its cocktails and speakeasy-style drinks.  As I think about it, it probably makes sense that the food tasted the way that it did since it might be that the food was supposed to play a backseat to the drinks.  Unfortunately, since none of us were really in the mood to drink tonight, we ended up eating a very mediocre meal, sober.

 

Beretta
1199 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

PAFO Ratings for Beretta:
Price $$½
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3 stars

Burmese Food Truck Comes to SOMA

September 30, 2011 2 comments

My biggest complaint about food trucks (and one that Pdho is always bemoaning) is how pricey the food is that comes out of these food mobiles.  Sometimes the food is quite tasty and the price seems slightly forgivable, but it’s the mediocre food denting my lunch allowance which irritates me and Pdho even more.  You would think that a food truck, with much more minimal overhead than a brick and mortar restaurant, would charge more reasonable prices for their food.  However, the barrier to entry is rather low and everyone seems to be jumping on the food truck band wagon these days.

 

Burmese Food Truck

I would have expected a fancy-looking fully decked food truck like all the other ones roaming the streets, but I was quite surprised to not only see an older, plain looking former taco truck (with the former owners address still painted on the truck), but I also saw a small menu with very inexpensive prices so we decided to order everything on the white board.

 

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

The Tea Leaf Salad is probably the one dish that I have always associated with Burmese food.  This one from the truck was under $6 and looked rather simple, but once all the ingredients were tossed together the salad really had quite a uniquely tasty flavor profile.  In addition to the tea leaves, cabbage and tomatoes, there was an assortment of accoutrements, toasted garlic, roasted nuts and sesame seeds.  Unlike most salads where I’m always wanting some sort of meat to accompany the vegetables, this salad really had all the protein and flavor I needed.

 

Lemongrass Beef Combo

The Lemongrass Beef didn’t sound too appetizing, but since it was the only other main entree on the menu, we ended up ordering it with the vegetable samosa and salad.  I’m not sure what kind of salad was on the combination platter.  It wasn’t a tea leaf salad, but aside from the cabbage, I couldn’t tell what the brown crunchy stuff was, but it really was the source of a lot of flavor.  The vegetable samosas, stuffed with potatoes, peas and carrots, tasted pretty solid as well.  The lemongrass flavor was quite subtle, but it was the texture of the shredded beef that was my least favorite part of the dish even though it was much better when mixed with the coconut white rice. At $6.75, the combination plate was pretty reasonable for the amount of food.

The owner told us that he would be parked in the same location every day, and they would be rotating the menu through 50 different dishes.  I was quite excited by this prospect, because even though the lemongrass beef didn’t knock my socks off, I was quite confident (especially after tasting the Tea Leaf salad) that some of the other 50 dishes would be solid if not delicious.  Going against the grain of modern food trucks, the Burmese Gourmet retains the true meaning of what a food truck should be and serves simple, solid, inexpensive food.

 

PAFO Ratings for Burmese Food Truck:
Price $
Ambiance N/A
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars

Taste of South Beach and Mission Bay

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

I have always looked forward to the annual Taste of South Beach fair that showcases local restaurants and businesses in the neighborhood.  It started out being just for South Beach and has now expanded to include the Mission Bay area as well.  When Pdho and I first went a couple of years ago, it was located in South Park, but it is now set up along Pier 38-40 which is just as close, if not closer to us.  I think it is in a better location by being more open and offering higher foot-traffic.  Unfortunately, the weather was not as nice this year.  It was on the colder side and a little more gloomy, and then being so close to water made it very susceptible to wind.

 

Lobster Roll & Lobster Focaccia

We got the Lobster Roll and Lobster Focaccia from SB40, which is a little bar/restaurant located on Pier 40.  The Lobster Roll was definitely the much better of the two probably because there was more lobster meat, most of it being claw meat, but it was very well-seasoned and not soaked in mayo.  The focaccia bread was a little plain and there was so little lobster meat that it really didn’t do much for me.

 

Kobe Beef Roll & Fig and Cheese Crostini

I wouldn’t naturally think that Chaya Brasserie is considered part of South Beach even though it is located along the Embarcadero, but it is on the other side of the Bay Bridge.  I actually like the food here, but it just tends to be on the pricey side.  We ordered the Kobe Beef Roll which is essentially a shrimp tempura, crab and avocado roll topped with a thin slice of seared kobe beef and some spicy aioli.  It was small, but it was very delicious.  The Fig and Cheese Crostini was also pretty good, but I don’t think it was as interesting.

 

Waffle Battered Chicken Tenders

We ended our lunch with some Waffle Battered Chicken Tenders from Hotel Utah which is a bar/saloon that hosts live bands.  I’m not sure if this place is really known for its food, but the chicken tenders turned out to be pretty good.  The batter was slightly sweet and not too heavy and chicken wasn’t too dry.  It came with a maple syrup dipping sauce.  It had that nice sweet and savory contrast of flavors which tasted surprisingly solid.

I think the whole meal was just over $20, and although the weather was not really cooperating that day, it was still a nice way to get out and support the neighborhood.

Categories: American, Food, San Francisco

Chinese Food in the Mission

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

CC Giants and I have been meaning to get together for dinner for such a long time now. It’s been difficult to coordinate our schedules, but we finally found a time and decided to head over to Mission Chinese Food.  This place has been on my list for some time, but I have heard mixed reviews so its priority has changed over time.   When I looked at the menu, I was quite skeptical that the food could be that good, but this place gets A LOT of praises from local and national food critics, and the Yelp reviews seem pretty positive.  It seems to make various “best of” lists including Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant list.  Admittedly, when I’ve talked to friends who have gone, the reviews have been pretty mixed, but I was really curious to give it a try, so off we went.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too busy when we arrived at 7pm, so we got seated pretty quickly.  The front of the restaurant still says Lung Shan which is the former restaurant from the same owners.  In fact, there is very minimal signage that would indicate Mission Chinese Food was even located there.  The restaurant is VERY dark and pretty much looked like a hole in the wall kind of place.  With Asian paintings hanging along the walls, it seemed like the decor was intentionally made to look like a typical Chinese to go restaurant, but none of the servers looked Asian. Nevertheless, it was quite packed inside.

 

Hainam Chicken Rice

We were both in agreement to order the Hainam Chicken Rice which ended up coming out quite different than what I would have expected. I’m not sure if there was actually any chicken (unless it was shredded), but instead, it looked like a fried rice which was dressed in Shaoxing wine, chicken fat, roasted peanuts and cilantro.  There seemed to be a little too much liquid with a very overpowering taste of what I can only imagine was the Shaoxing wine that probably wasn’t burned off enough.

 

Salt Cod Fried Rice

The Salt Cod Fried Rice which was much better had escolar confit, Chinese sausage, eggs and scallions.  I liked the saltiness of the escolar with the scallions, but I thought the Chinese sausage was unnecessary.  I would order it again.

 

Kung Pao Pastrami

I tend to avoid anything prepared Kung Pao style, but the idea of using pastrami seemed intriguing.  The pastrami was sliced pretty thinly and stir-fried with equally thin slices of potato, celery and roasted peanuts, but it was chili flakes that made this dish explosively spicy.  It was  so hot that I could barely taste anything else, not even the salty flavor that comes from pastrami.

 

Thrice Cooked Bacon

Although the Thrice Cooked Bacon had different ingredients with bacon, rice cakes, bitter melon, tofu skin and scallions, it somehow tasted exactly like the Kung Pao Pastrami.  It had the same fiery flavor which I attempted to mitigate with the starchiness of the rice cake.  Unfortunately, whatever bacon was in the dish was actually quite hard to find.  I think I liked this dish a little bit better mainly because of the rice cakes and bitter melon.

Overall, the food was solid, but I was still rather unimpressed considering all the buzz and hoopla around this restaurant.  I mean in the past 6 months I’ve heard of Anthony Bourdain, Ferran Adria and Martha Stewart coming here to eat when they were in town.  Two out of three of them are legitimate foodies.  That aside, it was a little frustrating to truly know what I was eating, because it was so dark that if it weren’t for the menu, I wouldn’t have been able to tell what went in to each dish.  I am really struggling to understand where the reviews were coming from and what they were eating when they decided to shower Mission Chinese Food with all the praises.  The air of Chinese flavors was faint, but I am thinking that maybe to the foreign palate, these flavor combinations might seem exotic and interesting.  I am glad I tried it out, but I would be interested to hear what other people think.  Let me know!!

 

Mission Chinese Food
2234 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

PAFO Ratings for Mission Chinese Food:
Price $$
Ambiance 2½ stars
Food 3 stars
Overall rating 3 stars

Zipping Across Justin Herman Plaza

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment

View from the Top of the Zip Line

It was one of those rare beautifully perfect days in San Francisco, and since Pdho and I happened to be free, we decided to go check out the Zip Lining place that was set up in Justin Herman Plaza.  The same company had made their inaugural appearance last summer and was offering free zip lining rides across the plaza last year.  Unfortunately, I don’t work in the city, but I heard the lines were pretty horrendous so I never really got to check it out.  This year, they started charging $30, so I would think the lines wouldn’t have been that long, but I’m not totally sure.  According them, business seems like it has been doing well, but who knows.  All I can say, is it was a beautiful day and there was no wait whatsoever, but there seemed to be a steady stream of people.

 

Looking Down the Zip Line

The view from the top of the zip line was pretty fantastic especially on a clear day like today.  I was actually quite excited climbing the steps to the top, but when I got there, the lady in front of me was kind of freaking out.  Her husband kept telling her to calm down, but she kept repeating “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this” all the way until they sent her down the zip line.  I wasn’t feeling nervous, but that lady kind of made me start rethinking the calmness that had overcome me.

 

 

I really didn’t have much time to think, because once they let us go, it was like 15 seconds to the end of the zip line.  It was surprisingly fun considering how short the ride and unobstructed the path was.  Check out the video above.

 

Me

Pdho

Categories: Fun, San Francisco Tags:

Fusion between French and Japanese

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Bushi-Tei

Bushi-Tei has been on my list for awhile now, but I have been a little hesitant to try it with Pdho, because he is rarely impressed with fancified Asian food.  Bushi-Tei, which is located in the middle of Japantown, is a French-Japanese fusion restaurant, but I recently read that Michael Hung had taken over as Executive Chef.  I’m not sure if he is Chinese or Vietnamese, but I read he would be drawing from all cuisines across Asia while maintaining the foundation of French and Japanese blended styles of cooking.  I have to admit that I was a little worried that this restaurant might succumb to the same pitfalls of many other fusion restaurants where they try to blend a bunch of cuisines together in a way that just doesn’t end up being appetizing.  However, I had my gift certificate to redeem, so off we went to dinner on a Friday night.

It was past 7pm, but when we arrived, it didn’t look like the restaurant was too crowded.  It was a nice, clean modern place with glass and steel but there was also wood paneling as well which was in line with the East meets West theme.  We ended up getting seated at the part of the restaurant where the tables were all placed a little too close together, so I could clearly hear the conversations between the couples on either side of us.  As a result, I think Pdho and I ended up having a relatively quiet dinner.

 

Bread

Most of the time, the bread is filler and doesn’t necessarily taste all that good, but the two types that got served here were actually quite interesting.  The bread on the left was kind of like a less dense version of a mini bagel, and the one on the right was made with brown rice.  The brown rice bread had some interesting texture (probably from the brown rice).

 

Grilled Sonoma Foie Gras

The Grilled Sonoma Foie Gras was a nice way to start the meal.  It was a nicely sized piece that was seared and served with burdock, a sake gastrique and these mini toasts.  The toasts were slightly sweet and kind of crumbled like a cookie or biscotti, so it added an interesting contrast to the richness of the foie gras.

 

Silken Tofu Mousse

The tofu was surprisingly smooth and creamy.  Instead of the typically bland taste, the tofu had a mix of  rhubarb, cocoa nibs and shichimi togarashi, which is a Japanese spice blend, giving it an interesting bit of flavor.  The lightness of the tofu made it the perfect antithesis to the fatty foie gras, but I still equally enjoyed it.

 

Sonoma Duck Breast

The duck breast was served with potatoes, daikon and some vegetables.  It was well-cooked with a less gamey flavor than duck can sometimes have.  I quite enjoyed it even though I thought that it would have been even better if the skin was a little crispier.

 

Seared Local Black Cod

The black cod was served on a bed of bok Choy with mushrooms and lap xuong sausage.  The sauce was very buttery which made the perfectly cooked black cod taste even creamier.  At the same time, there was a lightness to the dish which made me feel like I was eating healthier than I probably was.  I thought the fish tasted quite refined and I really loved it.

Overall, the food was quite delicious and the whole ambiance of the place seemed perfect for a romantic night on the town.  I really enjoyed the experience here, but I think what is hard to swallow is how much the food costs.  It’s not super expensive, but it definitely is not economically-priced, so I think I’m just not used to Asian-esque food costing so much.  I don’t want to take away from the true quality and excellent taste of the food, but at this price point, it seems to be competing with a category of restaurants that serves even higher quality food.  I would definitely recommend this restaurant though, but I would save it for a once a while special occasion.

 

Bushi-Tei
1638 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94115

PAFO Ratings for Bushi-Tei:
Price $$$
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3½ stars

Sugar Sweet Sunshine

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

After hearing that I had gone to Magnolia Bakery, Ckoh suggested that I check out Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery which supposedly serves better cupcakes.  Despite the fact that its location made for a rather inconvenient destination, I was thoroughly intrigued and wanted to check it out.  So fortuitously enough, after our lunch at DBGB in Lower East Side, we were only a hop, skip and a jump away from Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery.

I’ve said it many times, and those that know me, recognize this to be true…. I’m really not a sweets person.  However, every so often, I do get a random craving for something sweet, and it is usually just a handful of things.  Glazed donuts, Nestle Crunch and Kit Kat mini bars, various flavors of gelato and sorbet and cupcakes come to mind.  So I was quite excited when we arrived at the bakery and not only saw no line, but there was a whole slew of colorful cupcakes on display inside a very cozy and humble looking cupcake shop.

 

Sunshine Cupcakes

Unfortunately, I can’t remember what other flavors were on display because I really only like Vanilla cupcakes.  Although I will eat other ones (except for anything chocolate-based) I like it simple… vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, so in this case, it was the Sunshine cupcake for me.  The rainbow of colors made it looks bright and appetizing, but it was just food coloring so they all supposedly tasted the same.  Does anyone want to guess which color I chose?

 

Sunshine Cupcakes

Even though I like cupcakes with its frosting, more often than not, I end up taking off at least half of it off.  Otherwise, I end up feeling like I’m about to go into sugar shock.  Although the frosting was still on the sweet side, it wasn’t overwhelming so.  It was just enough sugar to accent to the noticeably moist consistency of the cake.  I can definitely see why people say the cupcakes here are better.  Best part of the cupcake was its $1.75 price making it much more reasonably priced than every other fancy schmancy cupcake out there.  At $2.75, I used to think that Magnolia Bakery was overpriced, but then all these trendy places like Sprinkles and Kara’s Cupcakes charge even more.

 

Sign Outside Shop

Overall,  I really liked the cupcakes from here, but aside from the taste, I really think it was the fact that Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery seemed untouched by the masses.  I think that is the most annoying part of Magnolia Bakery.  There always seems to be a line making it seem like the cupcakes are god’s greatest gift to sweet tooths, and although the cupcakes aren’t bad, they really aren’t that great either.  I’m sure Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery isn’t as much on the down low as I might be making it out to be, but it is definitely worth giving some praises for serving some really tasty cupcakes.

 

Sugar Sweet Sunshine
126 Rivington St #1
New York, NY 10002

PAFO Ratings for Sugar Sweet Sunshine:
Price $
Ambiance 2 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars

Daniel Boulud’s Gastro Bar

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

DBGB

DBGB Dining Room

The food tour continued today with lunch at DBGB which is located on the border of the Lower East Side.  While we waited for Ckoh, Mkoh and Professor SS to arrive, we were perusing the menu.  The menu looked like a cross between a French bistro and an American gastropub with a little bit of chi chi.  There were croque monsieurs and charcuterie alongside burgers and hot dogs.

In addition to fair number of tables outside, the inside dining room was equally spacious.  The were a bunch of shelves along the walls kind making it look a little bit like a library, but instead of books, it looked like there were a collection of pots and pans that had been donated by a myriad of famous chefs including Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain.

 

Charcuterie Platter

We started with a sample platter of charcuterie which included some pâté de campagnard (country style pâté with pork & chicken liver), saucisson sec (Lyonnaise style artisanal dry sausage), rillette de jamboneau Provençal (pulled ham hock with tomato, zucchini eggplant, basil & olive oil) and fromage de tête (chilled pigs head terrine) with sourdough toast.  It was all a little bit of a blur, so I can’t recall much about each of the meats individually, but it all definitely tasted good.  With pâté, terrines and sausages, it is hard to go wrong.  Although, instead of the sourdough, I would have preferred some other bread or toast.

 

Asparagus and Fried Egg

I really thought the way the egg was prepared in this dish was interesting as it was essentially a hard boiled egg that was filled with a mustard dressing and then battered and deep-fried.  Although the individual components tasted fine, I have to admit that it all seemed a little disconnected.  I couldn’t see how the smoked duck and duck cracklins went with the asparagus nor the egg.

 

Chop Chop Salad

In order to maintain the balance of the meal, we ordered the Chop Chop Salad which had romaine lettuce, avocados, red peppers, carrots and a watermelon & ginger-sesame dressing.  It was a quite tasty but not anything out of the ordinary.

 

Canard

Louisiane

Ckoh said the sausages were one of the signature things to get here, so we decided on the Canard and Louisiane.  The Canard was a duck and pork blend served with kasha varnishkes and duck cracklins, and the Louisiane was a New Orleans-style garlic and pepper andouille that was served with a crayfish, ham and fried okra gumbo.  Both of these were quite delicious.  There was a lot of depth of flavors particularly in the Canard sausage and in the gumbo that went along with the Louisiane.  I really liked the gumbo even though it was on the spicy side, but I thought it went very well with the andouille sausage.

 

The Piggie

The Piggie sounded rather sinful being that it was a burger made with a 6 oz. beef patty topped with housemade pulled pork, but it was absolutely delicious.  The mustard-vinegar slaw provided some much needed acidity to cut the richness of the meat, and the cheddar bun was soft and fluffy while managing to soak up with juices without becoming soggy.  This was truly one tasty burger.

 

Mussels Poulette

The mussels were served in a broth of white wine, shallots and fines herbes.  They tasted perfectly fine, but truthfully, it wasn’t all that interesting and I wouldn’t suggest ordering it unless you really like mussels.  The real key to this dish is usually the broth, but in this case, the broth kind of fell a little flat.

 

Braised Spinach and Chickpeas

French Fries

I didn’t like the spinach that much.  I know we were wanting to add some vegetables to the meal, but I thought they were bland and wilted.

The french fries, however, were thin and crispy just how true French fries should be. I liked them  a lot.

 

Caramel Pear

I don’t really remember much about the desserts.  This one had ginger marshmallows, roasted pears, shortbread cookies topped with a brandy caramel sauce.

 

Peanut Chocolate Tart

The Peanut Chocolate tart was a chocolate caramel mousse on a cookie crust and topped with marshmallow truffles and chocolate ice cream.  It was a little too sweet and rich for my taste buds.

Overall, the food was pretty good here.  The french fries, sausages and the Piggie burger were probably the highlights of the meal, and the desserts were probably the most uninteresting.  The rest of the dishes were very solid.  This place is definitely worth a visit especially if you’re craving some very richly delicious food.

 

DBGB
299 Bowery St
New York, NY 10003

PAFO Ratings for DBGB:
Price $$$
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3½ stars

Doughnut Plant Again

September 11, 2011 3 comments

Doughnut Plant's Specials Today

I am not sure what it is about Doughnut Plant, but I really like the donuts there.  This is coming from someone who doesn’t like sweets.  I know this might seem hard to believe considering there have been these visits to Magnolia Bakery and Sugar Sweet Sunshine, but I am on vacation.

As with previous visits to Doughnut Plant, there are always a fresh new selection of donuts each day made from whatever ingredients are in season that time of year.  I probably wouldn’t have picked up anything if it weren’t for the Fresh Peach Doughnuts I saw listed on the board.

 

Variety of Donuts

No More Special Peach Donuts

Unfortunately, even though there wasn’t a line (as there usually tend to be), there also wasn’t any peach doughnuts left, at least not the yeast ones.  There were only the cake ones left which Pdho and Ckoh both scrunched their faces at.  There were a bunch of other yeast donuts, but many of them looked a little too elaborate and sweet for my liking.  I am okay with the cake ones though, so I ended up getting the peach cake doughnut.

 

Peach Cake Donut

It was a tasty donut.  The cake was dense, and the glaze had a nice peach sweetness.  It was small as most of their cake donuts are, but it hit the spot.

 

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002

PAFO Ratings for Doughnut Plant:
Price $
Ambiance 1 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3½ stars

Chasing Hiro to Niko

September 10, 2011 1 comment

One of the things that Ckoh always raves about is how much he loves eating with Chef Hiro, formerly of Sushi Yasuda, who has now heading up his own sushi restaurant at Niko in Soho.  A while back, Ckoh made such a big to do about how good the sushi was that Pdho and I had to go to Sushi Yasuda to see for ourselves.  They definitely serve some high quality, good tasting sushi, but Ckoh insisted that he mainly liked it because of Chef Hiro.  You can imagine how sad Ckoh was when Chef Hiro had left, and eventually, how excited he was to find out where he had resurfaced.  So Pdho and I were extremely interested to go eat at Niko and see how it compared to Sushi Yasuda.

 

Niko

Pdho and I met up with Ckoh and Mkoh right at 6pm and were the first to be seated at the sushi bar.  We were actually were the only ones at the sushi bar for most of the dinner.  The restaurant is not very big, but most of the seating was in the dinning area which was more lowly lit and had large windows revealing Mercer St. below.

 

Chef Yoshi

There were three sushi chefs working behind the bar, and I think there was probably a maximum of 10 seats at the bar.  Unfortunately, Chef Hiro was off for the night, so we had Chef Yoshi instead.  Ckoh seemed a little disappointed, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from enjoying the meal.  He did emphasize that the main reason Chef Hiro seems to treat him so well and serve him the best fish is because Ckoh eats with such zest and happiness.  If you know Ckoh, you know what that probably looks like.

 

Sea Urchin and Scallop Wrapped in Seaweed

We started the meal with Sea Urchin and Scallop wrapped in seaweed.  I’m really starting to appreciate uni more, especially when the uni is high quality as this was.  It had a surprisingly clean taste pretty much devoid of the fishiness, but it was creamy consistency of the uni that I really enjoyed.  It literally melted in my mouth.  The scallop tasted fresh, but in all honesty, was overshadowed by the uni.

 

Fluke with Ponzu Sauce

The thinly sliced fluke was prepared with scallions, tiny fish roe and ponzu sauce.  This contrasted quite nicely with the uni by offering a lighter yet tangier twist.  It was really was quite refreshing.

 

Sashimi Platter

Although, the cuts of fish here are noticeably smaller and inversely related to their price when you compare to other sushi restaurants, it really is high quality fish.  The more sushi I eat, the more attuned my taste buds become at distinguishing the good from the bad.  Unfortunately, the pictures can’t accurately convey how good the fish really was.  There was Bluefin tuna, Big eye tuna, kanpachi, New Zealand salmon, orange clam and scallop, and it all was delicious.  I have to say that I’ve never had orange clam before, but it was quite interesting.  It had a firmer texture which was different from the rest.

 

Shishito Peppers

These are quite popular these days, and I seem to find them on menus everywhere.  These peppers were noticeably larger than the other ones I’ve had, but they also had a more striking pepper flavor.  Not that they were spicy, but they just tasted like non-spicy peppers.

 

Squid with Bottarga

This was an extremely interesting creation.  It reminded me of the uni and scallop combination, because of the neutral taste from the squid being accented by the distinctly salty flavor from the bottarga, which I understand is a type of fish roe.  It was a little strong, but I enjoyed it.

 

Alaskan Halibut

The halibut came with a shiso leaf and yuzu pepper.  Now I am not the biggest fan of that shiso leaf taste, but the halibut was so good that it was forgivable.

 

Bonito from New Jersey

It’s very hard to really describe the different tastes of sushi, but suffice it to say that they were all very good.  There was something about all of them where the freshness and quality of the fish truly came through in each bite.

 

Shima Aji

Moreover, each one was prepared in such a way that you really didn’t need any additional soy sauce.  Either Chef Yoshi had added a dab himself, but it also seemed like the flavor of the fish was so good that you didn’t need too much soy sauce and the purity of the flavor could come through on its own.

 

Bluefin Toro

One bite of the Bluefin toro and it just melted in mouth.  It was beautifully marbled and truly delectable.

 

Sea Urchin

This point of the meal was delightfully punctuated by the distinct yet pure taste of the uni.

 

Giant Clam

The giant clam was much better this time around than when we had it at Newport Seafood. That giant clam was cook through so I think it ended up being too chewy and tasteless, but this one was much more delicate with a very neutral flavor.

 

Pike Mackerel

I have never been a big fan of the strong mackerel taste, but this one although still tasting like mackerel was a little bit more subtle.

 

Red Snapper

The red snapper was from Japan.

 

Oyster

The oyster was not my favorite, but it was okay especially if you’re big on oysters.

 

Freshwater Eel

Freshwater eel or anago is not as popular as its seawater brethren, but I kind of like its softer texture.  I have to say that this one wasn’t as good as the one I had from Sushi Yasuda.  I still remember how tasty that one was.

 

Toro Hand Roll

The slices of toro in the hand roll was good, but the roll as a whole was pretty plain.

 

Fresh Salmon Roe

At some point in the meal, we had basically finished with the omakase that Chef Yoshi had in mind, but we were still hungry.  I forget where it was, but I think it was somewhere before or after the hand roll.

 

Fresh Crab Roll

I remember Ckoh requesting this roll.  It’s an all-time favorite of his. Chef Yoshi used fresh crab which was good.

 

Poached Halibut

The poached halibut was a special dish on tonight’s menu. It was prepared with fennel and two types of seaweed in an oyster broth with yuzu then topped with smoked salmon roe and grapes.  The halibut was extremely moist and the sauce tasted quite refined.  It was good, but with a price tag over $30, I thought it was a little too expensive.

Overall, the sushi here was quite delicious.  I really enjoyed it.  It definitely reminds me a lot of Sushi Yasuda with its smaller cuts of fish and warm rice, but I think I like the ambiance here a little more.  It’s located on a smaller street in Soho and has a hipper vibe than being in Midtown.  I think the pricing is probably about the same.

 

Niko
170 Mercer St.
New York, NY 10012

PAFO Ratings for Niko:
Price $$$½
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 4½ stars
Overall rating 4 stars

Categories: Food, Japanese, NYC, Restaurants, Sushi Tags: ,
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