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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One bite of the Bluefin toro and it just melted in mouth. It was beautifully marbled and truly delectable.
This point of the meal was delightfully punctuated by the distinct yet pure taste of the uni.
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.
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.
The red snapper was from Japan.
The oyster was not my favorite, but it was okay especially if you’re big on oysters.
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.
The slices of toro in the hand roll was good, but the roll as a whole was pretty plain.
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.
I remember Ckoh requesting this roll. It’s an all-time favorite of his. Chef Yoshi used fresh crab which was good.
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.
170 Mercer St.
New York, NY 10012
PAFO Ratings for Niko:
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 4½ stars
Overall rating 4 stars