Photos courtesy of Neta
Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau helped make Neta a star in the city’s already stacked sushi circuit, bringing their staggeringly high-end restaurant experience (at Masa and Bar Masa, respectively) to bear. But when the pair departed last year, to open their own, equally elite kaiseki spot, Shuko, it left Neta in a potentially awkward position — should they stay the course with $50 morsels of caviar-dotted toro, without the firepower of their two sushi celebrities, or find a way to set themselves apart?
It seems they’ve elected to go with the latter, offering a wider array of choices with a considerably wider range of prices, making the West Village eatery a dinner option for more than the trust fund set. In fact, it’s actually an option for lunch now, too, featuring a three-course menu for $35, which would barely cover the cost of a tuna roll during Neta’s ritzier days. There are also Teishoku set meals, ranging from $19 for Oyako Donburi (chicken and egg on a bed of rice), and $45 for Wagyu Tataki, all served with housemade pickles and a silken pot of kiri mochi chawan mushi.
Not that Neta’s sacrificed any of its luster; the newly appointed chef is Sungchul Shim, whose resume includes Per Se, Bouley, Gordon Ramsay at the London, Momoya, and Le Bernardin. And he’s created a series of breathtakingly beautiful a la carte dishes and omakase menus, that perfectly compliment more than two dozen selections of sushi, including a sensuous Chilled Corn Soup, swirled around a tender, togarashi-spiced fish cake, a tumble of House Cured Duck Pastrami, coiled on a bed of Australian black winter truffle and wild mushrooms, and a glorious sansho pepper-spiked Salmon Tartare, studded with vividly orange roe, paved with tufts of shaved bonito, and perfumed with roasted garlic wasabi.
The beverage menu has been thoroughly fleshed out as well, courtesy of Cole Shaffer, formerly of Culturefix and veteran of Jeffrey Chodorow’s restaurants. Not only has he curated a nuanced selection of sake, wine, and even champagne to pair with the variety of courses, he’s devised a truly appealing cocktail menu, highlighting small batch, artisanal spirits from Japan and beyond. Try the “Amai Doku,” or “Sweet Poison,” with mezcal-esque Venenosa Costa Raicilla, housemade cherry-tonka bitters, and Pur Likor elderflower liqueur, or the Boulevardier-inspired “Shibui #2,” with Hakushu 12 year single malt Japanese whiskey, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, Maurin Quina and Bittermans Burlesque Bitters.
So if you thought the spare West Village establishment was only for stuffy, sashimi-nibbling, sake-sipping big spenders, think again. Because with cool cocktails and chic small plates at a much more approachable price point, Neta’s effectively opened itself up to a whole new audience.