Sun-Thu, noon-2pm and 5pm-10:30pm; Fri-Sat, noon-2pm and 5pm-11:30pm
Nearby Subway Stops
1 at Christopher St.-Sheridan Sq.
Small plates, $6 to $48; sushi and sashimi, $5 to $28.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard
- Dine at the Bar
- Open Kitchens / Watch the Chef
- Online Reservation
- Sake and Soju
- Full Bar
- Make a Reservation with opentable.com
For the new, postmillennial generation of financial titans and Internet billionaires, raw fish is the ultimate trophy food. It won’t give you a heart attack. It’s loaded with subtle snob appeal. If cash is no object, there’s no more theatrical, cosmopolitan meal in the world. Like their Kobe beef-loving forebears, members of the sushi power elite tend to travel in packs and dine in the same rotation of trusted, ridiculously expensive establishments again and again. But I’ve noticed more and more of them congregating at an unassuming sushi restaurant called Neta, which opened in 2012 among the scruffy bars and cut-rate West Village shoe stores along 8th Street near Sixth Avenue. In the tradition of discreetly ambitious sushiyas everywhere, the façade of the storefront space is painted in black trim and covered in pale curtains. There are a few tables set along the walls inside, but most of the narrow, railroad-car-size space is taken up by the bar, which is made of polished ebony. Aside from a random vase of cherry blossoms in the corner, the gray-shaded room is so devoid of artifice and decoration that one of my guests compared it to a “corporate test kitchen” in the suburbs of New Jersey.
You won’t find giant-mushroom-and-rice rolls feathered with shavings of black Périgord truffle at any of the test kitchens in Jersey, however, or dabs of rose-colored tuna tartare, which is served in a little cocktail glass piled with Beluga caviar spooned from a sky-blue tin. Most of the fish on the relatively spare sushi list at Neta come from “local” waters (around the U.S.), one of the sushi chefs told me, and unlike in more traditional restaurants, the menu contains an entire sushi-roll section devoted to vegetables. I preferred the generously portioned grilled-maitake-mushroom roll, scattered with black truffle ($19), to the cocktail glass of caviar and toro tartare, which cost $48 and disappeared in two bites. The first small-plate items we sampled included sections of sweet Maine scallop dressed with uni, garlic, and soy butter ($18) and wraps of crispy duck skin and foie gras folded in thin slices of cucumber, which tasted more of duck than of foie gras ($19).
Bluefin tuna is the filet ¬mignon of the sushi jet set these days, and there are four different cuts of this endangered delicacy available at Neta, ranging from chewy, faintly charred suji sinew, cut from the collar of the fish, to smooth, soapy-colored strips of fatty o-toro belly ($12), which dissolve in a decadent slick of richness as they slip down the back of your throat. My sushi-loving high-roller friend thought the rice under his pearly, $6 piece of hotate (scallop) was “just this side of gummy,” but he had no complaints about the pink sawara (mackerel), which the chefs gently lacquer with soy or ice-cool dabs of uni flown in to the restaurant daily. If you don’t feel like forking over $28 for the signature, bluefin-rich Neta roll, I suggest the more cost-effective vegetable rolls, which the chefs stuff with shaved spears of asparagus, fried shiitake, or chunks of sweet potato garnished with shiso leaves frizzled in a tempura batter.
Neta doesn’t offer the wildly esoteric range of sushi and sashimi that you’ll find at some of the grander, more established sushi palaces (no grilled fugu intestines, no rare species of needlefish). You can sip 42 varieties of sake while waiting for your next course to arrive, however, along with a selection of beers from Italy, France, and Belgium. If you feel like splurging, there are three omakase dining options available ($115, $155, and $225), and you can wash them down with a $400 bottle of ’02 Dom Pérignon Champagne. The only desserts are three ice creams (banana-miso, peanut butter, and black sesame) and a simple iced granita. You can get it flavored with fresh grapefruit, and it’s served the way Masa does uptown, in a tiny cocktail glass with a little bamboo spoon.Ideal Meal
Dungeness crab, king mushrooms, Spanish mackerel, uni, o-toro, grilled-maitake roll with black truffles, spicy salmon canapé roll, grapefruit granita.
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