In the beginning there was sushi. Next came fluke carpaccio and tuna tartare. Then there was crudo, anointed with oil and a few crystals of sea salt. And now, courtesy of L’Impero’s Scott Conant, comes what he’s christening the “modern Italian raw bar,” an especially elegant response to our bottomless appetite for raw fish. Bar Tonno will occupy the old Soho location of Bar Veloce, whose long, extremely narrow space has been deemed by Conant and his partners Chris Cannon and Frederick Twomey the perfect setting for wielding supersharp blades on pristine specimens of seafood. Taking inspiration from a trip he made to Portonovo’s Clandestino Susci (something like an Italian Nobu on the Adriatic coast), where he dined on the beach with his toes in the sand, Conant has devised an intriguing menu. Fluke, for example, is accented with pink peppercorns, smoked sea salt, leeks, and chanterelles; tuna belly is embellished with tomato and cucumber in a ricci di mare emulsion; and a shot of squid ink is spiked with mussel juice and clams. East-meets-West creativity aside, the success of this type of cuisine rests on the fish, and Conant promises the freshest, highest quality; plus masterful technique (Kyohei Fukushi, a former Morimoto sushi chef, will be behind the bar); and a 3 a.m. last call to attract the kind of diners most impressed by those things—other chefs. “I can see Daniel coming down at the end of the night and having a glass of sake.” If not, chef groupies will have to do.
Bar Tonno, 17 Cleveland Place; opens late September.