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Restaurant Openings

Week of May 7, 2007: Soto, Grom, and Vestry Wines.

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Soto
357 Sixth Ave., nr. Washington Pl.; 212-414-3088
From humble Atlanta strip-mall beginnings, third-generation sushi chef Sotohiro Kosugi built a devout following and a national reputation, even garnering a Best New Chef nod from Food & Wine magazine. But after eleven years of being a big fish in a small sushi pond, Kosugi closed his Atlanta restaurant and moved to New York, where he opens the new Soto later this week. Architect Hiro Tsuruta, known for his sleekly minimalist designs of ChikaLicious and Momofuku Noodle Bar, has created a clean-lined, unobtrusive setting for Kosugi’s inventive fare, which the chef hopes won’t be classified as fusion. “My style is different,” he says. “Everything has to express the original ingredient’s flavor, which is very Japanese.” Kosugi honed that style with dishes like sea urchin wrapped in thinly sliced squid, with nori and quail egg, or a spoonful of sweet shrimp tartare with yuzu tobiko and soy foam, both of which have appeared on his $80 fifteen-course tasting menu. With his wife, Maho, reprising her role of kitchen chef, Kosugi will take up his customary position behind the twelve-seat sushi bar.


Grom
2165 Broadway, nr. 76th St.; 646-290-7233
Who knew that gelato was practically extinct? That shocking declaration bemoaning the decline in artisanal ice cream was made by Slow Food boss Carlo Petrini a few years ago. It was also the inspiration for Grom, a four-year-old Italian gelati chain that opens its first branch outside the motherland this weekend on the Upper West Side. The brainchild of two Piedmontese, Federico Grom and Guido Martinetti, the company’s mission is to make gelato the exacting, old-fashioned way, eschewing artificial coloring and preservatives, of course, and using only first-rate (mostly Italian) ingredients: Hazelnuts and strawberries come from Piedmont, pistachios from Sicily, and lemons from the Amalfi coast. They even make the sorbet and granita using San Bernardo mineral water. While none of this is good news for locavores, at least you can sleep soundly knowing that the world, for the time being, is safe for gelato.


Vestry Wines
65 Vestry St., at Washington St.; 212-810-2899
Why would a New York wineshop have a California-based consultant? Because one of its owners, Mark Armenante, is besotted with the popular San Francisco restaurant A16 and is good friends with its co-owner and wine director, Shelley Lindgren. When Armenante and his partner, Young Ae Sohn, decided to open Vestry Wines, they enlisted Lindgren’s advice on staff and inventory; she obliged by recommending wine-industry buddies Jim Kuhner (a veteran of Italian Wine Merchants), and Gregory Condes, Gordon Ramsay’s recently departed sommelier. Unlike A16’s acclaimed southern Italian list, Vestry casts a wider net, focusing on smaller producers from Italy, France, and California. (The state, in fact, is the subject of the first in a series of themed weekly tastings, “Quality, Value and California.”) The small shop is outfitted with blond-wood shelving and an innovation that reflects its owners’ software backgrounds: kiosks where customers can trace previous orders, review tasting notes, and rate wine.


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