Clearly, Jean-Georges Vongerichten is betting our town’s noodleheads will be moved by the esoteric creations of Japan’s entrepreneurial Matsushita brothers installed now at Matsugen, where 66 fizzled out. For the duo of soba-sensei joining me and my guy tonight, the house’s couturier buckwheat noodles in three different textures are an exciting revelation. True, the spot is still dully illuminated and spare, except for that fabulous fish tank, the new bar-lounge, and a lively communal table. I find it bothers me less. Alas, exquisitely mounted sashimi (priced at $120, a gift to us) is too cold; the tight little sushi rolls, sadly mushy. But so much else is good—the tickle of peppery heat on edamame, luscious homemade tofu, the lively seaweed salad, four shimmering little shrimp cakes, and the Bakudan bowl: salmon roe, baby scallops, scallion, poached egg, and nori crowned with uni, our quartet’s special passion. Then comes the soba seduction. We’re trying it hot and cold, coarse and silken. So there’s delicate “rin,” served with a rich “goma dare” sesame sauce. And also “inaka,” coarse from husk bits, with duck and scallion in a savory broth. A marvelous soufflélike egg coverlet tops my guy’s textured noodles. And our pal offers tastes of his Matsugen special, cold soba with sea urchin and a wreath of condiments on smooth “seiro” (medium-husk soba). Be warned: Drinking beer and penny-pinching to avoid the priciest items, we still drop $140 a couple.
241 Church St., at Leonard St. 212-925-0202