Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Motherhood First + A Spectacular Dining Experience

This past weekend was eventful because it marked one of the many nerve-wracking "firsts" that a new parent undergoes. There was the first time my baby projectile vomited on me in public. The first time I had to change a soiled diaper in the middle of a snowstorm at a Denny's off the highway. Saturday marked another first, while not as traumatic as the above, equally nerve-wracking! It was the first time I left my baby with a babysitter. This time last year my husband and I were discussing how we could resume our 'regular' life post-baby and reasonably concurred that a babysitter would feature prominently in our lives. Cut to the present day, four months post-baby, and no babysitter has entered the picture. Don't get me wrong. We had family helping out for the first few months who let my husband and I sneak out for the occasional date night. But this was always within a few blocks radius of our neighborhood and leaving your child with grandparents versus leaving your child with a complete stranger are two entirely different things. Like any new parent I felt very protective. Umpteen different scenarios kept clouding my ability to reason. What if the sitter does not respond to my baby crying? What if she does respond and terrifies my baby who was expecting mommy's smiling face? What if what if what if?

This weekend I decided to bite the bullet and just do it. I found a great sitter through a friend, put my baby to sleep and the husband and I met some friends and went out for dinner at an adult restaurant! Which brings me to my review of Soto, a Japanese restaurant in the West Village which recently acquired its second Michelin star. Soto has been around since late 2007, and has been getting rave reviews since. On the higher side of the price spectrum, it's a special place, to be reserved for a special occasion.

Located on sixth avenue, there is no sign outside the restaurant. You walk into a space with wooden panels and a very minimalist feel. The sushi bar is to your left where the chef Sotohiro Kasugi is at work with a few assistants, and according to our server, "is involved in at least 90% of the preparation of all the dishes being served." Luckily for him, only 42 patrons can dine at one time but still thats a lot of work! So was it worth it? I have one word for the meal that I had. DIVINE! It was the best Japanese meal I have had, and in the top five best meals I have ever had. The sushi was good but what really stood out were the small plates composed of raw and slightly cooked seafood. Uni (sea urchin) is the specialty of the house, so one should definitely get a few uni dishes.

Some of our meal's highlights:
1. Sea Trout Carpaccio: Cured Tasmanian sea trout with black truffle sea salt and sweet miso mustard sauce

2. Uni Ika Sugomori Zukuri: Sea urchin wrapped in thinly sliced squid with shiso served with quail egg and tosa soy reduction, arranged with thin strips of seaweed.
The picture below does not do it justice but underneath the quail egg and the seaweed nest lies a marriage of creamy uni and pieces of squid! This is a must-have. It is so unusual and so melt-in-your-mouth delicious that it would be a travesty to come to Soto and not try this.

3.  Steamed lobster with uni mousse: Steamed lobster and uni mousse in a lotus wrap, garnished with smoked uni and caviar.

Everything on the menu was highly inventive and a testament to the creative genius that is Sotohiro Kasugi. It is a quirky and playful take on traditional Japanese cuisine and was a remarkable and unforgettable dining experience!

Also, I am over my babysitter hang-up.