Published on August 23rd, 2012 | by Dipsology0
Neta: Sushi, meet Cocktails
On a sticky afternoon in August, I find myself in front of two cocktails AND a small sample of truffled cognac. Yes, you read that right, truffled cognac. Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
I’m seated across from Aaron Polsky, bar manager at Neta, an omakase-style sushi restaurant tucked in among the funky stores and Gray’s Papaya on West 8th Street. It feels kind of like I’ve walked into “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” – with cocktails.
Ironically, Aaron ended up at Neta after watching that same film. He had a fantastic meal, and approached Chefs Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau (formerly head chefs at Masa and Bar Masa respectively) about developing the restaurant’s bar program.
With the cocktails, Aaron has taken a unique approach, introducing salty and umami flavors in addition to the more traditional sweet, citrus and floral notes found in traditional drinks.
“People say cocktails don’t go with food. And I largely agree that cocktails as we know them do not,” he says. So his goal at Neta is “to make cocktails that go well with food, and have food-like qualities.
From whence the Rishiri – an adaptation of the classic gin martini that replaces vermouth with konbu- and nori-infused sake (pictured at right). Nori is the classic seaweed that wraps sushi, while konbu is the kelp from which Japanese Dashi (soup stock) is made. “We tried sake infused with konbu and nori on their own, but they were both so good we decided to combine them.” The infused sake is stirred over cracked ice with gin, then strained into a coupe. The konbu also adds a viscosity to the sake that makes the drink a bit heavier and fuller in the mouth.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Cherry Blossom Special – made with preserved cherry blossoms infused into simple syrup, combined with white whiskey, bourbon, lemon and jasmine beer. “You get malt flavors from the beer, the bourbon and the whiskey, as well as floral from the cherry blossom and jasmine,” Aaron explains. It’s served in a champagne flute, a refreshing aperitif for summer.
But the thing that really caught my eye when I first saw Neta’s cocktail menu was the truffled cognac (which goes for $45 a pop). Apparently it’s a centuries-old French tradition. “A coworker suggested it,” says Aaron. And so for two months, black truffles infused in a bottle of cognac. It has an incredible aroma and a rich, rich, earthy flavor. Something you want to drink all day, and yet after a few small sips you’re sated. You can just picture Marie Antoinette sipping some out of a champagne glass telling the people to eat cake.
Wondering what’s next for Neta, and how you could possibly follow this act? Fear not, Aaron’s got lots of ideas up his sleeves – including one experiment that involves bonito.
As for me, next time I’ll be coming in for dinner as well as drinks.