We never realized how "on the cutting edge" we were (or possibly over the hill) until this week, when we were about to do a review for Bar Tonno. We went there Saturday night before we knew this was the cool week to review it, we swear! But, given the fact that we have a day job to hold down, we had to wait until now to review it. And despite the fact that, this week alone, the Village Voice, NY Magazine, and even NY Times hit it (highlighting the squid ink shot, pictured at right), we're still going to share our visit with you.
We visited Bar Tonno the night after our foray to the Burger Joint, which made for a fantastic contrast; Bar Tonno was serene and calm, nestled in the former home of the SoHo Bar Veloce -- a very narrow bar, with seats lined up along the length of it. The interior seemed to have been renovated slightly, since Bar Veloce days, with the addition of a fishtank at the entrance and some clean, white tiles lining the back wall.
We had the pleasure of being seated in the last four seats at the back, where we could watch the chef (Kyohei Fukushi, formerly of Morimoto) and his sous chef Paul (who had quite the adorable Australian accent and happily fielded our barrage of questions) put together our crudo, Italy's take on sushi. We started off with familiar territory -- oysters -- but we particularly enjoyed the sweetness and color that the pomegranate gelee added to the stellar bay oyster.
After our oysters, we moved on to the raw fish. The selection ranged from tuna, to kampachi (yellowtail), to orrata rossa, to needlefish. Starting simply, we hit the tuna, topped with cucumber, tomato, Hawaiian sea salt, and an orange puree whose flavor was unrecognizable to us. Peering at the menu to place the missing flavor, we saw that it was billed as ricci de mare emulsion. What's "Ricci de mare?" we asked Paul. "Sea Urchin." Aha.
Examining the menu more closely as our next dish arrived we found another Italian phrase we didn't recognize. Our kampachi was drizzled with olio de zenzero (ginger oil, apparently) and shallots. But the somewhat pretentious use of Italian phrases did not detract from our enjoyment of the meal, and each dish we received was more beautiful than the next, with slices of fresh raw fish glistening on simple plates with artfully arranged ingredients.
The lobster "susci" was one of our favorites, the sweetness of the lobster intensified by concentrated tomatoes, and the orata rossa combined chanterelles, leeks, and seaweed for an earthy, but delicate flavor. One of our companions had the squid ink shot mentioned in the Times -- a scoop of potato purée with mussels and squid in a small pyrex beaker, topped with a froth of squid ink. That'll be first on our list for our next visit, and we're definitely going back, the sooner, the better.
As others mentioned, Bar Tonno is not the place to go if you're ravenous and looking to leave stuffed. We were looking for a light meal, and that's what we got, but what Bar Tonno lacks in quantity, they more than make up for in quality, with impeccable fish, so fresh that it nearly swims into your mouth, interesting ingredients combined artfully and presented with utmost care. Executive Chef Scott Conant and his team have produced another winner as far as we're concerned. We finished off with a complimentary dark chocolate truffle, and a flute of apple cider and ginger topped with a splash of champagne, a simple and delicate end to our fish-filled evening.
NY Press on Bar Tonno.
Bar Tonno, 17 Cleveland Place, Soho, 212-966-7334