Slideshow: Neta: Masa Alums Set New Bar For Casual Japanese Dining

Kinuta Maki Ponzu ($14)
Kinuta Maki Ponzu ($14)
Even Neta is not immune from the Curse of the Overwrought Maki. With the Kinuta Maki Ponzu ($14), one of the specialty rolls from the sushi counter, I loved the way the sweet-tart flavor of the pickled daikon works with the musty shiso inside and the crisp tempura bits, but the shrimp and fluke inside got lost in the mix—they may as well have been warm rice, which would have offered a temperature and textural contrast.
King Mushroom with Spicy Potato ($9)
King Mushroom with Spicy Potato ($9)
Meaty chunks of tender king oyster mushroom get a hit of spice from paper-thin shavings of serrano peppers and a shower of crisp fried potato sticks. This isn't the only place on the menu where those fried sweet potatoes make a welcome appearance.
Duck & Foie ($19)
Duck & Foie ($19)
Tender duck meat comes housed in a canoe of thinly shaved cucumber with a drizzle of hoisin sauce and shards of crisp skin that shatter and melt as you bite into them. It's like the lightest Peking duck you'll ever taste, despite the unnecessary sliver of melting foie gras poised on top of it.
Spicy Salmon Tepanyaki ($13)
Spicy Salmon Tepanyaki ($13)
The spicy salmon ubiquitous to modern sushi restaurants makes a somewhat tongue-in-cheek appearance here, served as a semi-warm tartare on top of a block of sizzling, crusty rice on a hot cast iron plate. The rice gets a crust as good as the best paella's soccarat and a shower of shaved smoked bonito flakes dancing above it as the aromatic vapors rise up to your nose.
Japanes Mugwort Tempura
Japanes Mugwort Tempura
Ask the tempura chef what the leafy green he's frying is and he'll tell you, with a glint in his eye, it's "yomogi. Traditional Japanese herb from Central Park." Foraging in Central Park is nothing new for New York chefs, but I still get a kick out of seeing good ingredients pulled from our nearest wild habitat.
Miso Tofu Avocao Roll ($9) and Grilled Maitake Roll ($9)
Miso Tofu Avocao Roll ($9) and Grilled Maitake Roll ($9)
Neta makes the unique decision to separate its vegetable-based rolls into a completely different section of the menu, which I enjoyed even more than the fish-based sashimi. Flavors are more intense than raw fish in rolls like the musky, earthy, and intense Grilled Maitake ($9) or the Sweet Potato and Shiso Tempura ($7), which balances the sweet creaminess of the potato with the crunchy musk of shiso. I preferred both to the Miso Tofu Avocado Roll ($9)—all soft ingredients—which has since been wisely removed from the menu.