4318 N. Western
What works: top-notch nigiri, spicy miso and gyoza
What needs work: Watch what you’re spending. It adds up fast.
Tips: Reservations aren’t always necessary, but it’s nice to have a guaranteed seat.
Sushi is not about raw fish. I mean, it is, sometimes, but it’s also about artistry and skill. The best sushi combines excellent flavor with immaculate presentation and perfect construction.
It should not be a shock to anyone who has dined in Oklahoma City that all this can be found at Sushi Neko.
I’m never sure how to pronounce the name. Neck-o? Knee-ko? Not that it matters, I guess. However you say it, people know what you’re talking about and are generally excited to go.
Inside, Sushi Neko is a feast for the eyes. Small tables, raised platforms, special booths, stools at the bar: It’s a lovely space where it’s hard to find a bad seat. We were seated in a dark little alcove. I preferred to think of it as romantic, rather than accepting that management didn’t want me scaring away the normal-looking people.
The starter menu has several options, but none so inviting as the gyoza ($7). Six delicate pork dumplings are served steamed and seared with a salty dipping sauce. They are best shared, so everybody is making the same stupid “Oh, sweet Thor, these are good” faces.
Another wonderful option is the spicy miso soup ($3). The orangish broth conceals a few secrets that aren’t hard to suss out. One large, perfectly cooked shrimp. A tender, grit-free scallop. And a mussel, still on the shell. If you’re in the mood for a light meal, the spicy miso with a couple pieces of nigiri sushi will do you well.
But I am not a man who is often in such a mood. I wanted more. So, so much more.
The fatty tuna nigiri (market) was a highlight and the mackerel nigiri ($3.89) was cut perfectly, supple and substantial. I was quite taken with the smoked trout nigiri ($4.79), as well, although it is certainly a departure from the rest of the menu with its firm texture and assertive flavor.
A moment, please, to discuss the Philadelphia roll ($6). Neko’s version has smoked salmon, cream cheese and asparagus. This, in my estimation, should replace the California roll as everyone’s “starter sushi.” It’s simple, flavorful and non-intimidating.
My wife and I disagreed on the Triple Delight roll ($6). While we both liked the flavor of the tempura avocado, sweet potato and asparagus, with eel sauce on top, I found the texture a little off-putting.
There were no such disagreements about the Lifesaver roll ($14). With an interior of crab salad and tempura bacon, the real show is up top, where chefs layer cuts of fish and avocado and lemon. If you’re not terrified of rainbows, this should probably be your favorite roll.
I also had the Terry roll ($10) with crab, tempura shrimp and avocado wrapped in soy paper and garnished with Japanese mayo. Mayo on sushi? Yes. While not my favorite, at least Neko has a light hand with it and you can scrape it off if it’s not your bag.
Do you like sushi? Are you willing to pay a premium for atmosphere and attention to detail? Then Sushi Neko should be your next stop.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.