I wrote this review about Soto long ago, just after they closed:
This is the sushi timeline of the Baber family:
Growing up in Atlanta, my loving parents taught me to enjoy sushi at an early age at the (at the time) far away Hasaguchi restaurant. We then moved to Hasaguchi Junior, when it arrived at Lenox, and we stayed there for a while.
After Hasaguchi we spent a decent amount of time patronizing RuSans, but found it lacking. (I was quite the fan of the flaming, crispy, sickly sweet tempura ice cream, however.)
After a damned decent Harada moved in basically across the street from our house on Peachtree, that became our quick sushi fix, which we obviously needed at least 3 times a month. If not more. By the time I left for college, they had ordered each of us our own personalized set of lacquered chopsticks [I]from Japan[/I] and we used them every time we went.
A co-worker of my father happened to mention to him Soto, a sushi restaurant in Buckhead that he said was his favorite, and recommended we try it.
Now, Soto was an intimidating place. It was not tremendously more expensive, probably the difference between going to, say…well I can’t think of a good example, but it was maybe $15 more per person. (Let me say that when my family eats sushi, we eat a LOT of sushi, so $15 more per person wasn’t that much.) We have gone to Soto so many times now, that we actually have our own waiter, Ferdy. He knows all of our tastes, recommends specials with an unnerving knack, and even gives us all the latest gossip. (The hostess can even recognize my father and my voice when we call)
Anyway, here’s the deal at Soto: not only is it by far the best sushi I have ever had, it is also the best Japanese food I have ever had. Soto has a full menu of appetizers and entrees that are just as good, if not better than the sushi that they serve.
Let me start by talking about the sushi. Since just about anyone with money can buy the highest quality fish available, that was not what made it great. What made it great was the fact that he imported the most perfect sushi rice from Japan, and cooked in absolutely perfectly every time. In addition to being cooking perfectly (so that it broke apart just as you put it in your mouth, while each grain retained its perfectly cooked doneness), it was also served at the perfect temperature.
Sushi rice should be neither cold nor hot at all. It should be perfectly room temperature, or, more accurately, “hand temperature.” Soto and his two sous chefs were masters of this. One interesting thing to note about Soto is that if Sotohirosan is not there, the restaurant is not open. Soto does all the special sushi plates, one of his chefs does all the nigiri, and the other does all the rolls. Once, my dad showed up to for dinner and there was a small sign on the door:
“SOTO HAS GONE FISHING.
WILL RETURN IN ONE WEEK.
This dedication absolutely shows through in his food.
Now on to the rest of the menu. Sotohiro Kosugi has created one of the most perfect dishes that I have memory of: ceviche of salmon. Now I know, you’re saying to yourself, “but Andrew, ceviche is South American, not Japanese!” Cool your pants, hotshot. When I said that it was the best Japanese food I’ve ever had, I didn’t say that it didn’t take influence from anywhere else. What is basically is, is Salmon Sashimi with a very light lime marinade. When my family goes, we without fail always order two of them, and greedily hoard our portion, including the small shaved cucumber that nearly always disappears while my parents eyes are closed in ecstasy.
Now that I have you thinking that you must absolutely try this new restaurant, I have a confession to make. This entire review is one great big tease. Soto has been closed for about 8 months now, due to the temporary loss of, shall we say, “edge” by Sotohiro. Evidently one night (and this is second hand information, so we’re going to call it a rumor…I really don’t want an angry Sotohiros on a plane to Boston, knife in hand, looking to turn me into a tasty ceviche.)…I was saying…Evidently one night, he informed his staff that they would be “Closing in two weeks.”
About a week later, evidently (<- see? very vague!), during a busy night, a waiter returned a plate to Soto that had gone to the wrong table. I have been told that Soto grabbed the plate and viciously reprimanded the waiter in front of everyone, "I TOLD YOU table 3. [b]I TOLD YOU[/b] table 3!!" I even heard rumors of plate smashing, and kitchen crashing, egads!
A new day! Soto reopens!
Well, let me say first that I have been absolutely spoiled by Ken Oringer’s restaurant in Boston, Uni. I believe it is one of the best sashimi bars in the country, and I recommend it to everyone I meet.
So, I was sitting in my dorm room one night when I decided to make my weekly call to Soto to check on their re-opening progress. (Yes, I did call about once a week).
But this time, instead of the usual recording, someone picked up!! For the first time in 8 months!!! I nearly fell out of my chair, and by the time I had confirmed that they were opening the next night, I ended up running up and down the hall shouting gleefully. (When questioned about my happiness, I responded “My favorite sushi place in Atlanta reopened!!” and was met with dubious looks.)
Anyway, I was able to return to Soto at the beginning of summer break. The room had been re-arranged a bit (a few less tables), and the menu had been slightly cut back.
Nonetheless, it is still utterly amazing. The rice is still perfect, the composed plates are still outstanding.
To anyone who doesn’t mind spending slight more on their sushi, please, take yourself to Soto.
(as a side note, Ferdy is not working there any more, but we’re working on acquiring a new acquaintance)