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First Look: Niko

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© Laura Maniec
Crispy Tokyo Chicken at Niko.

As a rule, I disapprove of restaurant reviews that come before a place has fully opened its doors. So let’s not call this a review of Niko, the Japanese spot in the former, iconic Honmura An space in New York City’s Soho; after all, it isn’t even open yet. Instead, let’s call out what was great about Niko on the very first night of its soft opening.

Crispy Maine sweet shrimp with Sriracha salt. The shrimp were supercrispy, and that little pile of salt (made with dehydrated Sriracha chile sauce) alongside was genius.

Miso-charred octopus. Every octopus should be properly charred with miso glaze.

Crispy Tokyo chicken. Co-owner Cobi Levy says he’s been eating fried chicken for 21 days straight in search of the ideal crust (thanks, Cobi). He serves his with an elegant ginger dipping sauce (as well as a honey-mustard sauce that I pretended wasn't there).

Local hero Josh DeChellis is back preparing Japanese food (the Sriracha salt is his). A sushi chef fresh from Sushi Yasuda behind the sushi bar. Master sommelier Laura Maniec with a bottle of rose Champagne in her hand. Torrisi’s Mario Carbone at a banquette in the back. Nate Appleman, an F&W Best New Chef 2009 and Chipotle’s new burrito maker, at the sushi bar.

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