11066 Pecan Park Blvd. #402
Cedar Park, TX 78613
Hey foodies, Rob Balon here at the new Soto in Lakeline Mall in Cedar Park just behind the Texican Café. The beauty of Japanese cuisine is that it requires a lot of close-in work. The hands of a sushi master are like those of a cardiovascular surgeon: extremely skilled and highly valuable.
Chef Andy and his crew slice and dice with the best I’ve seen in a long time. The result is that if you’re craving sushi or sashimi or maki, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at the masters at work. The beautiful pink colors of the exquisite O-toro and maguro (tuna) and the lovely whitish color of hamachi (yellowtail) are turned into mini pieces of culinary bliss by these guys. The slicing of the fish is an art, requiring years of study, to produce the ultimate textures and flavors. But when you’ve studied under the famous Iron Chef Morimoto like Andy did… well this is what I would expect.
A seat at the raw bar is a prized spot indeed. Chef Andy works the room with the deft touch of a communicator and a master of his craft. But unlike some places I’ve been to, there’s no intimidation here. Everyone is approachable, and if you don’t know, ASK!
There are so many great cooked dishes here that it would be hard to have name all my top dishes, but let me give it a shot. On the cooked side, I adore the Grilled Black Cod (or butter fish) with an uber-sweet miso sauce. I don’t like to resort to clichés like “melt in your mouth,” but damn it, that’s what it does! It dissolves in your mouth. The Shumai is another big favorite. Steamed morsels of fish presented in a bamboo steamer. And how about the Fire Salmon? This is as advertised: pristine slices of salmon draped over a brace and literally cooking in front of you. Andy’s flavoring is the star here along with the concept. The Black Pork Gyoza (Japanese style potstickers) is also a dish I’ve ordered repeatedly. Get them fried: the taste is wonderful, and the texture is ever-so-delicate.
Finally, the King Crab Leg Tempura is a good as it looks. You won’t find many Japanese chefs that include a creamy risotto with a dish like this, but that’s why I like Andy. It all works beautifully together.
We’ve covered the sushi and the sashimi but Andy and his crew make maki (sushi rolls) that are little bites of beauty. My favorites are the Soft Shell Crab Maki with liberal use of tomago and unagi. Flavor? Off the charts. And I really like the Crispy Shrimp Maki. This is a simple dish with shrimp tempura and crispy rice cracker dots with unagi sauce. Simple. But very effective.
The Soto Maki is another great piece of work. The stars here are the torched white tuna and the asparagus but the spicy mayo and gingery sauce finishes it off. The Kobe Beef Maki simply cries out to be devoured. With shallots, arugula, menegi, and freshly ground salt complementing the morsels of Kobe, this is creativity at its best.
Of course, all this great food can be complemented with some sake, wine, chilled vodka, Asian beers or specialty drinks the bartender concocts. Try at least a couple of these libations as your delight in your dinner. Again, don’t be afraid to ask about pairings. I got a pairing for you: you and yours (however you want to define that) and Soto. Save some time because it’s worth lingering here. For Dining Out with Rob Balon, I am Rob Balon, wish you as always, bon appétit.