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WESTCHESTER DINING | MOUNT KISCO
East and West in a Complex Fusion
By M. H. REED
Published: August 21, 2009

DINERS who have missed Sianto Njotoatmodjo’s cooking at ACE in Thornwood will be happy to know that he’s now in Mount Kisco presiding over a new venture, NEO World Bistro and Sushi Bar. After selling ACE about a year ago, he renovated a rambling basement next to a Gap store on South Moger Avenue into a serene restaurant. “I needed more space,” he said.
NEO is not a cookie-cutter Asian-fusion restaurant. Its vision stretches far beyond Asia. As a result, a few traditional and popular foods from cuisines around the world have found their way into dishes here. It’s the combination of tastes from East and West that makes NEO new indeed.

The amalgamations were outstanding. The sushi tortilla, a starter, was cut into four pieces like a small pizza and loaded with chopped tuna, salmon and yellowtail, cilantro, guacamole and bright tobiko. Other standouts from the sushi bar starter menu were avocado sashimi tartare and spicy sushi poppers. The first was a stunning, complex presentation that involved two adjoining swirls of avocado strips, one embracing sliced sashimi (of your choice), the other finely chopped tartare. The spicy poppers, based on crisped rice, came layered high with avocado, sashimi tartare and sweet blue crab. And in a special offered on one of our visits, tiers of smooth lobster salad, blue crab and glistening tobiko crowned a wafer of pristine scallop.

Other starters — edamame, spring rolls and warm, almost molten nasu (eggplant) — looked more familiar but proved good enough. The seafood soup was rich with coconut milk and chili oil, although the overcooked seafood seemed to have given its all to the gorgeous broth. The only real disappointment was an appetizer of Vietnamese summer rolls, which were sodden.
In a restaurant that is only six weeks old, a few mistakes are inevitable — the salmon was cooked a few moments too long and approached mealiness. But the vitality and international slant of the other entrees at our table more than made up for the missteps. The chili aioli added zing to seafood bouillabaisse. Under a dusting of Parmesan, risotto heaped with seafood was a tip of the hat to Italy. Udon-thick New Orleans Cajun-style stew (étouffée) and its cousin, udon coconut shrimp soup, made satisfying one-bowl meals.
Piled on top of rice and served in a lovely stone bowl, bibimbap was rich with egg, julienne vegetables and nori. (This Korean dish is usually mixed with a spicy sauce to taste and eaten with a spoon.) Just as successful was tender duck breast, its sweetness enhanced by the acidity of roasted pineapple; mushrooms and mashed potatoes finished the plate.
For lunch, crepes enfolded chicken or spicy beef; at dinner they became a dessert, enclosing a banana swiped with Nutella. The few other desserts, including a delicately flavored evanescent green tea crème brûlée and a fluffy, intensely chocolate soufflé, were also worth sampling.

Plans are afoot to include more international ideas in NEO’s menu, which already has a labyrinth of categories. Listed within them are dishes for vegetarians and for diners who prefer cooked fish or riceless rolls. The mix-and-match offerings will satisfy both the abstemious snacker and the diner hungry for a full meal.
Not least of this restaurant’s pleasures comes by way of the busy sushi counter and a sushi chef who cuts fish expertly. Not a sinew or filament in the sashimi we tried interfered with the texture of the buttery cuts. Here it’s all about quality, ingenuity and artistry.
From the wide assortment of raw fish for sashimi, NEO offers an equally expansive selection of sushi. Of the sushi maki, some rolls came with a choice of avocado, cucumber, jalapeno or “crunchy.” “Crunchy” seems to be the newest element to hit sushi bars, and although the addition of a crisp of tempura tucked within a roll is untraditional, guests at my table found the variation agreeable. Named with “positive words,” special rolls not only were delectable but also had a spiritual quality. Reminders to practice “kindness,” “humility,” “truth” and “patience” while gulping down one of these harmonious combinations may not be necessary, but “mercy” and “self control” never hurt.

EXCELLENT

THE SPACE Sophisticated, contemporary décor with long banquettes in a sprawling, dimly lighted, serene space in cool green and light and dark chocolate; sushi bar adjacent to dining area. Convenient entrance from the rear parking lot has a ramp; a short flight of stairs is at the South Moger entrance.

THE CROWD Informal. Service is helpful and cordial.
THE BAR No liquor license at present; bring your own.
THE BILL Special lunch combinations, $10 to $13. Dinner: entrees, $17 to $25; sashimi (one piece), $1.75 to $4.50; sushi maki rolls (six pieces), $4 to $10; special rolls (8 to 10 pieces), $8 to $15. Children’s menu, $9. All major credit cards accepted.

WHAT WE LIKED All the rolls we sampled, including “kindness” and sweet potato tempura; special scallop appetizer; nasu (eggplant); spicy sushi poppers; sushi tortilla; avocado sashimi tartare; all sashimi; spicy seafood soup; udon; duck breast; bibimbap; green tea crème brûlée; chocolate soufflé; banana Nutella crepe.

IF YOU GO Lunch: Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner: Tuesday through Thursday, 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Closed on Mondays until Sept. 7. Reservations accepted. Large parking lot behind the restaurant




20 New Fabulous Restaurants in Westchester


Where to see, be seen, and get your eat on in 2010
BY: JULIA SEXTON PUBLISHED JANUARY 21, 2010 AT 10:06 AM

Evoking the futurist hero of The Matrix and the bounty of the new world, this serene, subterranean space spins Asian fusion with a twist. Instead of endless loops around the Orient, Chef Sianto Njotoatmodjo’s (formerly of Thornwood’s ACE) sails west—hitting Europe and even Mexico for an inclusive culinary embrace.

NEO World Bistro’s bibimbap is a fiery Korean treasure.
Look for sushi tortillas to start, piled with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, cilantro, and guacamole, or dip into soothing aioli-slicked bouillabaisse or Parmigiano-dusted seafood risotto. Inventive, super-fresh sushi is always a winner, though these days we’re craving heat. We wrap ourselves around radiantly-hot stone bowls of Korean bibimbap, spiked with pleasant, sinus-clearing fire.

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The Best of Westchester 2010
July 2010

Editor's Pick Winner : Bibimbap

This Korean classic is bedrock comfort food—literally. Served in a super-heated stone bowl, this happy profusion of rice, veggies, egg, and nori is a delicious, U-Mix-It affair—add your own chili paste, and sear to your heart’s desire. Those in the know resist the temptation to dig right in, waiting (’til they can no longer stand their hunger) for the rice to form a delicious, crisp crust.

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