My visit to Handies by Bouthis past summer was the fifth stop on my Chef David Bouhadana tour. Sushi Dojo, where he rose to fame in NYC sushi circles, was the first, followed by Sushi on Jones and Sushi by Bou in Gansevoort Market and at the Sanctuary Hotel. Time certainly flies, and though Handies plays on the similar “quick hit” theme as the other sushiya in the Bou empire, it’s Bouhadana’s first spot to focus solely on Temaki (hand rolls).
If you’ve met “Chef David” (as he’s affectionally known), you’ve likely noticed his affable personality. But when it comes to his craft (and growing his empire), Bouhadana is almost as serious as the guy I saw on the rowing machine yesterday decked out in the Rowing Team gear from his College. I had my headphones in, but I’m 1000% sure he was yelling out rowing calls as well.
On second thought, never mind – no one in the universe takes anything as seriously as that psycho. PS: There are about 973 innuendos possible in this blog and I will be using none of them. You’re welcome.
The Handies By Bou concept is relatively straightforward: take the little pencil you’re given (branded, naturally), and mark your temaki ordering sheet to your stomach’s desire. The operation is similar to KazuNori about 30 blocks south; the only difference is that Handies by Bou is good.
If you’ve had Temaki before, odds are that you’ve tried the “cone-style” (made that term up), which may be filling but doesn’t exactly have nuance. Bouhadana’s style is closer to what you’d traditionally see served within an omakase. If for some reason you can’t see the pictures on my blog, think of long, thin, seaweed tubes.
There were seven Temaki on offer when I visited, and while you can order each a la carte, the better option is to taste the rainbow by choosing three, five or seven Handies at once (don’t make jokes, don’t make jokes, don’t make jokes). I went with seven, which was more than enough, especially when served one at a time.
The menu lists the Handies with just one word, Madonna/Ronaldo style, but there’s more than just the main ingredient to each Temaki. Take the salmon for instance, splashed with a dash of yuzu for flavour. Or Hamachi (Yellowtail), paired with scallions, a classic match. But other options, like the creamy Uni and the briny Hotate (Scallop), rely strictly on the harmony with the rice.
And unlike Kazu Nori, the rice shines, not too soft or hot. I personally find that off-temperature rice is more noticeable in temaki because the Nori(seaweed)acts almost like an insulator. Call me crazy, but try hot rice in temaki one time and tell me with a straight face that there isn’t a different taste at the bottom. For someone who is so effervescent, Bouhadana’s rice, regardless of location, has always demonstrated a seriousness and respect that reflects a not-insignificant amount of work and education.
Like most of the restaurants in the Bou empire, the food is only part of the experience. The other aspect – some say the best aspect – is the…fancy word coming…milieu of the entire affair. At Handies, the sushi counter is literally in the lobby of the Sanctuary Hotel, adjacent to a bouncer guarding the elevator entrance to a rooftop bar that I’m told is way too cool for me. I don’t have facts to back this up (which is why I’m not a journalist, stop asking), but I’d venture to guess the walk-in traffic makes up a large portion of their customers.
One of the risks of expanding so quickly is a support staff that might be green, so be warned. I’m sure though, like it did at Sushi by Bou, that the service’s knowledge has improved over the past few months, unless Bouhadana has found the only human beings on planet earth that can’t learn.