In the summer of 2017, U2 will commence a global tour to mark the 30 year anniversary of their transcendent 1987 album, “The Joshua Tree”. For many, it will be an opportunity to hear the band of their youth play their best album, cover to cover, one more time. For others, an opportunity to experience that sweet, sweet nostalgia. Oh, and for those of you under 30, U2 is an Irish rock band that plays music your parents probably sing in the shower. My point in referencing that tour slash cash grab, is that there will always be a market for “the hits”. And at Chef David Bouhadana’s latest venture, Sushi by Bou (which theoretically you are here to read a review of), he certainly covers all the familiar beats.
Bouhadana – or as the locals call him, “Chef David” – is still relatively young by itamae (czar behind the bar) standards, but he’s been through a lifetime of headlines. He first rose to relative fame at Sushi Dojo, where he eventually ran afoul of New York City’s department of health because of his (correct) refusal to wear gross plastic gloves while doing something that people have been doing without them for centuries. He eventually left Sushi Dojo and created Sushi on Jones, a 4 seat omakase that makes a typically expensive activity accessible to more people. After a year, Chef David moved on from there as well, which brings us to the present day, and Sushi by Bou.
Located in the Gansevoort Market – think of a food hall of different pop up restaurants – Sushi by Bou is Bouhadana’s elevation of the Sushi on Jones concept that became so successful. For $50, 4 diners at a time can sit across from Bouhadana and enjoy a 12 piece omakase in 30 minutes. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is – right down to the prominent menu that hangs behind.
For many sushi chefs that strike out on their own, the unfortunate reality is that quick success isn’t as easy as they might have anticipated. Even with a built in customer base, chefs frequently struggle with the realities of running their own restaurant, on top of the demands that come with having to source high quality fish. But there are also those rare chefs who have experience with sourcing and ordering high-quality fish from around the world. Bouhadana is one of the latter, and it shows; there has been no dip in quality from Sushi on Jones to Sushi by Bou.
The menu – hanging behind the bar for all to see – is straight forward. 12 pieces of nigiri for $50, plus what is basically Frankenstein’s temaki (for $12): wagyu beef and uni (called the “Wagyuni H.R” for obvious reasons). For all of the back and forth banter between chef and customer, it’s easy to forget that Chef David can still form his nigiri with the best of them. Hamachi (pictured above) – almost translucent with the bright red streak of the bloodline showing its freshness – toes the “tastes fishy” line perfectly. Akami – the lean, dark red cut of tuna, so hard to perfect – is layered well with a spot of ginger.
Impressively, Bouhadana works well within the confines of his ingredients. Take Albacore Tuna – known in some circles as shiro-maguro and in other circles as the stuff from the can. I’ve documented previously my weariness of blowtorches, but in this case, it vastly improves the quality of the shiro maguro. Other highlights of the 12 piece omakase include staples like snapper, uni, chu toro (called “toro” on the menu) and botan ebi. There’s also less traditional pieces, like the “Three Amigos” with uni, ikura and and a quail egg. You’ll have to work for that one (pictured below), since the quail egg is as slippery as it gets. And wagyu – not quite fish, but still delicious when seasoned and torched properly – is one of two cooked neta (along with unagi) that conclude the proceedings.
The sushi is just what you’d expect from Bouhadana, and some times – most times – that’s enough.
Despite being only open since 2014, Gansevoort Market has quickly established itself as a successful throwback to food halls of yesteryear (*pats self on back for great word*). Sushi by Bou though, is quite the departure for something that mainly features grab and go specialties like tacos and gelato. As a result, the space itself lacks some of the character of the outdoor Sushi on Jones, the clean Sakanaya or the modern Restaurant Ato, all places that I’ve reviewed recently. But for what Gansevoort Market lacks in character, the Sushi by Bou space in the back right makes up for with eclectic beauty. The neon sign shines like a beacon behind the bar, hung right in front of walls with a colour scheme lifted from the 1980’s in Miami. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Chef David himself, as friendly and personable as ever. I told someone recently that Sushi by Bou is an outstanding “entry level omakase”, and the perfect way to introduce someone to more traditional sushi than the California roll. I couldn’t agree with myself more.