Love Authentic Sushi, But Hate The Price Tag?
BY: BILLY LYONS | ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF SUSHI BY BOU
David Bouhadana is not afraid to stick a raw piece of fish in our face. An advocate of an authentic—and affordable—omakase experience, David’s four seat counter Sushi by Bou and the adjacent Sushi by Bae helmed by Chef Oona Tempest have transformed an eight seat counter housed in a former comedy club into one of New York’s most popular dining destinations. We sat down with David to see how he and Oona are inspiring diners to devour one sliver of seafood at a time.
If you were to describe your concept in its most basic form, what would it be?
The best 12 pieces out of an omakase. So let’s say you get a 20 piece omakase, these are the best 12 pieces, the most desirable pieces for me statistically. I’m giving people what they want, but a top tier level. I’m not doing rolls, I’m not doing substitutions for this and that. My menu is still pretty serious. New Yorkers want their toro, and New Yorkers want their uni and they want their Wagyu beef. And for $50, I offer perfect omakase.
Can you explain why the connection between chef and guest is such an integral part of what you do?
I’ve opened many restaurants before and I hate having tables. The counter is the king. It’s always first class. I think the intimacy is our strong, secret selling point. It feels like you have your own chef.
What do you think of being the face of the casual omakase movement?
I’m very proud to be the face of affordable sushi, if you will, or sushi for the people. It feels good, and I feel like I’m challenging other chefs and restaurants.
What drives you as an entrepreneur? What keeps you pursuing your goal?
I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur, because an entrepreneur is usually financially successful. I consider myself more of just a chef and artist. I have very strong pride when it comes to serving my customers. As an American, Japanese trained sushi chef, it’s my job to release the secrets, to shine light on the mystery of sushi and what I’ve seen behind the scenes in Japan at all the top end restaurants.
Do you think you’ve pulled back the veil on the mysticism of omakase?
I have to give a big kudos to Jiro first of all and then Nakazawa. Nakazawa has set a tone of high end, fine dining, four stars New York Times. So I think for me, that was a huge push in New York City omakase, and opened the floodgates to so many small sushi bars now. I think the old generation of sushi chefs in New York City and Japan, that’s not really how they’re taught. But this is New York edomae. We are friendly. We encourage questions. There’s been a huge light shined on the mystique of sushi and it’s no longer what people thought it was.
Do you see Sushi by Bou working in other cities?
I think maybe Miami, LA, and Chicago. Those are now food booming cities and sushi is definitely becoming a huge hit. It would be hard in other states. It has to be in a high traffic area for other people to get the idea.
I know you’ve only been opened here about a month, but are people respecting the time constraint?
There’s no time constraint. I think people who are drawn to the time thing are curious to see how it works, so that’s one way of getting customers in. The clock faces me, not the customer. I think what I’m doing is I’m transporting Japanese or Tokyo style efficient sushi and bringing it to New York City. I don’t think there are many efficient businesses in New York City, so I think when people find it, they’re obsessed with it. I have customers who come in three days a week just because they’re like “it works perfect.” And that’s also the philosophy of the business, is that we have to give you these bomb ass pieces in that timely manner so I can rotate. That’s the only way I’m able to do this.