We had an excellent omakase sushi experience at Sushi Dojo located in the East Village in New York City, where Head Sushi Chef David Bouhadana and his talented sushi team create authentic Japanese sushi elevated to an art form.
The restaurant had a soft opening in June 2013, and Edward and I experienced the restaurant in late October 2013. Despite being a relative newcomer on the block, the restaurant had a steady flow of regulars, as well as first timers, on the night that we dined there.
Sushi Dojo NYC
The attractive restaurant is intimate, small tables and black leather high back chairs line the wood walls, and there is a 14-person counter bar where diners have the opportunity to interact and converse with the sushi chefs. Hip music creates the background vibe, and the artwork is watching the chefs in action creating edible art.
Sushi Dojo Restaurant
The restaurant's philosophy stated on the website is, "Dojo means a place to study and train; therefore our philosophy is to educate our clientele about Japanese cuisine and culture. Sushi connoisseurs will also be able to enjoy by engaging themselves into conversation with the sushi chef and share their knowledge with each other."
Comfortably seated at the counter bar flanked by black leather high back chairs, our omakase training began with conversation with Head Sushi Chef David Bouhadana and the sushi chef team, Hiromi Suzuki, Takeshi Sato, and Makato Yoshizawa, and continued with us watching the team in awe of their preparation and presentation. It felt as if we were partaking in a combination sushi master class and an art class. The Japanese term omakase is to put your selection in the hands of the chef, a true chef's tasting menu, which we were more than willing to do.
Sushi Dojo Team
Sushi Dojo has an extensive sake list, and our server Max inquired what type of wine we preferred so that might recommend a comparable sake, and then suggested that we sample two different categories of sake to determine which best suited our palates. The first sake that we tasted was Kudoki Jozu, 16-17% alcohol, which was fruity with aromas of ripe melons and green apple, from the Ginjo category, "made of rice polished down to at least 60% with the addition of pure distilled alcohol."
The second sake that we tasted was Born Gold, 15% alcohol, which was very smooth and elegant with deep flavors, from the Junmai Daiginjo category, "brewed with very highly polished rice (to at least 50%) and even more precise and labor intensive methods, the pinnacle of the brewer's art, generally light, complex, and quite fragrant." After sampling both of the sakes, we selected Born Gold to pair with our "surprises" from the sushi chefs.
Although Sushi Dojo creates authentic Japanese sushi, there are a few surprises, Head Sushi Chef David Bouhadana is of French-Moroccan descent and lived in Japan and studied the art of sushi there as well as in the United States with master sushi chefs, and Sushi Chef Hiromi Suzuki is a woman, whose father is also a sushi chef.
Head Sushi Chef David Bouhadana
Pampering began with the presentation of hot cloth towels on bamboo trays, followed by our first taste of the evening. Sushi Chef Hiromi Suzuki began our "Dojo training" with Uni, a sea urchin from the state of Maine, exquisitely presented with the purple urchin shell acting as a small bowl set within a larger footed bowl. The chef had removed the uni, cleaned the shell, created a nest of spaghetti-thin white daikon to hold the bright orange roe, and garnished the bowl with a perilla leaf. As scuba divers we have seen thousands of sea urchins while diving over the years, however, this was our first experience eating sea urchins, and we found the texture to be custard-like, with delicate flavor.
Our next learning experience was from Sushi Chef Makato Yoshizawa, who presented us with five overlapping thinly sliced pieces of Amberjack brushed with a special sauce, with small dots of wasabi, presented on a thin slice of banana leaf, with a tiny carrot curl garnish. This "taste" was visually attractive and resoundingly delicious.
From Head Sushi Chef David Bouhadana there was Aji (horse mackerel) from Japan, from the Hikarimono/Silver Fish Family, which he had crafted into an edible sculpture, and said that this was "the freshest way to taste the fish." The presentation was incredible; he had filleted the fish from just behind the head to just above the tail, curved the fish carcass, secured it with a skewer, added a nest of spaghetti thin daikon and a perilla leaf for accent color, cut the fillet into small pieces, and then positioned the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle on the daikon. This was definitely an amazing experience watching him create haute food art, and then having the pleasure of eating it accompanied with a ponzu dipping sauce.
Head Sushi Chef David with Aji (Horse Mackerel)
Aji - Food Art
We continued with Shimaaji (striped jack) sushi from the yellowtail family, which sushi chef Takeshi Sato painted with soy and then placed on a large banana leaf in front of us along with a generous mound of housemade pickled ginger. The hint of wasabi on the rice combined with the delicate flavor of the fish was delightful.
Aji - Fish Chips
Our next surprise was from the kitchen, "fish chips," which were the deep fried bones of the filleted horse mackerel that we had just consumed. The chips had an interesting crispy texture and while Edward loved eating them, I found them to be visually a bit extreme, but at least I did try them.
Edward - Enjoying Fish Chips
Golden Eye Snapper sushi was next in line for our tasting, with the skin gently seared with a kitchen torch, given a light squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a light sprinkling of sea salt. Next there was pipe mackerel sushi, its silver skin shining like edible aluminum foil. Tasting each fish side-by-side provided us with the opportunity to experience and to compare the unique flavors, textures, and the colors of the fish.
From the Maguro Family/Blue Fin Tuna, we had Akami, (lean tuna), which had a bright red color, and set against the green banana leaf and ivory pickled ginger, it was an attractive interplay of colors and taste profiles. We continued with Botan Ebi sushi (spotted prawn) from Canada, which had a very sweet flavor that complemented the sushi rice.
Our omakase journey next took us to New Zealand, with Tasmanian trout sushi that was orange in color, and presented over warm rice, which had a smoky flavor, and was excellent. Next, there was O-Toro, (fatty tuna) from the Maguro Family/Blue Fin Tuna. This fish was pink in color and a soft texture that melted in our mouths.
From the kitchen, we had Ebi Karaage, which was a small deep fried soft shell shrimp consumed whole, as you would with soft shell crab. Our next sushi taste was Hotate (scallop), with the scallop sliced thin, seared with a kitchen torch, draped over the sushi rice which had a small dot of wasabi, and with a squeeze of fresh lemon and freshly grated yuzu, it was delicious. O-Toro (fatty tuna) appeared again, this time presented with a light sprinkling of sea salt, and Japanese citrus.
For our last taste of our "omakase training," Edward had Anago (sea eel), which was brushed with soy, and I had tiny white shrimp from Japan, which were also brushed with soy, and mounded over sushi rice. We ended our dining experience with a cup of green tea, the perfect culmination of an evening of sushi enlightenment.
Chef Hiromi Suzuki with Tiny White Shrimp
Sushi Dojo is open for Dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 6:00 pm until 1:00 am. The restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday.
110 First Avenue between East Sixth and East Seventh Street
New York, New York 10009
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