Sushi Dojo is a relatively new sushi joint in New York City's East Village, unassuming from the outside. But step inside and you’ll meet 27 year-old sushi-ya David Bouhadana, who holds court behind the counter with the swagger of a seasoned pro but none of the pretense: he knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s doing it as well as anyone else in the city.
Bouhadana hails from Florida, and has worked with some of the world’s top sushi masters in Japan and New York (at 15 East and Hatsuhana), but there’s nobody else quite like him in the sushi world. He’s chatty, funny, humble, extremely knowledgeable about every cut of fish (and not afraid to pull out a giant infographic to illustrate the different grades of fatty tuna, or discuss the differences between various types of uni, above), and, most of all, he takes what he does extremely seriously.
He works with three different suppliers in Japan to ensure deliveries of fresh Japanese fish three times per week (and stateside seafood on the remaining days), and his $75 omakase is a spectacular deal for the personalized service as well as an education in raw fish. While each omakase is different depending on the customer’s preferences and what he decides to serve you, there’s a guarantee that you’ll leave with a newfound love for sushi.
On a recent visit at the invitation of the restaurant, Bouhadana prepared his traditional sushi and sashimi omakase, and we left it entirely in his hands. The meal began with a platter of sashimi, composed entirely of fish that you just don’t see at your average sushi joint: kanpachi (amberjack), Arctic char, striped bass, Boston wild Bluefin tuna, chopped marinated horse mackerel, octopus that was so fresh that it moved when you poked at it, and a large saltwater clam known as pen shell. With only soy sauce and fresh-grated wasabi to go with it, the freshness and beauty of the fish was front and center.
Next came the sushi: Japanese red snapper, striped jack, Goldeneye snapper, ivory white salmon, Tasmanian sea trout from New Zealand, a small mound of shio ebi, or tiny baby white shrimp, Maine scallop with yuzu zest, medium fatty tuna, and finally o toro, the fattiest part of the tuna and one of the priciest cuts of fish available.
Not only did Bouhadana slice each fish flawlessly (occasionally scoring it so the large pieces would drape over the rice better), he wasn’t afraid to add personal touches to them, whether with a blowtorch or a hit of yuzu. He painted each piece with soy sauce (no need to dunk), and presented them individually. As the meal wore on he began to come across as more of an affable bartender showing off his cocktail chops than a stern, proper sushi-ya, and by the time it was over we not only had a newfound respect for sushi and the art form behind it, but for seafood in general. Do yourself a favor and try Bouhadana’s omakase soon; because mark my words: it won’t be long before a seat in front of him at the sushi counter is one of the hottest tickets in town.