New York is transient by nature with people coming and going at all times. Some people and moments can leave an impact and a lasting impression. Bugs, a Japanese sushi restaurant that can seat 15 people located in the East Village, is one of those lasting impressions. I first met Osaka-born Chef Sho Boo in 2013 when she opened her tiny restaurant that can often be described as a hole in the wall. This is another connotation for a hidden gem and accurately describes this chef and her restaurant.
Coming to Bugs feels like you are coming to Chef Sho Boo’s kitchen where she labors away with an assistant in a makeshift kitchen that comprises of two electric burners, a microwave, a toaster oven, and a rice cooker. Chef Boo, her assistant, and a waitress work together to put on a meal worthy of any noted sushi restaurant in NYC. Unfortunately, Chef Boo did some soul searching after the death of her mother this year and decided to travel the world volunteering and learning new things. It is a wonderful endeavor for her and a sad day for her fans.
As the diners left and her staff were cleaning up for the night, I was able to get a few moments to ask Chef Boo some questions. (Disclaimer: This is not Chef Boo’s exact wording but from my notes and recollection of our conversation.)
Q: What made you want to open this restaurant?
Chef Boo: I had a restaurant in Japan and it was my dream to open a sushi restaurant in the US. After working at Sushi Yasuda and Jewel Bako, I wanted to open my own place.
Q: What is your favorite memory at this restaurant?
Chef Boo: It is the naming of my restaurant Bugs. It was my dream to have a restaurant in New York named after my Osaka’s bar.
Q: What was the catalyst for your yearlong volunteering adventure?
Chef Boo: I am 51 years old this year and as I get older, it will be harder to make a change. I want to do it now when I still can travel and learn new things.
Q: Where will your adventure take you?
Chef Boo: I will spend two weeks to a month in Mexico City, Costa Rica, Thailand, Tanzania, maybe Kenya, and other places. I will be backpacking the whole time. There will be no carry-on luggage.
Q: What is your one dish that you like to make for people?
Chef Boo: It is any dish that can make people happy.
As she turns to finish cleaning up for the night, this answer resonates with me and summarizes Chef Boo’s passion for cooking. As we left for the night, I remember the reason why she named her restaurant Bugs.
Bugs will be closing forever after Saturday, August 29. For those that can get a reservation, I highly recommend that you do it now and get a chance to meet this lovely chef before she leaves NYC.
Some of my favorite dishes over the years are listed below. The pictures were taken with my iPhone in a dark setting. I did not want to disturb the other diners with my camera flash. This should give you an idea of what to order and what I will sorely miss.
Risotto with sea urchin, scallops, and charred shrimp
The best non-Italian rendition of a risotto that I have tasted.
Octopus Ball in a Soup
Delicious octopus folded into a creamy mashed potato fried and placed in a salty and sweet broth.
Omakase for $70 a person
Radish in a dashi broth
Miso and mushroom soup
Another sampler of appetizers
Bacon wrapped asparagus
Sushi tasting portion (some of it)
An alternative to the omakase is to get the 10 piece Sushi Tasting for $55 a person. I usually get this as I had the omakase on a few occasions. I believe her best dish is her sushi tasting. She combines the traditional nigiri with different homemade sauces and salts that are meticulously put together. The sushi and the chef will be sorely missed.
Bugs504 E 12th St
New York, NY 10009
b/t Avenue A & Avenue B
East Village, Alphabet City
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Author: Chau Hoang
Featured Picture: NY Times