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Review: The “Beginner’s Omakase” – Sushi by Bou at Sanctuary Hotel (NYC)

The concept of affordable omakase that is meant to be eaten within 30 minutes is relatively new to New York City. Sushi on Jones by Chef David Bouhadana launched this trend in 2016 with its first outdoor sushi stall. Fast forward a year and Chef Bouhadana has moved on to open Sushi by Bou at the Gansevoort Market with the same concept, $50 omakase comprising of 12 pieces of nigiri. By July 2017, Chef Bouhadana opened a second Sushi by Bou location at the Sanctuary Hotel. I was intrigued by this speed eating concept so I reserved dinner for two one Monday evening. How did this omakase compare to the typical sushi experience?

Sushi by Bou menu

First, we needed to find the entrance. The restaurant is in the basement level to the left of the Sanctuary Hotel’s main entrance. A bright neon sign and a lot of graffiti indicated that we were at the general vicinity where we could search for a semi-hidden door. Once we passed through the grungy looking entrance, we were greeted with a trendy studio-sized restaurant containing a sushi counter and a “bar”. I had hoped that we would be served by Chef Bouhadana, but we ended up with his sous chef. Once we settled into our seats at the counter, we ordered two cocktails, one sake-based and one whisky-based. My sake cocktail was awful while my cousin’s whisky cocktail was surprisingly easy to drink. This inconsistency was the theme for the rest of the meal.

The sous chef started the timer indicating the beginning of our omakase and then proceeded to feed us one nigiri after another. At times, I felt like I was in a sushi eating contest within a NY minute…which I had expected. Some pieces were nicely composed while other nigiri were just average. The quality of the fish is better than your neighborhood sushi joint in the city and tended to be kissed by a blowtorch. Even though the rice seasoning was nicely balanced between vinegar, sugar and salt, the overall quality was just above average. The omakase veered toward traditional sushi with the exception of one nigiri combination of waygu beef and uni. This Frankenstein nigiri hinted at what Chef Boudahana’s creativity can bring given the right conditions. This piece was my favorite nigiri of the night.

After ingesting 12 pieces of sushi in 30 minutes, we were asked if we wanted to order additional nigiri and I declined. For the price and quality, I did not think it warranted ordering extra pieces. My cousin, who is an omakase novice, loved it for both the trendy atmosphere and generally above average quality for the price. He summed up this experience best as a “beginner’s omakase” and I would have to agree. Sushi by Bou’s $50 chef tasting is an enticing entry point in a sea of $100+ options in Manhattan.

For related articles, visit the TRAVEL page or the World Travel Index.

Author: Chau Hoang

Feature photo courtesy of Sushi by Bou

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