The word omakase, uttered in Japanese temples of fish and rice, once unlocked an exclusive world of masterful sushi for fat-wallet gourmands. No longer solely synonymous with serious or extravagant, omakase (meaning “chef’s choice”) is now common parlance for a generation of NYC diners eager to put their fate (but not necessarily their entire paycheck) into the hands of the chef. Most recently, the “affordable” (a relative term) omakase movement has rendered two spots where killer fish won’t cost you all your clams: Sushi Ishikawa and Sushi by Boū.
Sushi by Boū is about as budget-friendly as top-flight omakase can get (12 courses, $50). The latest from David Bouhadana (an affordable sushi pioneer at Sushi Dojo and Sushi on Jones in the past) is a four-seat counter tucked into the back of Gansevoort Market (with another location below midtown’s Sanctuary Hotel). This is stripped-down sushi at its finest: 12 no-frills pieces eaten in a nonnegotiable 30 minutes. Every two-and-a-half minutes brings a new treat: hokkaido uni, creamy and cold; toro laced with luscious fat; blackened Wagyu melting into charred-edged rice. When the boisterous Bouhadana is off at the midtown location, a stoic sous works the color-splashed market stall, diligently executing the mostly static fish-on-rice menu. When asked where his boss is, he cracks a smile and points to the sushi chef bobblehead on the counter: “My chef works 24 hours.” That work pays off in the form of an unswerving stream of pristine fish (much of it flown in daily from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji market), like sweet and clean botan shrimp, or bluefin tuna with its already-intense flavor turned up to 11. If you’re down to gild the lily, tack on a Wagyu-uni hand roll ($14), or ball out with the exotic 17-course set ($100) served by Oona Tempest at the adjacent counter (called Sushi by Bae).
For a city swimming in prickly-priced sushi spots, these newfangled rookies offer welcome bargains. Seems like omakase is finally speaking our language.