353 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10014
Three seconds ago, I started this sentence with “If you love going to fancy restaurants, the likes of Le Bernadin, Jean Georges, Bouley… Sushi of Bae is not for you…” And then I realized I LIKE those restaurants, yet I’m still loving my first visit to Sushi of Bae! You can like both things. You can love fancy, and at the same time love a food stall in a market. Yes you can! For “regular folk”, boyfriend and I eat incredibly fancy, full blown omakases several times a week, but at the same time, no one loves fast food more than me. Boyfriend probably doesn’t as much, but me, definitely. McDonald’s for their burgers and chicken nuggets, Burger King for their chicken sandwiches, Baja Fresh for their soft tacos and queso, Popeyes, Chick Filet… OMG I’m starting to drool. And street food!!! Our food trucks, Halal Meats, Lamb Gyros, the stalls in Tsujiki market, the street stalls in Hong Kong, and Taipei’s night markets, OMG Taipei night markets… Clearly I have the attention span of a goldfish. Back to Sushi by Bae…
Nestled in the back of the Gansevoort Market, Sushi by Bae shares a stall with Sushi by Bou. There is no sign for Sushi by Bae, only Sushi by Bou. A super quick round of This vs That…
- Both are BYOB, which I LOVE. It’s NYC, liquor stores are like Starbucks, one every other block. So zero markup!
- Sushi by Bae – 90 minutes on 4 nicely cushioned seats on one side
- Sushi by Bou – 30 minutes on 6 all wood, no cushion seats on the other
- Sushi by Bae – $100 for 16-18 pieces of sushi, will take special requests
- Sushi by Bou – $50 for 12 pieces of sushi, no special requests, no substitutions
- Sushi by Bae – Oona Tempest with 4 years under her belt from TANOSHI, and a few months at GINZA ONODERA
- Sushi by Bou – Began with Chef David Bouhadana, but just like SUSHI ON JONES, a few months post restaurant launch, he passed the serving to other newbie chefs. If we ever visit, we will fill you in on the who’s who. However, while I am happy to visit SUSHI ON JONES, I honestly don’t see us visiting Sushi by Bou. I would sit there and have sushi envy with Sushi by Bae all meal long, and feel like a second rate citizen. The same feeling you get when you walk by First or Business class, to your humble “Economy/Coach” seats. By the way, do you know they came up with a “Basic” seating? This Basic class is lower than coach. What can be lower than coach you wonder? Do you even get a cushion? Again, FOCUS!!!
Back to Bae…Chef Oona Tempest is really quite fascinating, breaking barriers everywhere. Not only is she clearly a woman, she is also incredibly young, 24/25 now? There’s a stigma against women sushi chefs, claiming a woman’s hands are too warm, altering the fish itself. I don’t buy into that stigma. And I am the farthest from an ageist. You can be 95 or 16, if you can serve me a good piece of fish, I am a happy girl. She won some crazy Zagat award just last year for notable young chefs. She started her sushi career by waitressing at TANOSHI, where she won over Chef Toshio, and became his disciple. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been. I have no idea how long she had to do the grunt work before Chef Toshio allowed her to start serving the fish, but clearly, she gets it! One more tiny deviation, I was a huge fan of Chef Toshio’s fish, but I really cannot stand the pompous attitudes of the TANOSHI crew, so I am THRILLED that Chef Oona branched out on her own. Chef Oona is incredibly friendly, doesn’t mind sharing her insights on fish, on the preparation, and her personal story on becoming a sushi chef. It’s a joy to be part of her audience.
Our omakase tonight:
- HOTATE from Hokkaido and UNI from Maine – This was marinated and served with some mild pepper like crunchy green and sesame seeds. I enjoyed the HOTATE and the UNI, and as a combo, those two fishes are always complimentary of each other, but the marinade was too much. It was too citrusy, stealing away from the actual fish.
- Sea bass KOBUJIME– LOVE mild white fishes marinated in KOMBU (type of Japanese seaweed). This was delicious!
- MADAI (Seabream) with Birch smoked sea salt – The smokiness of the Birch sea salt was a wonderful addition. Very, very good.
- SHIMA AJI (Striped Jack) – The “wonder” of the night! Chef Oona layered in chives between the fish and the rice, and topped it with soy. This somehow rendered a nuttiness to the combo. Wha???? So different, so unexpected, but so, so, SO GOOD!
- AKAMI ZUKE (Lean Blue Fin Tuna) – Always love a good cut of Bluefin AKAMI! While chatting with Chef Oona, we discussed the Tuna servings of an omakase. We both love our Tunas, but we both agreed, there should be 3 Tuna servings in an omakase, not more, and not less. AKAMI, CHUTORO, OTORO. So happy we agree!
- SABA (Mackerel) from Boston – It’s prime SABA season, but I shared with Chef Oona at the beginning of the meal, no SABA, no ANAGO/UNAGI, so she gave me the option of whatever I wanted. I had the SHIMA AJI wonder again. Boyfriend says the SABA was very good.
- SAWARA (Spanish Mackerel) – Served with the skin ABURIed (torched), and topped with a tiny bit of ground ginger. Normally not a huge fan of SAWARAs, but this was so sweet. Very good!
- Striped bass from Maine – I am a huge fan of KOBUJIME, marinating the fish in KOMBU, but I have mixed feelings about serving the fish with KOMBU, as it can often be too strong and overshadow the fish. This cut of KOMBU was super mild, and when served with the striped bass, was JUST RIGHT!
- IWASHI (Japanese Sardine) – Never really had IWASHI ABURIed (torched) before, and I’m not sure I taste the difference, but this was a very, very good cut of IWASHI.
- CHUTORO (Medium Fatty Tuna) – This was slightly veiny, meaning chewy, but otherwise, great flavor.
- BOTAN EBI (Spotted sweet shrimp) – Not live, but delicious none the less. Too bad, no real kitchen, means no fried shrimp head.
- IKURA (Salmon roe) – IKURA itself was great, marinated little uncrushed pearls, super tasty. The topping was not so good though. I’m not sure what this was, reminded me of sea grapes, but way to white and citrusy to be… It was too much citrus.
- UNI from Maine – For Maine UNI standards, this was great. For UNI as a whole, this still just does not compare…
- OTORO (Super Fatty Tuna) – No veins in this one! No chew, no funky aftertaste, and melt in your mouth fattiness! YUM!
- IKURA (Salmon Roe) – Not a huge fan of the quail egg, but overall, still thoroughly enjoyed the mini IKURA don (rice bowl)!
- NEGITORO TAKUAN (Japanese pickled radish) – The TORO was mixed with scallions already, and LOTS of TAKUAN, which I love. Very happy.
- Repeat of MADAI for me, and UNI for the boyfriend