110 1st Ave
New York, NY 10009
After taking a short hiatus from writing (not eating), I’m BAAAAACCCKKKK!
Who’s in the mood for a personal, non-sushi related sob story? If you don’t feel like it, just skip to the next paragraph. Do you work? Do you work A LOT? Well, I used to work A LOT. People think that 60 hours a week is bad, I was more like 80, 85. Think that’s unlikely, think I’m exaggerating? Think again. I used to wake at 7, be at my desk by 7:30, pretty much work all day until around 11-12 midnight, taking only short breaks for food, bio (bathroom/shower), etc. And every weekend was a working weekend. Some days/weeks, I worked till 2-3AM, and then all weekend long. Those were some sad days. I eventually changed jobs, and got all this time back. That’s actually how this blog started by the way. With all my new found time, I was getting on boyfriend’s last nerves, so he gave me a hobby, and thus the birth of SushiGirl! Well, these last few weeks at work have been tough. Nowhere near “my tough”, but “normal people tough”. It’s funny how quickly you can get used to working 45-50 hours a week, that working 60 hours knocks you off your feet. Anyway, I’m BACK!
Back to Sushi Dojo.
Not to pour more salt on chef’s wounds, but we used to come here quite a bit back in the chef David Bouhadana days. It was “in the neighborhood” (we don’t live here, but this is where we hang), we loved the cozy, intimate space, the fish was always fresh, the preparation was divine, and Chef David and the staff all drank with us. We always had such a great time. The only problem? The cost. Look at my rating system, I’m very objective, very “precise” when evaluating cost. The cost of the sushi alone started off very reasonably, but progressively got more expensive. If I remember correctly, we once did a streak of back to back weekly visits. After the 6th or 7th visit, the sushi costs went from $100 per person to over $300 per person. Which isn’t completely outrageous, but it just didn’t like feel right. We took a break from Dojo, and just haven’t thought about returning till we started writing this blog.
How is Sushi Dojo today? Still that same cozy neighborhood charm, that same really fresh fish, perfectly prepared, and still that easy going staff that drinks with their customers. Only difference is the new chef isn’t as talkative, given the slight language barrier. He was however, much more approachable, more amenable to all sorts of wacky requests. And as you know, I have tons. As he says it, he wants us to enjoy our meal, our time, so he needs to hear from us all our likes and dislikes. Overall, we had a great meal, and a marvelous time. We will definitely be back soon.
- MADAI – A great start to our omakase. I LOVE when we start with the light, bright, white fishes. And one of my favorite white fishes, at that! Chef’s MADAI, a true Japanese Seabream, served with just a little bit of soy, was super fresh, with its slight natural chew. I would have preferred served with a little citrus, but still very good.
- AKAMI – Just plain AKAMI, not AKAMI ZUKE, just AKAMI, a lean blue fin Tuna. Everyone has been jumping on the AKAMI ZUKE band wagon, the lean MARINATED Blue Fin Tuna, and not everyone does it well. For those that don’t, they need to remember and rediscover the beauty and deliciousness of just plain lean Tuna. When fresh, when not super metallic, when without that funky aftertaste tinge of lesser tunas, an AKAMI can be so fantastically refreshing. Well done!
- KAMPACHI – KAMPACHI is one of the older (an “adult”), fattier, more highly prized (another way to say expensive) yellowtails. It’s my second most favorite of the yellowtails! This was very fresh, with a decent amount of crunch upon biting. Chef served this with a tiny bit of Yuzu pepper, which added a nice dimension to this fish. Three hits in a row!
- SAWARA – Onto the silvers we move! I’m really appreciating the sequencing of our servings. White, light Tuna, light yellowtail, and now, a light silver. I’m usually not a fan of SAWARAs, a Spanish Mackerel, as they tend to be much fishier. But chef convinced me that this was worth a try. He said, “if you don’t like it, don’t eat it, and I’ll be happy to give you something different, but try.” It was very confusing, not like any SAWARAs I’ve ever had. This one was not at all cured. It was extremely light in taste. INTERESTING! I didn’t mind it, it was almost good even. I may have ordered a repeat at the end of the meal to confirm my thoughts, but by then I was stuffed… Given that SAWARAs are typically a definite NO for me, and this one I didn’t mind, I would say WIN number four!
- TAZMANIAN SEA TROUT – Here comes the salmon! Remember that I’m the odd girl that prefers farm raised fatty salmons, as opposed to the more exclusive wild sea trouts. TAZMANIAN SEA TROUT though are more similar to plain old fatty farm raised salmons, so for me, another WIN!!!
- CHUTORO – CHUTORO, a medium fatty Tuna is my favorite of the Tunas. I can’t do the super fatty OTOROs, it is just too much for me. This was a beautiful cut of CHUTORO, fatty, but not too fatty, no chew at all, and no funky aftertaste tinge. Dressed lightly with soy, divine!
- SHIMA AJI- SHIMA AJI, a striped jack, the crème de la crème of the yellowtail world, and my favorite of the family! Given that it’s little brother (in my mind), the KAMPACHI was so lovely, I had very high hopes for the SHIMA AJI. Having super high expectations is never good. This was a lesser SHIMA AJI, it was slightly fishy, and very little crunch. BOOOO!!!!
- SANMA – Back to silvers we go! SANMA, a pacific saury is one of the fancier of the silverfishes. I love me some SANMA. This one was the perfect amount of fishiness, just fantastic. Good comeback from the mediocre SHIMA AJI Chef!
- HOTATE – I try very hard to evaluate each fish based on its own merit, and not to compare restaurants. But it does get hard. Our very recent HOTATE (scallop) experience at SOTO was insane, the likes of KURUMA ZUSHI quality. So while this one was very good, it was a far cry from SOTO good. Sorry Chef, if it wasn’t for our recent SOTO experience, I probably would have raved about this cut, it IS good, just not SOTO good. OK, I’ll be quiet now…
- HOKKAIDO UNI – Looks pretty huh? Beautiful, lovely, fresh nuttiness. This was a WIN! (Sorry – I’ve been watching a lot of Charlie Sheen lately, so WINNER! Hey, at least I’m not talking about Tiger-you know what!)
- KINMEDAI – KINMEDAI is probably one of my top three fishes EVER, as in ANY fish category, whitefishes and otherwise. Chef’s KINMEDAI was insanely fresh, and super fatty. He ABURIed (torched) it perfectly too! I need my KINMEDAIs to be HEAVILY ABURIed on JUST the skin, and not at all on the fish. He executed the torch blower perfectly. I am so curious of how he did it, but I wasn’t paying attention, but we were too busy chatting and imbibing. Boyfriend actually promised to get me a blow torch once upon a time. But then he decided I was too clumsy, and would burn the house down. What do we call that? Not an “Indian Giver” as he never gave it to me, but what? Anyway…
- KOHADA – Pretty huh? Well looks are deceiving. KOHADA, a medium‐sized spotted gizzard shad is often revered as the most prized of the silvers, and one of my favorites. This cut was significantly fishier than normal though. It was over cured, and not good. I was not pleased.
- SHIROEBI – LOVE SHIROEBI (sweet baby white shrimp)! Chef’s SHIROEBI was super fresh, light, bright, crunchy goodness!
- AJI – Japanese Jack Mackerel. This was a fantastic cut of fish, again, perfect amount of fishiness and chew that is natural for this fish. Dressed lightly with ground ginger, scallion and soy, it was delicious. HOWEVER, AJIs are such a widely available fish that I really would prefer a harder to find fish as a serving within my omakase. Well that said, I can say the same for the salmons, but you really can’t say that in NY, we love salmons…
- MAINE UNI – MAINE UNI is the lesser UNI, and don’t let anyone tell you different. Sorry people of Maine, I love your state, I love your lobster, just not a fan of your UNI. Even at the peak of its season, even at the best sushi yas, MAINE UNI cannot compare to a mediocre Hokkaido OR Santa Barbara UNI. The first bite was almost good, but by the second, I found the funk. MEH! Sushi yas LOVE to give you several different kinds of UNI, to claim an “UNI tasting”, but you can be smarter at it. You can do an UNI-tasting with 3 kinds of Hokkaido, and 3 kinds of California, you don’t need to blend in Maine. And I keep hearing how great Canadian UNI is, throw some of that in there. How about Chilean? OK, I’m done.
- HAMACHI-SUNAZURI – The belly of a HAMACHI (a young yellowtail). This was good but not great. And just like the AJI, while I enjoyed it, HAMACHI-SUNAZURI can be found in 90% of all common sushi-yas in NYC. I really prefer the harder to find fishes in my omakase.
- IKURA – I LOVE a good IKURA. This one was good, but not great. I don’t know quite how to describe it, but it lacked depth. It was good, had a fresh oceanic taste, and a good crunch, but it didn’t have that sweet lingering aroma really great IKURAs do…
- SAKE ABURI – A cut of fatty salmon, ABURIed (torched). I typically like this, but this was just downright gross.
- BOTAN EBI – Yum… Yum, Yum… Yum, Yum!!! Am I a hypocrite? I pooh pooh on receiving AJIs as part of my omakase given how widely it’s available, but I celebrate the equally as available, BOTAN EBI. My justification? The fried head! Super fresh, wonderfully crunchy, delicious BOTAN EBI. Superb!
- OTORO – Doesn’t look crazy fatty, does it? For an OTORO, it wasn’t. Which for me, is just the right amount! Same as the CHUTORO, Chef’s OTORO had no chew at all, and no funky aftertaste tinge. Same as his CHUTORO, he dressed it lightly with soy, it was just as delicious!
- SANTA BARBARA UNI – I don’t understand. It’s prime UNI season in Santa Barbara. Chef’s Santa Barbara Uni as good, but not great. Why is this not great? It was miles better than the Maine UNI, but not nearly as good as HOKKAIDO. The great debate, who wins? Santa Barbara or Hokkaido? Normally, when in season, for NEW YORKERs, Santa Barbara wins 95% of the time. Today, meh! Oh Chef…
- OTORO ABURI – I’m surprised the Chef used such a high quality OTORO to make ABURIed. Usually, they’ll pick a lesser cut, as once it’s ABURIed, it masks any of the normal funky tinge of lesser TOROs AND the chew. Here, the rendered fat dressed the super fresh cut of OTORO nicely. Very good final-ish piece!
- ANAGO – I never have much to say abt ANAGOs. To me, they all taste the same. I actually specifically ask for NO UNAGIs, NO ANAGOs as part of my omakase, but boyfriend likes to be the diplomatic one, and say he’ll have everything. Well, here’s his ANAGO that he claims to be “good”. I requested another piece of KINMEDAI. Chef commended me on my choice. I know, I’m sushi-SMART.
Despite a few misses, I’m thoroughly pleased with this meal. It also helps that the Chef and staff were so friendly, so chatty, so lovely to be in the company of. None of that, “I’m a Chef, hear roar” arrogance. I didn’t get his name, but will next time. See you soon Chef! Dojo gets a super high overall score of 31!