Eat Learn Teach
Bentley Weisel / August 7th, 2013
The 14 seat sushi bar at Sushi Dojo, which recently opened in Manhattan’s East Village, draws a steady stream of diners. That’s the place to sit—where, whether sushi novice or expert, one can find comfort in David Bouhadana, or “Sushi Dave.” Bouhadana’s primary goal, aside from creating an authentic Japanese sushi experience for each patron, is to teach customers what is being displayed on the fresh ti leaf place mats (which arrive every other day from Hawaii).
Dojo, meaning “place of the way,” is Bouhadana’s mantra, and is extended to every Sushi Dojo patron.
Picture a plate of live soft-shell crabs blinking at each sushi bar guest prior to becoming a tempura appetizer in a puddle of green tea sauce, and live octopus tentacles coiled up in a bowl on the counter, looking as though they’re trying to slither away one last time. Bouhadana walks each person through the processes and description of each menu item, from majestic origins to finished dish: why the octopus pieces have been intensely massaged for 20 to 45 minutes; the different levels of tuna fat explained from a diagram in a book kept below the counter; what flavors to expect from each piece of fish, whether it’s been seared, gently brushed with soy sauce, or left as is. Bouhadana incorporates all of this information in his teachings.
A Florida native, Bouhadana started as a busboy in a sushi restaurant when he was 18. Shortly after, he was taken under his first master’s wing and put behind the counter. More masters, restaurants, and learning experiences in both Los Angeles and New York City led Bouhadana to Japan, where he was submerged into the culture while learning the significance of the experience beyond the food.
Bouhadana’s demeanor permeates Sushi Dojo, from the waitstaff’s seamless service, to the warm and calming restaurant décor, and the very precise food presentation. Customers can expect freshly-ground wasabi on a marble slab, a warm towel brought between courses, and house-made soy sauce that has been seasoning for weeks.