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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Chef David Bouhadana is serving up authentic Japanese-style sushi with flair at his new Sushi Dojo, on First Ave. between Sixth and Seventh Sts. He’s also a lot of fun, and agreed to pose for this photo holding up a gigantic octopus tentacle and a blowtorch, the latter which he had just used to tenderize a particular type of sushi that is slightly more fibrous than other fish.
Bouhadana, 27, has trained with the Food Network’s Iron Chef Morimoto and worked in some of the city’s top Japanese restaurants. He recently returned from a two-year stint in Japan where he intensively studied the discipline of sushi at a rural restaurant outside Osaka.
Succulent sea urchin is one of his specialties. He also lightly cooks octopus and squid in multiple ways — all delicious — and grinds up his own special pastes, such as from Japanese potatoes, among others. He blends five seasonings, including Japanese citron, on his sushi, making the pieces among the most moist and flavorful you’ll find anywhere.
His fish comes from far and wide, with some of it flown in specially from Japan and Alaska. For salmon sushi, he offers five different types, from deep-red Chinook to pale white.
Sushi Dojo has a rare collection of sake and its own sake master, Max.
Dojo, means a school or training hall in Japanese, and that’s how Bouhadana sees the restaurant — a place where diners learn about classic cuisine from the land of the rising sun. While he’s American, originally from Florida, and while not all his staff are Japanese, you’ll hear Bouhadana slinging the Nihongo. He greets customers with “irashaimasay!” (welcome) and uses other Japanese expressions throughout the dining experience. For example, you might hear him call out, “Spoon, chodai!” — as in, “Get a spoon!” for this guy so he can scoop up the ground-potato paste.
Basically, you’ll find few people as devoted to traditional sushi, with a creative twist, as Bouhadana. And his customers last Wednesday night were giving him enthusiastic feedback — with one group even rewarding him with some beers. The place has a 14-seat sushi bar for intimate interaction with Bouhadana and two other sushi chefs, and 36 seats total, so reservations are highly recommended.
Sushi Dojo, 101 First Ave., Tues. to Sat., 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sun. to Mon. closed, 646-692-9398, sushidojonyc.com