“Sushi for the people”
While he’s never seen a chef use a timer with customers before, Bouhadana notes that timers are an integral part of chefs' daily routines. He also credits his sense of efficiency to the Japanese. Chef Jiro Ono, of the famed 10-seat Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, is known for serving up a $300 omakase in 30 minutes. Recent Japanese-to-New York imports like Ikinari Steak, where you stand as you feast on a ribeye, or Ichiran Ramen, renowned for its solo-slurping booths, also capitalize on this efficiency. Still, anyone who has dealt with the MTA or a Seamless delivery time knows that New York is still far from an efficient city -- hence, Bouhadana’s timer, which lets out a high-pitched, please-press-snooze beep when time is officially up.
Back in November 2015, Bouhadana was let go from Sushi Dojo in the East Village, after the DOH temporarily shut it down thanks to his refusal to wear gloves while preparing sushi. Following his departure from Dojo, Bouhadana began working on an open-air omakase concept, called Sushi on Jones, which opened at the Bowery Market last July. Jones, where Bouhadana first introduced the timed dining concept, was intended to be an interim project -- he hadn’t planned on making his big comeback. But the 12-piece omakase in 30 minutes for $50 format hit the right note with New Yorkers almost immediately.
Bouhadana recalls being wowed by the lines that formed at Jones, and the resulting Instagrams with hashtags like #LessTalkMoreEat. Unintentionally, the DOH’s most public enemy in the industry had created a completely new category of upscale, quick-service omakase catered specifically to New Yorkers.
After splitting with his business partner (for unspecified reasons) in March of this year, Bouhadana was effectively divorced from Sushi on Jones, as well as a planned upscale sushi project on the Lower East Side. Two months later, he opened Sushi by Bou inside the Gansevoort Market, taking a corner spot in the 14th Street food hall, just between the bathrooms and a chicken-in-a-cone concept.