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The Early Word on Hidden LES Spot Sushi UO

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photo via Gothamist

A few months ago 23 year-old sushi chef and Morimoto alum David Bouhadana quietly opened Sushi Uo on the second floor of 151 Rivington Street in what was once an apartment. Little by little the sushi snobs have made their way through the unmarked LES space (some refer to it as a speakeasy) to sample Boudahana's well-priced sushi and other Japanese offerings. To date, feedback is mostly very positive, but some detractors feel the fish is nothing to write home about and that the low prices are misleading: to get full, you've gotta order a heck of a lot. To the early word:

The Okay but Not Wowed News: An Eater tipster writes in: "Love the atmosphere here, the hidden setting. It's all very romantic. And David is fun to talk to and seems passionate about what he's doing. As for the food, some things are great, some are meh, and in the end it's not really checking out more than once. When I have sushi, I want it to be simple and austere, just really great quality. David dresses his fish up with all kinds of overwhelming sauces and gelees. If you go, definitely get the potato soup (a knock-out) and the uni. A friend told me a live scallop special was also excellent." [Eater Inbox]

The Good News: Five Yelpers have weighed in so far. Three complete raves, two takedowns. From a rave: "An ace card to slip out when big guns were needed...When I bellied up to the sushi bar at Sushi Uo I felt like I had been let in on something fleeting and precious...Once inside my appreciation began to build, slowly at first. The decor modern yet cozy, the wait staff knowledgeable and friendly...The young american chef shouted commands in japanese to his sous-chef, who acted them out silently...Soon after, my potato soup arrived. Oh man, oh man. I believe it was a puree of some green bean that gave the soup a rich green hue. Tiny cubes of tofu swam in the rich concoction and a fried kimchee leaf adorned the side of the bowl. This soup was spec-tac-u-larrrrrr...I ordered the classic array of sashimi with a spicy tuna roll ($19). First, the tuna roll looked so different than other tuna rolls I've had; the tuna was chopped into huge chunks, and was a hue so blood-red it might've been steak. Amazing. The second the sashimi touched my tongue I was like, holy shit. I was reminded how truly great sushi differs from the rest -the fish was so fresh the flavors just exploded, dipping it in the soy sauce felt vaguely sacrilegious...This is the PERFECT date restaurant. Cool vibe, gorgeous presentation, and food that proves that aphrodisiacs do exist...Now good luck finding it. [Yelp]

The Bad News: One of the Yelp takedowns: "Oh, it's quite pretty inside, and I suppose the whole speakeasy thing is still a bit of an allure. And SOME pieces of fish were very delicious. But not all of them were, and they were TINY!!! At first we thought, "Wow, $19 for 12 pieces of sashimi is a very good deal!" And it is, at a normal restaurant where those pieces are larger than a postage stamp. J ordered an additional roll and a piece of uni, and he still wanted a slice of pizza afterward. And no, he is not a giant oinker...Our food took waaaaaay too long to come, and the cheapest bottle of sake was $45. FORTY-FIVE DOLLARS. I like to think I have a pretty discriminating palate, but when it comes to sake, to me it all just tastes like...sake. Give me the cheap stuff. I'm not ashamed. Oh wait, Uo doesn't have any cheap stuff. [Yelp]

The "Eh" News: Though most of the reviews on UrbanSpoon are raves, one user posts a detailed rundown of his mediocre experience (he also posted it to Yelp and Menupages): "I was extraordinarily disappointed in Sushi UO. The sushi is of an acceptable level, and per-piece isn't terribly expensive - about on average for the neighborhood. And while nothing was out-and-out bad, a great deal of it was out-and-out boring. The composed dishes, however, were where things really fell apart - mainly in terms of value/price ratio, but also in flavor and composition....Rolls were unexciting, but again, that tied into the overall blandness of the fish. ...All in all a disappointment, especially given the much higher quality to be found not too far away. And while nothing was terribly expensive looking at the prices, you'd probably have to get a double order of most things for them even to qualify as "appetizer" size. If you're planning on making a meal of it, you'd have spend a pretty large amount on those $10-$15 "plates" I really wanted to like them - it's a nice space, the staff is friendly, and you can't have enough good sushi places in the 'hood. But after spending $100 my girlfriend and I were both still hungry." [UrbanSpoon]

The Great News: Lauren Brown writes a positive post on her blog: "It was lovely...serves up tasty appetizers (our favorite was the spicy sweet and sour rock shrimp)...The sushi itself was all super fresh. The rolls were interesting as well? Creations like Salmon Tempura Asparagus and creamy mustard sauce and Lightly Broiled Whitefish with asparagus and enoki went over very well at our table. Also, it’s nice to leave the East Village once in a while and have a crabmeat roll made with real crabmeat. After reading a few reviews online I have to admit that I was expecting a bigger, “trendier” space? However, I was not at all disappointed with Sushi Uo. Walking into what looks like an apartment building, Sushi Uo is a small, tranquil space...While Sushi Uo is not my favorite restaurant in this area, the food was nice and fresh...The prices are fair also, for about $40 each." [Lauren's Big Blog]

The Yum News: To MenuPages, where 8 users have posted reviews. Five of them good, three of them not so good. From the good: "Yum, yum, what a fabulous meal I had at this secret top hideout! The place was beautiful and I enjoyed the sushi show at the chef's table! grab a seat if you can, it is educational and a fan way to see sushi made right there in front of your eyes. He is also a very personable chef who answers all of your questions. The place was really hopping for a cold Wednesday night. I never knew what "live Sushi" was until Chef David introduced me to it -hint- It is still alive before you devour it! You must see him make fresh wasabi from this ginger looking root (apparently it is $20 a pound) and try the pretty pink flowers that adorn the sushi platter. It is very savory and interesting. The seasoned salmon sushi is a stand out as is the seaweed wrap on the tobiko sushi and the yellowtail." [MenuPages]

The Not So Yum News: One of the negative ones from MenuPages: "Good idea, good service, good atmosphere. But I agree with the previous reviewer that it's a pretty low value, esp compared to others in the neighborhood. Spent $150 (not incl drinks) on four people and all left hungry. Thought about ordering more but no one cared enough about what they'd eaten already to want to. Wasn't bad, just wasn't very good @ the prices. Tartare trio was okay all agreed, but edamame tartare isn't even really a tartare, it's just bean salad! I think they think they're much fancier than they actually are." [MenuPages]

The Good, Though Short News: bltBelly posts a concise little caption for a picture of the sushi: "Two-week old joint with reliable sushi and other creative appertizers." [bltBelly]

The Excellent News: Sebastian Saint drops in for a meal and is impressed: "If you are looking for good quality, authentic sushi restaurant in the Lower East Side, the newcomer Sushi UO is the place...We started our dinner with some edamame while picked a nice bottle of sake from an expertly arranged sake selection. We continued with the Smoked Duck Breast -Takoyaki Style and the Creamy Rock Shrimp Tempura Duo. Afterwards we ordered some more dishes like the Usuzukuri (thinly sliced fluke), Pacific Roll (fresh crab, avocado and cucumber), Whitefish Roll (lightly broiled whitefish with asparagus and enoki) and the Eel Avocado Roll. For the finale we ordered some sashimi and sushi, all were remarkably scrumptious...It was a real pleasure to meet Chef David, the man behind the Sushi UO and enjoy his offerings. Each dish was masterfully prepared and presented, we enjoyed everything to the last bite. It is a unique experience when the food you eat is provided by a chef who truly enjoys what he does and he is passionate about the cuisine and his customers’ experience. We will surely return to this wonderful restaurant as soon as we can." [Sebastian Saint]

The Twitterific News:@FindEatDrink delivers a particularly nice tweet about the place: "Chef David Bouhadana is like a jazz musician, beautifully improvising." [Twitter]
- Gabe Ulla

Sushi Uo

151 Rivington St., New York, NY