Restaurant Review: A Bold Argument Sees Clumsy Iteration at "Bozu"

June 25, 2012 5:15 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Bozu serves up sushi with a lot of edge but no roundedness. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

It pains me to speak my mind about Bozu for the simple fact that I do think, in spite of everything you're about to read, that it is a necessary restaurant: a sobering reminder to millions of New Yorkers that we were not the first city to discover Japanese cuisine, and our word on the subject we will not be the very last. The offerings on the menu enjoy the bragging rights of boasting a strong Spanish/Mexican influence; with pieces of sushi topped with generous helpings of flavorful, fatty guacamole so yummy, albeit clumsily executed, that it's almost enough to ignore the pretentiousness of the other items on the menu at the restaurant.

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Pretentious is not a word I use lightly, or even ubiquitously, in spite of the fact that your average fellow now meaninglessly and generously tosses it around the way he once did words like "Kafkaesque," "progressive," and "communist." It's a word now being used to stifle ambition, to stop you from taking that first step, whether it be sure-footed or anemic, towards the goal-posts of your ambition. We're happy this isn't another average sushi restaurant; we're even happier that it isn't another mediocre Thai place. Moreover, we have so much fondness for the fact that almost every item on the menu shoots for the moon that we almost (almost!) forget that the vast majority of the items on the menu fall well below the stars.

That's not to say the menu isn't without its successes: every piece of sushi is a good piece of sushi. They call them sushi bombs here, and they come with the perfect proportion of fresh fish to seasoned rice. The presentation of the many different soy sauces, which run the gradient from mild to very spicy, clue you in to what the restaurant is trying to offer: a just-affordable Japanese eating experience that shatters the cliches of the New York City sashimi-lunch-special machine.

But throwing a wrench into the machine isn't enough: you have to make the case for a newer, better model. Unfortunately, Bozu falls flat in this department. Their Grilled Chilean Sea Bass Kasuzuke ($20), with its nauseating helping of Sake Mash to go with an otherwise perfectly cooked piece of fish, point to the high-mindedness of the Head Chef Makoto Suzuki, as well as the idleness of his hands. Each bite is busy, burdened with the unfortunate task of justifying its hip location, and by the final bite of the dish, you'll wish it had come with less.

I'm reminded, sadly, of the myth that Spicy Tuna Rolls emerged as a means of covering up the imperfections of older sushi-grade tuna by smothering them with a completely satisfying spicy mayo sauce. Sadly, Bozu goes the opposite route: smothering good food with the edible version of tenacity.

The saving grace of the place is the posh interior, a beautiful lounge-space combining the intimacy of the speakeasy with the splendor of the Shanghai Twenties (my favorite era of decor and architecture, and an oft overlooked one). It's the perfect backdrop for the one thing the restaurant does better than anywhere else: their shochus, fruit-infused vodkas. Think Absolut, without the uncertainty.

Grab some of them, don't spend too much money on the food, and enjoy your evening. Bozu provides the perfect reminder that you can--and should-- leave your comfort zone on a regular basis, even if they don't justify the trip.

Grade: B-


296 Grand Street

Brooklyn, NY 11211


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