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"Bugs" Japanese restaurant (Yasuda-trained japanese chef's new restaurant) in East Village

Hey all,

I have been a loyal Sushi Yasuda patron for many years. Walking in the East Village last night, I stopped by the new restaurant called Bugs on 12th St between A and B. A former student of Yasuda's for 10 years, this Osaka-born female chef Sho Boo opened up her own place.

I had the Snapper dish last night, and it was -ridiculously good!- Eating it reminded me why I'm a foodie... and only for $12! It was incredible! Anyone else been?

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  1. That has got to be the WORST restaurant name I've ever heard. Tell me there's a story/meaning behind it? Something?

    17 Replies
    1. re: LeahBaila

      Well, it could be great name for a restaurant specializing in crawfish aka mudbugs. But apparently isn't.

      1. re: LeahBaila

        heh, I kind of like the name in a playful sense (although apparently the chef intended it in a more serious way...)

        1. re: crsin

          Chef has a sense of humor. I discussed the name with her. But basically she wants people to gather there, light bugs to a flame. Enough about the name, the food is delicious. I posted pictures of some of the dishes

          1. re: crsin

            Pretty sure she was serious when she thought it up...;-)

            1. re: unagi1

              Well, she was serious, since she used it in Japan also. But it's a better name than "vomit" .
              What does Starbucks mean anyway? Big Gay Ice Cream Shop...Big Wong,,, so many names . Anyway, try her lotus ebi shinjo, very good.

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                I saw your post re: Gari-san. How does this chef's creativity stack up with his...in your opinion of course.

                1. re: unagi1

                  She is not as creative on the sushi as Gari-san, she uses more Japanese type ingredients, not cream cheese and tomato or foie gras. I like her style. At Jewel Bako she was exceptional.

                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    Thanks for the info; the menu looks pretty straightforward with respect to those basic type of ingredients. The only item from out in left field was the Berkshire Pork Belly.

                    1. re: unagi1

                      The pork belly is very good. I didn't actually think it was from "left field" since Kyo Ya , En, Brushstroke who all have ebi shinjo, also have pork belly. I didn't particularly think the mashed potatoes aka cold potato salad went so well with it, other potatoes or mountain yam might have been a better accompaniment

                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                        In my opinion, that one dish is out from left field, since cha shu is traditionally served over ramen, not mashed potato -- it's definitely an American interpretation. Also, Kurobuta pork seems to grow on trees in NYC, but is extremely limited in Japan and not typically seen in that type of presentation.

                        1. re: unagi1

                          Interesting, the only pork I remember having in Japan was tonkatsu or in ramen. But here in what they call "kaiseki" places, like the ones I mentioned ( Kyo Ya, En, Brushstroke, Rosanjin, Kajitsu, Kai), they all ( not kajitsu) seem to serve pork belly, so i assumed it was common in japan, just that I hadn't gone to right area for it. However, I will say that none of the so called kaiseki restaurants in NYC (that i've tried) compares to the great kaiseki of Kyoto, japan. Not even close.

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            Agreed, it's just on a completely different level. One of our favorite areas was the Nishiki market, where we picked up some of the local cooking ingredients( miso paste, bonito, soy sauce) to take back home, as well as picked through endless types of pickled vegetables (tsukemono).:


                            1. re: unagi1

                              Nishiki market is awesome. The pickled vegetables are greatly appreciated gifts to bring back from Kyoto for Japanese friends.

                2. re: foodwhisperer

                  haha big wong actually means somehting it effectively mean "big prosperous", but basically very prosperous which is a very chinese thing to name yourself

                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    I hope we all know what Starbucks means.

                    1. re: Sneakeater

                      Moby Dick reference, I think. Take that, Big Wong!

            2. haha this is literally an awful name for a restaurant...wth

              hmm was she in the kitchen at yasuda? i dont remember ever seeing a female sushi chef at yasuda and ive been going there for a while (its funny i dont think ive ever see a female sushi chef now that i think about it)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Lau

                I remember a female sushi chef at yasuda years ago. 15 East had one for a while.

                1. re: Lau

                  I don't recall a female chef at Yasuda. However, Jewel Bako had an amazing female sushi chef. 15 East had a female chef a few months ago, i forgot her name. They had a female chef in the kitchen also, I think from Hanamura An. Taka the chef/owner of the old Taka( formerly Fukuda restaurant) was a terrific sushi chef and artist. Oh i came back to edit,,,i went to the link posted by silencespeak, yes she was the 2nd chef , alongside Yoshi-san. at Jewel Bako, She is excellent.

                  1. re: silencespeak

                    Wow....I'm sure she means well, but that definitely got Lost In Translation...

                    Looking over the menu, The non-alcohole beer and sparking water look interesting.

                    1. re: unagi1

                      "Bugs tend to gather, especially around a bright light and this restaurant is the bright light that everyone would gather around."

                      i think someone is smoking crack in the east village

                      1. re: Lau

                        It's a very Japanese type of reference. According to the links in the article, she had a bar with the same name in Osaka and got away with it. In Japan, it's "cool" to assign English names to objects that would make no sense otherwise on the planet. Ever had a bottle of Pocari Sweat?

                        1. re: unagi1

                          most of asia is like that

                          when i lived in singapore, i remember people wearing t-shirts that had non-sensical random english words on them that alot of teenagers would wear....although that was sort of funnier b/c everyone in singapore under the age of 50 is fluent in english in singapore

                          1. re: Lau

                            But if that is what they're going for, why not name the restaurant Lights or Campfire or Lantern?!

                            Maybe it should be a reference to Bugs Bunny?

                        1. re: Ricky

                          I really like this place. I hope Pete Wells doesn't review. I want to keep it secret as long as possible. Kyo Ya , Ichimura, Brooklyn Fare, all get too popular. I even like the name "Bugs", bugs gather to the light, and she wants people to gather in her restaurant.
                          It is, as one review says, it is like eating in someone's kitchen. The sushi is somewhat "new style" sushi. Although, the scallop was like 15 East, and Jewel Bako , with Yuzu and rock salt.
                          The tasting menu started with delicious soup. Chef Sho called it Minestrone ( tomato, potato, tofu, maybe a touch of cream), then some miso and salted edamame. This was followed by a "triple tartare dish". Hamachi, salmon, tuna, it had some mayo mixed into it.
                          This was followed with pork belly over cold potato salad ( they said mashed potato). It was very tasty. Then a wonderful lotus root with ebi shinjo in a delicious thick
                          broth very similar to Kyo Ya's ,The sushi started with a tuna topped with pickled eggplant, followed by engawa topped with miso and scallion ( i think), then the scallop with yuzu and salt, then raw beef tenderloin with scallion, followed by marinated tuna and crispy garlic, followed by cooked amaebi topped with wasabi sauce, and the last sushi piece was sawara with a fantastic uni sauce underneath it. The articles say snapper but sawara is like a spanish mackerel. Then I had some oshinko. The quality of the fish was very good, very fresh. The shari or sushi rice was a bit too dry and no vinegar taste at all.
                          They do not have a liquor license and you can't bring your own alcohol in, at this time. They do not offer desserts either. Their hours are 5-9PM, and 5-11 PM on Saturday. Closed Sunday.
                          The chef, whom I've had the pleasure of tasting her sushi at Jewel Bako, has excellent cooking and sushi making skills. She remains calm throughout the meal.
                          The restaurant was empty when I arrived, but by the time i left all the seats were full. The atmosphere was very homey. Jazz was playing in the background. I think the counter seats 9 and 3 two-tops against the wall.
                          This is such a wonderful place to eat a relaxed home cooked japanese meal. Chef Sho made me a very happy camper. I will be back there often. It appears they have different specials, every night.

                        2. Odd a name, but based on the chefs history and good reviews this is a place I'd love to try out.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: alkonost

                            yah i actually want to try it too, but i think she's on crack for naming the restaurant that

                            1. re: Lau

                              Remember Greasy Boy in Midtown, years ago?

                              1. re: chervil9

                                Or Burger Heaven...neither good Burger or Heaven...

                                1. re: unagi1

                                  I never ate there, but used to pass it by all the time taking the bus home from school.

                                  1. re: alkonost

                                    They do make a mean grilled cheese...just sayin'

                            1. re: squid kun

                              Thanks for posting the nytimes link. I imagine even though there were some negative comments, Bugs will now be packed. Sometimes I think the Times follows me around, and kills my chances of easy walk-in dining and forces me to find new regular spots. Anyway, the criticism on the sushi , i think was a bit harsh. Bugs' fish is fresh and the combinations of fish and accompaniments are often quite good. She has made me sushi without the toppings also. Her sushi rice (shari) needs much improvement, however. When Sho was at Jewel Bako, I loved her sushi. I believe she makes sushi at Sho, because her regulars request it. She seems to enjoy more , making her other dishes, especially the great soups she comes up with.
                              I love the place, and hope it doesn't get so packed that I can't get in.

                            2. It's the worst trying to find a website for this place (bedbug reports in the East Village, anyone?). Got the $60 tasting menu about two months ago. I wanted to love this still relatively "secret" place, but overall, it was ok and I don't know if I'd bother coming back.

                              The raw fish dishes were good, especially a trio of fish tartars. But other dishes were just meh: some deep-fried chicken (if I recall correctly) that was surprisingly bland, cooked salmon with uni sauce that could have used a lot more uni flavor, a first course of edamame that wasn't too different from standard-issue edamame despite its plum salt.

                              It was Sho and one waitress-slash-assistant, who served and helped microwave some of the dishes (yes, a little off-putting but ok, sure). We all wanted to love this place, but walked out feeling it didn't match expectations, and a still hungry to boot. We ended up walking to Baohaus and trying out a bunch of bao after our multicourse Bugs meal.

                              For a real tasting menu well worth the money, try Feast - I'll be writing up a review soon.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: janethepain

                                Amazing that you were still hungry after eating at Bugs. I always find the tasting menu has too much food, perhaps because I add the sushi course. The food is not gourmet by any standards, just good home cooked food. Sorry you were disappointed

                              2. I went with my brother on Saturday, it was empty. We stuck to the cooked items.

                                Sauteed Shishito pepepr with spicy sauce. The sauce wasn't spicy but this is a good change from Edamame. I wish my local izakaya made this.

                                German Potato Salad & sunnyside fried egg w/ Japanese shallot dressing. Sliced potato with a "green salad" and bacon. I didn't find it interesting but my brother liked it.

                                Bay Scallop & Spinach salad w/ black sesame dressing. I really liked this with the black sesame flavor. My brother didn't like it :)

                                Spicy Pork Spare Rib. Good enough, I would order this again.

                                Japanese Risotto w/ torched uni, botan shrimp & scallop. The risotto had almost no flavor so this was a miss for both of us.

                                Garlice Rice w/ tender braised beef. The beef had a sweet flavor and the rice very good with some crunchy bits at the bottom.

                                We brought home half the garlic rice and most of the spare rib dishes.

                                I had a grapefruit paletas later on the High Line.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: marblebag

                                  Thanks for the review. I have not been to Bugs for a few months. On the positive, it seems she varies her menu greatly, trying new things. I guess there's some hits and misses. She did keep the potato salad on the menu. I like her potato salad.
                                  I'll have to go back and try the spare rib.