There’s a reason New York City is known as the “great melting pot.” Cultures combine effortlessly, especially in restaurants. The same way a grizzled “Occupy” activist might sip a beer next to a staid accountant at an Irish pub, diverse flavors coexist happily in this mixed-up city.
In the East Village, the 15-seat eatery, Bugs, easily, if eccentrically, embodies this confluence of tastes. Mediterranean, European and Latin elements, for example, are successfully fused in the sashimi: Tuna comes dressed with black olive tapanade; salmon takes on basil, cucumber and tomato; and jalapeno and seaweed enhance yellowtail — all global flavors in cleanly composed bites.
Chef/owner Sho Boo, an Osaka native, is a trained sushi chef, having sliced at local landmarks Sushi Yasuda and Jewel Bako. To get a taste of her sushi and sashimi mastery, you’ll have to order the omakase tasting menus ($45 or $60). A la carte dishes, such as black sesame potato salad ($6) or pork belly simmered in a soy/sake sauce and served over mashed potatoes ($11) are equally engaging.
Opened last summer, Bugs is an accurate reflection of the neighborhood vibe. Boo is the architect of the space, complete with chaotically tiled bar, which looks as if it could have been fashioned by local artist Jim Power (aka “Mosaic Man”). She also designed the eclectic menu, which breaks almost every convention — much like the artists, beat poets and punk rockers that lent the neighborhood its offbeat rep.
In case you were wondering why in the world anybody would name a restaurant “Bugs,” Boo explains herself on the restaurant’s business card: “Bugs around the beam flock together. Just like bugs get together, I wanted to have a place for people to get together.” A sweet, yet quirky, nod to the melting pot that is her new home.
504 E. 12th St.