A secret garden in Brooklyn is actually a sushi restaurant. Confused? Step through the doors of Bushniwa, a nearly year-old Japanese brasserie on the edge of Bushwick, and all will begin to make sense.
The restaurant’s façade, discreet and unpretentious, belies a cavernous interior, redolent of wood and earth. Long communal tables made of tree trunks, which the owners had imported from the Philippines, sit beneath exposed brick. It already feels like the setting for a Japanese folktale. The name’s origin truly reveals itself, when one wanders past the sushi bar and tables and down a narrow, plant-hung corridor, into the restaurant’s secret back room, a cozy haven bedecked with greenery and illuminated by an oversized skylight.
Bushniwa’s owners wanted to represent the original meaning of Bushwick – little town in the woods, from the original Dutch “Boswijck” – in the restaurant’s name, and decided to combine it with “niwa,” garden in Japanese. “I wanted to make this almost like a secret path in the forest,” co-owner Robert said. And he did, somehow, forging a sylvan refuge from the bones of a bar. He ditched the bar’s sordid reputation, but kept the beautiful wood flooring.
Sushi is a fixture of the New York dining landscape, but few sushi bars serve fish flown in whole from Tokyo’s legendary Tsukiji market and broken down by hand. This is the contribution of Chef Kuni, who moved to Tokyo for education, but stayed for the sushi. His school was located conveniently close to Tsukiji, where a mere taste of the fish, some of the freshest in the world, was enough to propel him down a new career path. He worked in the market for over six years, cutting and selling fish for some of the most discerning sushi chefs in Tokyo. Chef Kuni went on to work at acclaimed New York sushi restaurant Hatsuhana, and was the executive chef at two New York restaurants, Lan and Kai.
Though butchering a whole fish is costly and time-consuming, it was something Chef Kuni insisted upon. Most restaurants purchase pre-cut filets that are further broken down for sushi and sashimi, but that’s not what Chef Kuni is about. The restaurant even hosted a whole tuna cutting show for its grand opening last August, and will host another one on August 18 in honor of its one-year anniversary. Chef Kuni will clean, slice, and treat an entire 300-pound Bluefin, followed by unlimited food and drinks. Specialties like tuna tartare and toro takuan will be served, accompanied by excellent sake. Tickets cost $70 and are available for purchase on eventbrite.
Favorites at Bushniwa include their lunchtime-only chirashi bowl and sashimi donburi, both of which offer the delights of raw fish over a mountain of addictively sticky, tart sushi rice. Other Japanese specialties abound, like miso-glazed black cod, grilled fresh caught eel, and chawanmushi, a savory steamed egg custard. Uni imported from Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is a rare delight, but diners can procure it here. As for the drink menu, sakes from all over Japan are available to imbibe, along with shochu and a selection of wine and beer.
You don’t have to travel to Manhattan for great sushi anymore – you don’t even have to leave Bushwick. Check out Bushniwa’s website for menu and hours, and to book the back room for private events. Follow them, as well, on Instagram.
Purchase tickets to the tuna cutting show here.
A sushi bar with fresh fish butchered in house with a secret garden.
250 Varet St, Brooklyn, NY 11206 (Morgan Ave on the L train)
Mon-Thu: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm, Fri-Sat: 11:00 am – 12:00 am, Sun: 1:00 pm – 11 pm
Follow Bushniwa on Instagram.
All images courtesy of José Alvarado for Bushwick Daily, unless otherwise stated.
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