Meet Eiji Ichimura, Master Chef Who Works In David Bouley’s Secret Sushi Bar
When New York Times critic Pete Wells stumbled across Eiji Ichimura’s eight-seat sushi bar inside renowned chef David Bouley’s restaurant Brushstroke, it didn’t have a sign, or even a name. In fact, no one had publicized that the place opened in April. Ichimura, who once ran a “cultish” sushi bar in Midtown, had been recruited by Bouley to make the best Edo-style sushi that Wells ever came across, and Wells was determined to keep the restaurant his greedy little secret. Until:
When we moved on to nigiri, and had our first taste of the rice — warm, fragrant and assertive — we understood that this was some of the most remarkable sashimi and sushi either of us had ever tasted. We also understood that the emptiness of the room wasn’t just odd, it was plain wrong. And with that realization, away went my resolve to keep the secret sushi restaurant inside Brushstroke to myself.
Now that Wells gave the hidden sushi bar three stars, the restaurant (now known as Ichimura at Brushstroke) will probably not remain as low-profile as “a father skipping out on child support” (as per Bouley’s design), thanks to the breathlessness in which Wells describes the sushi and sashimi, as well as the history of Ichimura’s sushi training. As per tradition, he was not allowed to cut fish for the first few years of his apprenticeship:
“Nobody actually tells you how to press sushi,” Mr. Graves translated, “so he would do it at night based on watching the chefs do it during the day.” Mr. Ichimura kept a wad of paper in his pocket and when nobody was looking he would copy the motions he had seen: index finger laid over the paper, elbows flexed, he would extend his arms slightly to project a quick, even, gentle pressure. Eventually, still in secrecy, he began to practice after hours with actual fish instead of paper.