Eating in a hotel room isn’t a new thing. Anyone who has been on a business trip has probably experienced the joy of room service: Eating steak and red wine in bed while wrapped in a bathrobe, watching TV. (Or wait, is that just me?) But actually getting up to go out to eat at a restaurant that’s in a hotel room you’re not staying in, is a whole other thing.
Opened in December 2018, Sushi by Bou at Hotel 3232 is the latest offshoot of Sushi by Bou, the Japanese omakase restaurant that got its start in NYC’s Ganesvoort Market, known for its quick and inexpensive sushi service. For those unfamiliar with the term, omakase literally means, “Respectfully leaving another to decide what’s best.” It’s a tasting menu where all the decisions are left to the chef, who showcases not only the fish but his or her talents in preparing plates that are delicious and beautiful.
I arrived at the front desk of Midtown’s Hotel 3232 with a friend, stating “Sushi by Bou” as my reservation/check in name. Like any other hotel guest, we were handed a key card and given directions to the room. In the short time it took to ride the elevator and step into the corridor of the 10th floor, my imagination soared with every weird hotel story I could think of: Would the twins from "The Shining" invite me to play? Isn’t going into a strange hotel room exactly the sort of thing you’re not supposed to do? Did we tell anyone else where we were going tonight?
I waved the key card in front of the sensor and my friend and I took a deep breaths and opened the door. All of our worries vanished when we were greeted by a kind hostess. She welcomed us into a cozy space, which was set up like a small lounge. Dim, minimalist, and modern with some Asian-inspired touches, the space was a true NYC hotel room (read: TINY) retro-fitted into a miniature restaurant. A small seating area with a loveseat, two chairs, and a low table were the focal point. This furniture was a few feet from a 4-seat sushi bar that was off to the side of the room (no beds or Dexter-like drop cloths in sight!) I thought there might be more space around a corner, but I realized it was just a door to the bathroom -- no different than any other hotel washroom, except the shower was covered up. The prep mostly happened in the modest space behind the bar where watching the sushi chef do his thing was part of the experience.
In a reversal of the usual restaurant flow, we had drinks in by the table while we waited to eat at the bar (seating happens every hour from 5-10pm). If you’re feeling claustrophobic (though there’s really no need, this is one small space where the NYC real estate term “cozy” speaks the truth), there’s a 25 seat outdoor terrace as well. The pace was peaceful, and I have to say it was nice to be at a place where a conversation could happen without outside competition from chatter and blaring music. We even started to converse with the other pair of dining companions that would round out our 8pm seating.
Chef Kinzang Wangchuk went on to wow us with the 17 course menu of fresh sushi, an enthralling lineup of different fish and preparations, all a joy to the eyes, fingers (you eat with your hands), and palate. My favorite might just have been the bowl of salmon roe served with a tiny golden guitar-shaped spoon. A gorgeous presentation that made me feel like Mick Jagger relishing some rock 'n' roll decadence.
The intimate setting allowed us to chat with the chef and the other diners until it felt like the five of us were at our own little party, old friends kicking back. It also lent itself to a perfect date spot with the mysterious ambiance, dim lighting, and sensual foods. (Though maybe not a first date, with all the initial "where the heck are we going?" anxiety that set in at the beginning!) At $125 per person (including tax and gratuity, drinks are additional), it’s one of the less expensive omakases in the city, with a much more intimate vibe.
The whole sushi-bar-in-a-hotel-room was so enjoyable, I didn’t even miss the complimentary bathrobe and slippers!
Sushi by Bou has another hotel room location, Gianni’s Suite at The Villa Casa Casuarina (the former Versace Mansion) in Miami. There's also an express 8-seat, 30-minute omakase restaurant in the lobby of Hotel 3232 and a location in the basement of the Times Square's Sanctuary Hotel. For more information, visit www.sushibybou.com.