First Look at Bugs, a Homespun Japanese Joint Opening Today

bugsVanessa Yurkevich Sho Boo at Bugs.
bugs 2Vanessa Yurkevich

Sho Boo grew up in Osaka, Japan, a daughter of Korean immigrants. When she was young her mother opened a small ramen shop in their hometown and that’s when she took an interest in cooking. “I would help her out at the shop,” she said, “and I learned from her. “

In Japan, sushi chefs were rarely women. So when Ms. Boo came to the United States 11 years ago she was surprised to find opportunity: for 10 years she worked as a sushi chef, training at Sushi Yasuda in Midtown and Jewel Bako in the East Village. Today she’ll return to her love of cooking, as she opens a shop of her own called Bugs on East 12th Street.

“Bugs tend to gather, especially around a bright light and this restaurant is the bright light that everyone would gather around,” said Ms. Boo.

bugs 3Vanessa Yurkevich

Ms. Boo has designed the restaurant to resemble her small bar, also named Bugs, in Osaka. She made the bar countertop using broken glass and also gave the tabletops Japanese elements. “Everything in this place I did on my own,” she said. “The way my food is homemade.”

And homemade is no overstatement. Ms. Boo, who lives in Astoria, will be the only one in the kitchen, which opens at 2 p.m. for lunch and dinner and consists of just two small hot plates and a microwave. “It’s my restaurant but it’s like my kitchen, my home. I am the owner, but I am also the chef, and your friend,” she said.

She’ll serve tapas-style portions of Japanese pancakes, pork fillet, and a local snapper with sea urchin, plus the occasional sushi special. “People in this area love sushi,” she said. Beer, wine, and sake offerings are still to be determined. (The restaurant is opening on the block between Avenues A and B where a would-be Swiss restaurant was forced to go dry, and had a tough time at a community board meeting in June. It will close at 9 p.m. on weekdays – just as it told the board it would – and at 11 p.m. on weekends.)

Ms. Boo isn’t going it entirely alone. She opened the restaurant with money that her brother left her when he died five years ago. “He left me money so I could fulfill my dream,” she said, later adding, “My brother is watching over me, and he has helped me come this far.”

Bugs Menu

Bugs, 504 East 12th Street (between Avenues A and B), (646) 918-7981