We’re getting tired of sushi costumes. You know the ones - unidentifiable crunchy bits, truffle uni painted with edible gold, and hills of roe that shimmer like sequins on a prom dress. Accessories like these are the sushi equivalent of sparkly eyeliner, statement hats, or, in worse cases, vanity license plates.
Douska doesn’t bother with costumes. Instead, this casual spot on the LES specializes in to-the-point handrolls where you’ll pretty much only taste fish, rice, and nori. If you’re used to some of the more theatrical sushi around NYC, these handrolls might appear to be wearing their birthday suits. But that won’t matter once you experience the way the fresh yellowtail, a few rogue scallions, and warm vinegary rice come together in a little hug of crispy nori without any sauteed tomato or fried taro.
If you’re in a snacking mood or you have your heart set on eating mackerel or monkfish liver, focus on Douska’s a la carte handroll options. Otherwise, try one of their handroll sets, most of which are under $50 and include anywhere from three to six handrolls. Not only is this a better value than going the la carte route, but you’ll still be able to try our favorites - the snapper and buttery negi toro.
Douska’s simplicity extends beyond its minimalist handrolls. There’s no stress about securing one of the 12 seats, no rush to cram salmon down your throat like an impatient seal, and not much by way of decor (apart from a mixed media portrait of Anthony Bourdain and a few skateboard decks mounted on the wall behind the chefs). Eating at Douska is laidback, especially when compared to Nami Nori in the West Village, where you may have to wait the length of The Irishman to eat five handrolls in 20 minutes, or Kazunori in Nomad, where you’ll feel like a sardine with high blood pressure.
Eating at Douska is not unlike finding a perfect outfit at TJ Maxx during New York Fashion Week. There’s a specific, small joy in opting for the stripped-down version of something typically extravagant. That said, Douska is not where you go for the best handrolls in the city (try Domodomo for those). And, if you really want raw fish that’s going to change your life, seek out a high-end omakase experience that specializes in sushi accessories. When you get tired of all the costumes, you can always come back to Douska.
Similar to Mario Kart or illegal sports betting, it’s up to you to choose your player. We like the “Douzo” set, which comes with six handrolls (like blue crab, snapper, negi toro, or delicately fried shrimp tempura). Douska doesn’t skimp on rice, so six handrolls will leave you in the sweet spot between full and over-full.
The DIY version of a handroll set. A chef will not hand you each roll. Instead, all of the fixings for about ten handrolls come on a plate, and you make them yourself. It’s fun, different, and doubles as an activity - but we missed the feeling of being gifted a handroll across a sushi counter.
This is a useful starter if you’re with another person and decide you want to share something (because you were raised that way). Between the jalapeno, radish confetti, and slightly sweet marinade, the yellowtail crudo has more going on than anything else you’ll eat here - and yet it’s still subtle and light.