Manhattan has no shortage of awesome sushi places, but it’s often hard to imagine Brooklyn having a very good one. As much as I relish the culinary ingenuity of many restaurants in Brooklyn, those places tend to be more like farm-to-table New American seasonal dining establishments than a serious sushi counter. Once I entered 1 or 8 on a quiet street of Williamsburg, away from the crowd probably imbibing daytime drinks at the Wythe Hotel’s rooftop bar, the space felt more like a classic pan-Asian trap where you go out more for the night-out experience than dining. Well, I’m pretty sure that chef Kazuo Yoshida, in his white golf cap sitting behind the sushi counter, would beg to differ because the sushi offerings coming from his masterful craftsmanship are no jokes.
My dining companion and I went for omakase options at $90 per person (there are also other options at $60 or $120+ per person). The meal started with a bang. The assortment of sashimi, consisting of yellowtail, blue fin tuna, octopus, salmon, saba mackerel and red snapper, was all very fresh and delightful. The texture of each piece already signaled that I would have an awesome experience. Then came striped jack and tuna that were magnificent in its own way. What I can see from chef Yoshida is pride and confidence that oozes throughout his deft preparation of each piece.
Tasmanian king salmon is often one of the pieces that doesn’t shine compared to others at a sushi joint, but the one at 1 or 8 was quite delicious, and the signature piece of horse mackerel worked beautifully with shiso and scallions on top. Other stand-out pieces include o-toro and the memorable combination of Santa Barbara sea urchin and salmon roe. Sometimes, I felt the flavor or texture was slightly off. There was nothing wrong with blue fin tuna that we ordered after the regular course was finished in terms of its freshness, but I was left wondering whether it could’ve been better with more moderate seasoning, while flounder with plum on top was simply too citrusy.
Scallops and jumbo shrimp with miso had funky texture that I had not expected, and the tamago felt more like an afterthought than a standout piece on its own. Still, there is no question that chef Yoshida’s dedication to the craft is quite evident with the way he carefully selects the freshest ingredient of the day and showcases his skills. We’ve also had a chance to do some small talks with him as well; it turns out he came to NYC from Japan more than 24 years ago and he’s been honing his craft ever since. From our conversation, I could see that this man with somewhat stern looking face is actually a genuinely nice person who is not afraid to talk about his culinary vision and experience that have shaped who he is up to this point.
I had no problem getting a reservation (sushi counter is only available on the phone) about a week in advance, and the early dinner time (we showed up at 6 p.m.) was pretty empty although the counter started to fill pretty quickly after 7 p.m. There is full bar from the restaurant and you would do well to complement your omakase with a bottle of sake. As noted, the décor and vibe of 1 or 8 seemed a little too trendy to take seriously, but that didn’t affect my dining experience at the counter. I would definitely love to see Brooklyn have more legitimate sushi counters; chef Yoshida’s counter at 1 or 8 can definitely stand on its own against the heavyweights of Manhattan.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 66 South 2nd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Telephone: (718) 384-2152