Sushi is nowadays an integral part of New York City dining scene, whether from a cheap take-out to Michelin-starred omakase establishments charging diners by hundreds of dollars. The sushi style in the city is typically dominated by the Tokyo style “edomae” nigiri tradition, and it’s not often you see other regional influences from Japan. I recently learned that Kyoto, another major city in Japan that also has significant cultural influences, has its distinct style of making sushi, based primarily on cured fish. When a new sushi restaurant from the same behind Okonomi (which my wife Jun and I had enjoyed very much on our visit last year; see review here https://kenscale.com/2017/07/31/okonomi/) opened in Brooklyn, I was very intrigued and had the place on my radar. Knowing how great an experience we had at Okonomi, I was confident that the food at Okozushi would be just as delicious. How wrong I was, and we came away fairly disappointed.
When we stepped into Okozushi, Jun later noted to me after our meal, we should’ve been alarmed that the restaurant has take-out options available. Sure, some good sushi restaurants in the city have delivery and take-out options but in Jun’s view that is not typically a good sign of how seriously the kitchen cares about its ingredients. All the seafood dishes we’ve had at Okonomi were locally sourced and very high-quality, though. In fact, the sashimi dishes we ordered (both blackfish and fluke) that came with olive oil, yuzu jus and soy sauce displayed exceptional texture, and further raised my expectations. Unfortunately, everything went downhill from there in the sushi offerings. One of the biggest issues with the sushi pieces had to do with the disproportionate use of rice. I don’t know if is representative of Kyoto style, but Jun quite rightly complained that there was too much rice and not enough fish. If you look at the box pressed sushi pieces (hakozushi) using salmon, you will realize that you probably don’t need at least half of the sushi underneath the fish to enjoy it. For Jun, the bigger issue with hakozushi was the addition of all these esoteric toppings like blue cheese that distracted us from tasting the salmon’s texture instead of enhancing it. She noted how she couldn’t really taste any fish due to the strong impact these toppings on her palate.
For various ball-shaped temari pieces like Spanish mackerel, tile fish, grouper, striped bass and tuna, the plating was quite colorful, but again the satisfaction was greatly diminished with the size of rice ball underneath tiny fish. According to Jun, it is almost like the kitchen wanted to stuff us with rice without properly enjoying the texture of fish. Still, the fish from these sushi pieces showed decent levels of texture, so I wasn’t ready to give up on the place. Then the temaki (hand roll) pieces came out and Jun and I were ready to walk away after paying our bill. Not only was the seaweed wrap poor in quality, but the fillings inside were just forgettable, whether it is a veggie combination of daikon and cabbage (I frankly don’t remember eating a hand roll without fish in it) or a mushy salmon tartare with cucumber. Jun was genuinely upset that she was eating a hand roll this dull after making all the way out to Brooklyn on a chilly fall evening.
Okozushi doesn’t accept reservations so if you want to check out the place, it would be smart to show up early, but then again based on the all the misses, I can’t strongly recommend getting there when it opens at 5 p.m. I did like the cozy feel of the space that reminded me a lot of the tiny counter at Okonomi that made Jun and I feel invited to a special private dinner. There is no alcohol served at the restaurant yet and you can do BYOB. Jun and I went back and forth on what score Okozushi gets. I wanted to still give some credit to the restaurant for showcasing a style of sushi that is not widely known in NYC and doing so in a visually appealing way (as you will see in the photos, the color schemes of these pieces are stunning), and my fond memory at Okonomi still lingered. Jun, who tends to be a lot more rational (and objective) than I am when it comes to grading how a restaurant has performed, firmly told me I should give a KenScale score to Okozushi based solely on how delicious the food was without all the extraneous factors. We settled on 7.25 but in thinking about my experience at the restaurant, this could’ve been a lot lower. If this is truly the essence of Kyoto-style sushi, I’m happy to stick with edomae.
KenScale: 7.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 6.5/10
- Ingredients: 7.0/10
- Flavor: 7.5/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 376 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211