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Okozushi is a place you want to love. The service is warm and friendly. The price point is modest (omakase menus clock in at $25, $35 or $45 per person). There’s really only one shortcoming: the food.
The new Kyoto-style sushi joint comes to Williamsburg via the team behind Okonomi // Yuji Ramen. Like its sister restaurant, Okozushi is walk-in only, spurring long wait times due to the mere nine seats in the all-wood shoebox. When we arrived, the friendly server informed us that we would have to wait 45 minutes, which we spent pregaming with a snack at next-door Concord Hill (the highlight of the evening).
When we were seated, we saw that the spot is a well-oiled machine, with plates flying from the sushi counter. (We spent more time waiting for our table than we spent eating.) The first course of the most-intensive $45 omakase was a sashimi of clam with grapes, ginger, mint and soy. The delicate flavors blended well with the briny bivalves, but we spent too much time chewing on the thick slices to notice.
Almost immediately after our plates were cleared, the main attraction arrived, consisting of six pieces of hakozushi (box-shaped sushi made in a mold) and two pieces of temari (ball-shaped sushi). The plating itself was a work of art, with a geometric arrangement of the rectangular and round pieces broken up by pops of color from the toppings, including blue cheese and wasabi, dill and olive, and pickled rhubarb. It’s said that you eat with your eyes first, but unfortunately, I had to eat with my mouth. Have you ever had blue cheese on sushi? Me neither, before this meal, and there’s a good reason why.
Each piece of hakozushi was topped with Atlantic-caught bluefish, a naturally oily variety with a more pronounced flavor, similar to mackerel. And though the choice to use local sustainable fish is eco-friendly and a clear factor in the affordable price point, it almost seemed as if the chef was trying to mask the penetrating flavor by covering it with something stronger.
Following two perfectly adequate hand rolls, we strolled home feeling slightly hungry and extremely regretful, as if on a culinary walk of shame. If anything, this meal proves one thing: You get what you pay for.