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1 Or 8

Perfect For: Vegetarians

1 Or 8 is a crazy looking, modern Japanese restaurant which recently opened in Williamsburg. Chances are, you've likely never seen or heard of it before because it's in the middle of nowhere. Design-wise, think hipsters in Antarctica (that's kind of an awesome band name). Although it doesn't seem to have hit the mainstream radar, we'd heard from multiple Infatuation informants that it was dope, so, naturally, we went and scoped it out for the good of the people.

We trudged out to Billyburg in the middle of a blizzard, witnessing an impressive sidewalk wipe-out or two on the way (always entertaining). You shouldn't waste your time doing the same. It's a shame too, because we wanted to like 1 Or 8. The space is cozy, with comfortable booths, friendly staff and an affordable $32, four course tasting menu Mon-Weds. Unfortunately, we have higher standards in the service and food departments. We expect our waiters to have answers and our pork entrees to be soft and tender, not thick and rubbery. You'll read more about that pork entree below, but that was the beginning of the end for 1 Or 8. Additionally, our waiter had zero knowledge of the menu; with every simple question we proposed he scampered into the kitchen to consult the chef. Amateur hour. Not to harp on the poor guy, but he was tragically awkward and clearly ill-prepared to battle the elements in Antarctica. We would have happily looked past this if the food was great. It wasn't and therefore we're annoyed. The sushi and roll combinations we tried were fine, but not next level like we were hoping for. For the locals, 1 Or 8 is surely a nice addition to a rather sushi-less area. However, for those of us who have to travel, 1 Or 8 is completely out of the question. You can do way better at the same price point in Manhattan.

Food Rundown:

Pumpkin Soup
Not bad. Probably should have gone miso soup though, it's kind of weird to start off a Japanese meal with pumpkin soup. It was snowing out, so, this soup of the day kind of seemed like the right move at the time.

Hamachi Ceviche
The ceviches on the whole were interesting, but they were closer to raw fish salads than standard crevices. They're served in small salad bowls and contain more ingredients than usual, in this case daikon radish, celery and woodear mushroom in a chive sauce, all of which overshadows the fish.

Octopus Ceviche
Another OK ceviche, this one with grapes, Japanese yam in a tosa vinegar gelée. It can easily be skipped without feeling bad. We made the mistake of going ceviche over tartare, which was probably the wrong move.

Pork Belly Two Ways
This is where the meal went from OK to bad. It was being pushed as a house favorite too, which is pretty mind blowing as this is easily the worst pork meal I've had in recent memory. One half was served "a la plancha," which apparently means thick and rubbery like car tire. It was gross. All fat, thick fat, and no tenderness. The other half was a fried cutlet - you ever had a fried pork cutlet before? Me either. There's a reason why pork isn't best served fried, because it's dry and generally not good. Add in sauerkraut and a confusing spicy green apple sauce and you've got the recipe for absolute disaster. Avoid at all costs.

Miso Black Cod
A true test for any Japanese restaurant, the great ones destroy this dish and the rest just do it. This is a good example of the latter.

Specialty Rolls

Both the Double Salmon (salmon skin, cucumber, shiso, topped with salmon and a wasabi cream sauce) and Yellow Mango (yellowtail, mango, jalapeno with cilantro sauce) rolls are solid. A little on the small side, but tasty.

Again, the fish wasn't bad. It just wasn't amazing. There is a nice list of options, but you can getter better fish at the same price in Manhattan at places like Kanoyama in the East Village.

Vegetarian Sushi
A pretty impressive platter of vegetarian sushi, plus a roll. Our vegetarian friend was very happy with it.

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