Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us into the world of $1 sushi.
Not to get all nostalgic, but it feels like sushi used to be a more frequent eating-out option in my life. Like there were plenty of reasonably-priced Japanese restaurants around town where you could get a full meal with lots of different kinds of fish plus a couple of those jumbo Sapporo Drafts and it was nothing too indulgent. Was the fish any good? It sure seemed that way at the time. True, this was in the 1980s, long before omakase bros took over the scene, but still, I often crave but rarely eat sushi anymore because dinner at even the most accessible places these days is like $95 and you leave hungry.
Sush1, which opened about a month ago on Chelsea's western edge, hopes to change that. Or, at least, hopes to bring decent-quality sushi into a fast-casual setting so everyone can afford to eat the stuff again. The name, pronounced Sush-One, emphasizes its somewhat stunning value proposition: all pieces of nigiri, rolls, or sashimi here are just $1 each. You order at the counter and your meal is quickly assembled (the fish is pre-cut but the nigiri is not pre-made, so there's none of that cold-rice unpleasantness) and packed into a cleverly-designed box.
The interior of Sush1 is dominated by a cute, wall-sized sticker of NYC scenes played out by anthropomorphized pieces of sushi. Business has been slow so far, according to a couple of workers--there was only one other customer during my two visits over the weekend—and the fact that there's no outdoor seating doesn't help. Union Square Park isn't that far away though, and there are plenty of good stoops in front of temporarily-vacated townhouses on 16th Street upon which you can squat.
There are five types of fish on the menu, Tuna, Yellowtail, (imitation) Crab, Salmon, and Shrimp, and these can be ordered in a variety of formats: nigiri sushi, sashimi, handrolls, and composed cut rolls like Spicy Tuna, Salmon Avocado, and Philadelphia, which features smoked salmon and cream cheese. In all cases the fish was laid on with a generous hand—the handrolls, which cost $4, felt particularly hefty—and it all tasted clean and distinct, with no dryness or any other outward indication of having dwelt overly long in the refrigerated case.
There are a couple of non-fish options as well, including an oversized Vegetable Tempura roll for $6 that was crisp and flavorful. In addition to your little tub of pickled ginger and wasabi paste you'll also get a crock of Sush1's spicy barbecue-ish sauce, which I couldn't really figure out what to do with but it definitely brings some zing to wherever it's applied. Maybe it works best with the chicken teriyaki fried rice bowl?
Sush1 was founded in Sao Paulo in 2017, and there are now four of them in Brazil, This is the first outlet in America, and although the pandemic has likely put further expansion on hold for now, you can see the concept working in residential and/or office-lunch areas around the city. In the meantime, I'll be back here the next time a craving hits.
I only eat sushi a few times a year, never anywhere too fancy or expensive (Sugarfish was a splurge earlier this summer, for example), and both of my meals at Sush1 really hit the spot, maybe especially since I devoured them while sitting on a stoop. Keep your expectations on par with the price, and the place is a solid local takeout option.
Sush1 is located at 555 Sixth Avenue, between 15th and 16th Streets, and is currently open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (917-965-2201; sush1nyc.com)