Rule of Thirds, a Japanese restaurant that opened in a Greenpoint warehouse last week, is not an easy place to pigeonhole. Design-wise, it's a stunner, an expansive, elegant space that nicely combines the warmth of light wood and cozy nooks within a cool-kid industrial framework. It's peaceful and relaxed in here, with high-end service to go with high-end prices, but there's also a definite sense of fun, even a certain rowdiness, to the proceedings, especially at the three-sided bar, where the embrace of izakaya culture is most pronounced.
The place is run by chef JT Vuong and George Padilla—who met while working at the great Okonomi—now in partnership with Sunday Hospitality, a fledgling restaurant group that manages the nearby Sunday In Brooklyn. The entrance is a little tricky to find, located within the A/D/O complex on Banker Street, behind a horizontally-slatted wooden gate, then though a courtyard that acts as a sculpture garden, but there are signs and markers to guide you along your journey.
I'm going to let Padilla explain the name. "Our restaurant, Rule of Thirds, is named after the guiding theory that the most compelling visual compositions are achieved through asymmetrical balance. What happens at the intersections of the grid is really interesting." And no matter what you think of that, know that the food coming out of this specific intersection of the grid is superb.
At a press meal last Sunday night my companions and I feasted on almost the entire menu, and everything was exceptional. I'll definitely be getting the Dashimaki Tomago again, a lovely, not-sweet omelet topped with briny trout roe and a sprinkling of sharp pecorino, as well as the pressed, Kyoto-style sushi known as Oshizushi which, in addition to housing a delicious thick layer of fluke, is pretty enough to act as a centerpiece.
The grilled snacks, or Binchotan, were terrific as well, led by the Yaki Onigiri, an absurdly rich rice ball thanks to plentiful chicken fat. Order any of the skewers in this section with confidence: the one with soft Chicken Thighs, the one with Smoked Mussels, and the Chicken Meatball one, slick with Worcestershire yolk jam, are all among the best I've had anywhere.
A gimmicky-sounding Tofu Hot Pocket stuffed with chewy rice, gooey camembert, and fiery Fresno butter, is actually a great take on that classic stoner snack. The Karaage is first rate, the Tuna and Nori is generously portioned and served in roll-your-own fashion (the seaweed, delivered warm and crackling, really makes this dish), and the sides of assorted Pickles and Curry Potato Salad are both worthy accompaniments to whatever else you're having.
Four big "for two or more" dishes are offered as well, including a vegetarian Butterbean Kasujira, made in traditional fashion with sake lees, a Roasted Fish, and a spectacular-looking Buddhist Duck, served in three courses and costing $150. My more modest party opted for the Blade Steak Tonkatsu, a slab of tender pork shoulder covered in panko crumbs and sliced into easy-to-dip pieces. This was very good, and also a lot of food to hit the table after eating all those small plates.
Dessert is limited, but both choices are worth saving room for, especially the luxuriously creamy soft serve (on this night, a Japanese Sweet Potato and White Chocolate Sake Kasu swirl), but the fluffy Japanese Cheese Cake, made in a rice cooker somehow, offers a satisfying finish to things as well.
Rule of Thirds is located at 171 Banker Street, just north of Norman Avenue, and is now open on Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday for now. Lunch coming soon (thirdsbk.com)