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Waikiki sushi--help me remember (or give me a better suggestion)

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Three years ago I was stuck at a hotel in Waikiki overnight and decided to go out for sushi. I wandered around the little triangle between Fort DeRussy, Kalakaua Ave., and the beach, and found a restaurant with an almost exclusively Japanese clientele. It had its own entrance, but the back of the restaurant opened into the lobby of a hotel that also had a Japanese customer base. The sushi was quite good, if somewhat expensive.

In a few weeks I have to be in Waikiki again for a conference that ends at 3:00 pm on a Thursday. I'm on the 10:00 redeye back to the mainland, and plan to use the overnight flight to rationalize an expensive meal (hey, we're saving the cost of a hotel room) before takeoff. Not enough time for a random amble through the streets; gotta figure out where dinner's going to happen.

Going back to the scene of previous indiscretions is one option, but for the life of me I can't figure out where I ate. Is it the place that is now Nobu Waikiki?

Of course, the other option is to find another spot. The chef's table at Alan Wong's looks interesting. And it doesn't have to be high end--maybe a few hours' dissipation at Side Street? Any input is welcome.

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  1. The best sushi on Oahu IMO is at Sasabune (1417 S. King St., a healthy walk or a short cab ride from Waikiki. 947-3800, closed Sunday). There you will pay approximately the cost of that hotel room for a "trust me" meal with alcohol, but it will be a sublime meal.

    1. The restaurant was Kacho, and yes it was replaced by Nobu. A few blocks from Sasabune is a hidden gem called Gaku (1329 S King St, 589-1329). The owner/chef Manabu-san is formerly of Imanas-tei (another highly regarded izakaya and sushi-bar near the University of Hawai'i). Go early, belly up to the sushi bar, and tell Manabu-san that you're in his hands. I believe they're closed on Mondays. Imanas-tei is just as good (located behind Puck's Alley, U.H. district). I second Joe's rec as well. These are the top 3 places for sushi in Honolulu. Side Street is great for local delicacies, but might be gastronomic overload, especially before boarding a redeye.

      6 Replies
      1. re: nonbei

        Kacho. That's it. The itamae didn't speak much English but was very personable; he was especially proud of some uni he'd just gotten in from California, and joked that if he'd known I was coming he would have had me bring it in my luggge. I'm sure Nobu does a great job as well, but I can get that in LA (or Vegas, or Miami, or New York), so it's time to break out the walking shoes.

        Gaku sounds interesting, and I like the notion of someplace that's a little off the beaten path. You say to go early, but that can mean different things in different cities--are you talking sixish? Earlier? Later? Thanks!

        1. re: alanbarnes

          I second Gaku as well and would also suggest considering Mitch's - it's very close to the airport and they have been known to drive guests to the airport on tight layovers! It definitely qualifies as off-the-beaten path. A review which still holds true as I was just there a week or so ago: http://hawaiidiner.com/reviews/review...

          1. re: Yoshio

            Yoshio, I was at Mitch's today for lunch, and thought it was quite good. I have to say we are spoiled in Hawaii as there are many places to get good sushi. At the same time I really can't call myself an expert on the subject. I was wondering what specifically you look for in terms of excellent sushi.

            I remember one time being in Hilo at a restaurant that no longer exists. The sushi must have been only out of the water long enough to be chilled. It was firm, yet virtually melted in my mouth. Left a clean ocean tasting aftertaste, with none of that mealy quality that (to me) seems like not quite fresh.

            I would really appreciate your insights.

          2. re: alanbarnes

            For Gaku, I'd say go between 6 and 6:30. Manabu-san is a great host and will keep you entertained throughout the night. His English is pretty good, as he's lived in Hawai'i for quite a while. If it's available, I recommend getting the Katsuo no Tataki (seared bonito tuna) as one of your starters. Good luck huffing it, it'll probably be a 45 minute to an hour trek (but very much worth it).

            1. re: alanbarnes

              Well, better late than never. I think you are mistaken. From the location you mention - separate entrance/hotel - it was Sushi Koh (in the Breakers Hotel) on Beach Walk. It DEFINITELY wasn't Nobu/Kacho, and unfortunately - http://www.yelp.com/biz/sushi-koh-hon... - is no longer open (2008). It used to be across the street from the location and in my mind was the best Sushi/Atmosphere on Oahu. Certainly it was reasonably priced: something you won't get at Nobu etc. (who calls that sushi anyway?) The owner went back to Japan. Pity.
              I think the recommendation of Sushi Izakaya Gaku is valid (although that's a $$$ hog also - plus ultra busy). Don't fall for all the hype of Sushi Sasabune, just down the street. My actual favorite (actually in Waikiki) - which I won't name :-) is a very small bar, set in a delicatessen/store at night, very limited seats, limited fish selection, one chef/one waitress, they give you salads, 'pupus', tastes (say, like full shisamo plate!) basically free, and big portions - i.e. good hamachi sashimi = 7-8 pieces - and I've never paid more than $20+ ALL IN, 2-3 orders (plus all the free stuff fills you anyway). It's BYOB. It's more toward zoo and not on Kalakaua. Good luck.

              1. re: mrdbond

                Thanks for the info. The place I went had an entrance on the street (or was it an alley?), and the back of the restaurant opened into a hotel lobby, which had an entrance onto a different street (or alley). Either way, It was moot by the time of the original post; both Kacho and Koh were gone.

                No plans to be on O'ahu in the next few months, but it sounds like your favorite place is my kind of place. Care to give a little more specific hint as to where it is? Just a street name... (okay, if it's on Kuhio, a block would be helpful too).

                I never understood why people would eat at Sasabune or Nobu (or Spago or Outback) in Hawai'i. I want to exhaust all the great local options before getting something that's available on the mainland.

          3. Tokkuri-Tei, 611 Kapahulu Ave, Ste 102, (808) 739-2800
            We were so happy to find this down-to-earth sushi place, Tokkuri-Tei on Kapahulu quite a few years ago. My wife is Japanese, so I trust her search and find methods. We have tried other more elaborately decorated sushi bars but when it comes to sushi, in the end result nothing really matters but the freshness and quality of the fish. In this department the owner, Kazuhiro Mitake, who personally makes his own selections every morning from the fish market, always comes back with the freshest assortment.
            http://restaurantdiningcritiques.com