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Mar 8, 2010 03:19 PM

Sushi Sasabune: Won't Go Again

We adore sushi and went to Sushi Sasabune for the first time with high hopes and in good humor. We were hungry and out to have terrific sushi. We sat down and ordered beers and began to look at the wine menu. The beers were delivered quickly and the waiter asked to take our food order. We said we'd like to decide on sake first. Within the first few minutes, we were asked 4 times by 4 different waiters what we'd like to order for food.

We decided on a $120 bottle of junmai dai jinjo. We beckoned a waiter and asked if the omakase menu had anything on it that would clash with the great sake. He said "no", so that is what we ordered. The sake arrived and tasted wonderful, subtle and smooth. Then the first plate arrived. It was two thick, smelly slabs of ahi. The waiter proceeded to pour over them about 1/3 of a cup of citrusy sauce. Talk about clashing with the sake!

The next dish was a bit better in that the fish didn't smell fishy, but the slicing job on the fish was poor. It was again a slab, but with one end much thinner than the other. Before I had even put the second of the two into my mouth, the plate was whisked away and another plate of sushi was put before me.

We asked for the pace to be slowed down. Not to be! I was still eating the sushi on the third plate when the fourth plate arrived. Again, we asked to have the pace slowed. We had been in the restaurant only 20 minutes at this point.

I ate one of the two pieces of sushi on the fourth plate (ahi again) and was a bit shocked. The rice was extremely vinegary. However, the fish itself was excellent—totally different from the first serving of ahi. So, I at the ahi off of the top of the second piece and left the crumbling mess of vinegary sushi rice on the plate. The waiter came immediately over and said in a rude tone, "Shall we serve you less rice for the remainder of the meal? The chef doesn't like to waste rice." I told him the problem. No apologies were offered, but the problem didn't recur.

For the rest of the meal, we continued to receive the food too fast. At one point, four plates for each of us had lined up on the tiny table. The pressure was very unpleasant. More importantly, most of the fish didn't taste fresh (other than the ahi mentioned directly above) and it was poorly carved. Nothing was exceptional; almost everything was mediocre.

We won't go back to Sushi Sasabune and don't recommend it.

Sushi Sasabune
1419 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96814

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  1. It's a shame to hear, was this on a Fri/Sat night? Doesn't change what happened, but it would explain the rush which is unacceptable. If the chef doesn't like to waste rice, he should have learned to make it right. Just the fact that you noticed is proof it's not right - the most common mistake is rushing the preparation of the vinegar.

    On yelp you'll see that while most people had a better experience with food, the "sushi nazi" experience is par the course there. Well, I guess that's fine as long as people have an informed choice ahead of time.

    That said, several people have noticed the head chef uses pre-cut fish to save time, which would definitely explain your first tuna dish not being fresh. Not cool, and this is the number one difference between real sushi and supermarket sushi because it will not be fresh once sliced and exposed to air ahead of time. It's also a sure sign the chef was trained in the states and not Japan. The head chef used to apprentice at Nozawa's in LA, the original "sushi nazi", which explains the attitude but not the food.

    BTW they have an alternative omakase for Japanese. That's always weird for me considering I have no trouble getting the "Japanese menu" from a sushi bar in Japan!

    4 Replies
    1. re: royaljester

      Had to look it up. It was a Wednesday night. Anyway, thanks for the info about the chef. Guess I'll avoid Nozawa's too!

      1. re: ponocat

        Just out of curiosity, who was "we" and how were you (pl.) dressed?

        1. re: Joebob

          My husband and I. If you are hinting that somehow our attire gave the restaurant license to treat us poorly, it simply isn't so. We wore smart-casual, the way we always dress when we go out for dinner here in Hawaii. And we're not raucous youths. He is in his 70s and I in my 60s.

          1. re: ponocat

            I was just trying to figure out what may have set the Nazi off. I believe the reason that we were treated well was because my wife is confined to a wheelchair (we both are 68).

    2. What a different experience you had from that of my husband and I. It was late on Valentine's night, which was a Monday this year. We arrived at 9:30 for our reservation at the bar. Personally, I believe if you are going to order omakase, then you should be sitting at the bar if at all possible. As the food arrived, everything was delicious and well timed. When we finished with one plate it would be almost instantly whisked away. There would be a few minutes break for my husband and I to talk about the flavors and then the chef would give us our next plate along with information on where the fish was caught and his polite recommendations for soy/no soy sauce.

      When we went here, we had previously read the "sushi nazi" comments and expected a lot more attitude but none was to be seen. The head chef didn't talk much but he was always slicing fish and forming rice. At the end of the night, as they were closing, he sliced up the remainder of the fish and gave it to the dish washer (and young teen) to take home and practice with, then winked at us and made the motions of gobbling up all the fish.

      We love Mitch's as well and have been there often. The fish is always delicious and fresh. For us, the main difference was just that at Mitch's they serve just the fish where as at Sasabune's they add other elements to the fish that create new flavor combination. For example both serve the New Zealand salmon but Sasabune added a thin layer of sweet kelp and toasted sesame seeds which created a whole new flavor. Both are delicious, just different.

      2 Replies
      1. re: AmandaCA

        Thanks for the post, which equates more with our experience than the OP. Room needs to be made in life for the idiosyncratic.

        1. re: Joebob

          joebob: We've had our differences on another thread, but I agree with you on this one.

          Sasebune served me the best sushi I've ever had. My friends who have "ins" with the quiet places in Japan say Sasebune is the best sushi gaijin can find.