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Is opakapaka or ono ever supposed to be served rare?

I just returned from Maui about a week ago and one of my meals was at Merrimans in Kapalua. I actually mentioned that in another thread but forgot about this.

Anyway, opakapaka is one of my favorite kinds of fish. My other favorite is ono. Merrimans had both on the menu and I was having a hard time choosing, but then I was told that they could do a "duo" and combine any two items on the menu, so I went with the opakapaka and ono. My dad got the exact same thing.

We got our food and I was going along happily enjoying my meal and then my dad started complaining that his opakapaka was "raw" in the middle. He's not a very adventurous eater and doesn't do raw or rare fish at all so he was pretty unhappy. I looked at my fish and noticed that it was rare in the middle as well. The ono appeared to be cooked perfectly.

I had no plans on making a stink about it because it tasted good and I don't have any problems with raw fish...especially Hawaiian fish, but my dad didn't like it and called the waiter over and pointed out his raw opakapaka. The waiter then informed him that the chef typically prepares his opakapaka rare to medium rare and seemed somewhat taken aback by my dad's complaint.

Now, I took him at his word, but I've probably eaten opakapaka a dozen times over the years and have never had it served rare. And even if the chef does like to serve it rare, I was very shocked that the waiter didn't point that out. I've ordered ahi numerous times and the server always makes a point of saying "it's prepared rare" Our waiter didn't say anything about the opakapaka coming rare and I figured that would have been something that should have been pointed out especially since I've never seen it rare before so this would have been a first.

Also, I've had ono dozens of times as well and it has always come fully cooked, but I went to Roy's in Orlando a couple months ago and ordered ono and the server informed me that it would come rare. Again, I'd never seen rare ono before and was intrigued and since the waitress told me about it before hand I wasn't put off when I got my meal. It had a different flavor to it and was quite good, but I still prefer it fully cooked like I've had many, many times in Hawaii.

So, have you guys seen opakapaka or ono prepared rare? The only times I've ever seen either fish prepared that way was the two times I just mentioned.

There was nothing wrong with my rare...well it was probably medium rare opakapaka but I would never order it that way again, but if given the chance I probably would order the rare ono again.

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  1. Both are typically served raw as sashimi or poke on the islands. It is not unusual for them to be served rare at a restaurant either.

    1. I have had both at Merriman's Kapalua, and in every case, the fishes were cooked to a translucent white, in the center. Never a problem.


      Merriman's Kapalua
      , Lahaina, HI 96761

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Interesting. I've actually had ono sashimi and really didn't care for it. Of course that was here in Minnesota so I probably shouldn't have expected anything too good.

        Like I said, there was nothing wrong with either rare dish, but those were truly the only times I've ever seen opakapaka or ono served any way other than at least medium I suppose.

        1. re: whoopdido

          I cannot recall having had either fish as sashimi. If I did, that went over my head. While I am a big sushi fan, I do not seek out sashimi as often. Maybe I just missed something.

          While "rare, medium rare, medium," and "well done," can be a bit subjective, I'd speculate that all of my opakapaka, and ono have been in the "medium rare" range.

          Not sure what is the ultimate "tradition," but have loved all of the examples served on my plates.

          Wish that I could help more,


      2. We had Raw Sashimi Opakapaka w/ Ponzu last night at one of our favorite New Sushi Bars off Keeaumoku St called Sushi ii. Spectacular!

        Raw Sashimi Onaga is also really nice.

        2 Replies
        1. re: russkar

          Russkar -- Sushi II sounds like a good spot -- if it serves local opakapaka. Any more info or other similar recommendations?


          1. re: MRMoggie

            Chef Mavro , Azure, Mitch's, Uncle's,

            Chef Mavro restaurant
            1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

        2. Surprised the waiter didn't ask you how you wanted it prepared or make a recomendation.

          1. Agreed on the waiter asking. I haven't had the best of luck with service at Merriman's. Indeed I decided to complain once about tuna being overdone there. It clearly had sat plated under a heat lamp too long.

            Had some wonderful opakapaka sashimi at Sansei-Kapalua over the holidays.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mander

              I was surpised at that as well. Then again, the only times I've ever been asked or "told" about fish preparation on the islands was for ahi. When I order ahi the server usually just informs me that it'll come rare...I guess just in case I didn't know that.

              Bill, you said that you think your opakapaka and ono always comes medium rare. Like I said, I've eaten opakapaka and ono many times and have never really given the temperature a second thought. I have just eaten what's in front of me and always loved it. Looking back, it's quite possible every opakapaka I've had has come the same way and I just never noticed that it wasn't cooked all the way through. The only reason I noticed anything at Merrimans was because my dad thew a very minor fit. My dad usually doesn't order anything other than mahi mahi when he has fish. That's usually cooked to at least medium right?

              1. re: whoopdido

                I'd guess this is a regional thing. Per my unscientific observations, it seems the farther West you go the more rare fish and vegetables are served. Perhaps with fish it's because closer to the coast and in Hawaii the fish is generally fresher and tends to be saltwater rather than freshwater fish. There's also probably a bias toward enjoying less cooked fish where people are more accustomed to raw fish (sashimi, poke, etc.) and cooking a beautiful fresh piece of fish through might be seen as destroying the fish. I am rarely told how thoroughly fish will be cooked or asked how I'd like it cooked.

                My suggestion is that if you have a strong preference as to how the fish is cooked, maybe tell the waiter and/or ask how they prepare the fish?

            2. Opakapaka is one of those fish that really changes texture - and not for the better - if it is overcooked. Much better to prepare it rare to med/rare than let it go over the edge and become mealy flaky and dry.

              1. Merriman's is off the hook; according to the Hawai'i Seafood Council, it's pono:


                1. Opakapaka makes great sashimi! I 'm not sure about ono because I've never eaten it that way.

                  Back in the late 70's, as a waiter at Michel's at the Colony Surf at Daimond Head, a regular patron, Jack Lord of Hawaii Five-0 fame used to special order opakapaka sashimi all the time. That's where I first experienced it. And now when I can afford it and if I can find it here in Colorado, I have it. It's excellent!

                  Yes, I can see chef's preparing it rare, but as a paying customer, if your dad didn't enjoy it rare, he had every right to complain and he should have sent it back to the kitchen. The waiter was rude and not doing his job; i.e. making the dining experience of customers memorable and satisfying. His comments about how the chef prepared the fish was unnesssary.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: t2grn

                    Thanks for the info. To the waiter's credit, he did offer more than once to take it back, but my dad refused. I don't want it to sound like it was a major event or anything. My dad thought it wasn't cooked enough and the waiter did offer to take it back, but my dad didn't want to make a bigger deal out of it.

                    Like I said in my first post though, the waiter did seem slightly taken aback by my dad's "complaint" which I found a little odd. I would think at a restaurant of that caliber and at that price point that the servers would gladly take any customer complaints without any fuss.

                    Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable meal (at least for me)

                    1. re: t2grn

                      Where in CO? In Aurora (bedroom community to Denver), there was a butcher shop on Havana at Jewell, Sir Loin, that also was a fish monger. We ordered opakapaka from them fairly often, plus others. I do not know if they are still there, or still good, but they filled the bill (no fish pun intended), on many occasions. This was not just for Pacific fishes either.

                      Good luck,