Over the years, Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage and Asian influence has carved out a fabulous foodie scene, well-equipped with sushi restaurants that rival ones in Japan. It seems, as of late, the demand for good sushi has increased all over the islands—especially for omakase: a meal consisting of dishes specially chosen by the chef.
Once you’ve been spoiled by the offerings found at the following five Oahu restaurants, it will be hard to go back to hum-drum take-out sushi joints.
Morio’s Sushi Bistro
With only a partial kitchen and seating for just 20, this nondescript restaurant on King Street looks more like a wooden shack with sake labels covering the walls than a place with a fiercely loyal following. With as many as 13 dishes offered in the establishment’s omakase, you can expect perfectly sliced hamachi kama, kompachi, salmon, and ahi, as well as favorites like shrimp tempura, lobster soup, battered soft shell crab bites, and asari sakamushi (sake-steamed clams). Reservations are required and can take up to six months to snag—but the wait is well worth it, even if just to experience Chef Morio’s lively demeanor.
As far as omakase bars go, this quaint hole in the wall off of Dillingham Boulevard was one of the originals in the game, and is authentic as it gets. Inside one of the most frequented Oahu restaurants, the vibe is relaxed, with a great sake assortment. You won’t forget their prime cuts of toro, which melt in your mouth, or the oysters topped with uni tobiko and quail egg, which are served alongside sayori.
Sushi Ginza Onodera
One of the most popular sushi restaurants transplanted from Tokyo, Sushi Ginza Onodera has been called the “game changer” based on just how good the fish is here. Opened in 2014 by the owners of Kai Market, the restaurant imports about 80 percent of its fish straight from Japan. Between the intimate cypress bar and the unbelievable dishes on offer, this place is hard to leave. The omakase menu lets the classically-trained chefs showcase the best fish of the day with bites like wild bluefin tuna chutoro, thumb-sized firefly squid (served whole, of course), and steamed Big Island Abalone.
When news came that Chef Ryuji Murayama (known for helming Oahu restaurants Yohei Sushi, Tokkuri-Tei, and the now-closed Zenshu) was set to open his very own sushi bar on the third floor of the 808 Center in Honolulu, it was a day to celebrate. The omakase includes generous servings of o-toro, as well as other highlights like mixed tempura and saba served as hakozushi—an Osaka-style pressed sushi. For dessert, Murayama brings back the vanilla ice cream topped with corn flakes and strips of shiso and natto (fermented bean) that he made popular in his days at Yohei Sushi.
When you walk into the most popular of all sushi restaurants on King Street, the first thing you notice is the staff—clad in all black. Their uniform only adds the overall feel of the restaurant, which is elegantly finished in wood, and warmed with mood lighting. The menu is offered in two styles: eastern and western, both curated by the notoriously strict Chef Seiji Kumagawa. He’s particularly well-versed in seafood, which explains why the omakase is some of the best in the land. If you choose the eastern style, you can expect more shellfish and exotic preparations, like snapper topped with fermented squid, or clams slapped to “waken” the muscle for a firmer texture. The western style features more fish, including toro, Baja bluefin, sea bass, halibut, and Hawaiian opah. The island of Oahu does not go wanting for incredible fish. Go with a small group of friends so you can try more of Sasabune’s small plates.