Sure, you’re surrounded by thousands of miles of uninterrupted ocean waters on all sides of Hawaii. And yes, you’d expect there to be some top-tier, world-class sushi in Honolulu. But narrowing down the choices? That’s no easy task. Get your chopstick fingers ready, because these are some some local favorites to help you narrow down the search.
Forgo all ambiance at Mitch’s Sushi, whose dining room consists of a four-seat sushi bar, and two shipping containers comprising a makeshift lounge. But it isn’t the decor that keeps ’em coming—the owner, Craig, ships his array of fish in from locales like Tasmania, South Africa, and the Marshall Islands…alive. Behind the public eye are a series of swirling tanks that keep his prized fish swimming until minutes before they are plated. Come slurp up Japanese abalone so fresh you can taste the range of flavors from different parts of the mollusk. While the ambience may be modest, the quality of food is unquestionable. Another perk of the laid-back space is that it’s BYOB. A New Zealand salmon melts in the mouth alongside a nice, aged scotch you chose from your own collection. Ending the meal with the sherry-scented lobster miso soup is somewhere between sublime and gluttonous.
In contrast to the (admittedly delicious) local dives, Morimoto keeps a fine eye on the decor and vibe at the Waikiki outpost. The interior is stark white with ocean and yacht club views, colorful art, acrylic boxed ocean sculptures, and rich wood tables. Here, you marvel at Chef Morimoto’s penchant for hand-selecting the best fish available for sushi in Honolulu at auction; his handling of the cold-water harvested flounder from Hawaii Island (served with yuzu and jalapeno) and local, sweet spiny lobster is masterful. Of course, it’s all about the full experience, so you also try the gluten free “chocolate peanut bombe” and a specialty coffee to finish off a great meal.
Sushi ii is hard-to-find, but worth the trip. You walk in to this hidden gem, and you’re struck by all things Japanese. For a moment you even forget you’re not in Tokyo. But this is distinctly Hawaii. Inside the atmosphere is affable, and you feel like you’re meeting old friends, instead of sitting in a room of strangers. The young chef and owner, Garrett Wong, delivers masterful presentations of chu-toro (fatty tuna) and a local pink snapper specialty, opakapaka. To complement your succulent raw fish cravings, you try the locally harvested beet salad with baby greens. But you can’t forget dessert. You order the red papaya brulée, which is sweet and tart, in the best possible ways. Kampai!