Confessions of a First Time Hawaii Sushi Lover

“Er, this fish is not cooked.”

Those were the words that stumbled out of my mouth just prior to losing my sushi virginity. You see, I was distracted somewhat by this view while ordering dinner:

Makana Terrace at St. Regis Princeville

Yeah, stunning huh? I was so busy watching the water cascading down the hills and the sun setting over the Bali Hai, that I had totally missed the fact that the Ahi Tuna I had ordered was, in fact, raw.

Roy's Poke-tini

A stare down ensued between me and the red, raw fish in front of me. To send it back would be somewhat rude–it wasn’t the restaurant’s fault that I didn’t know that ahi is generally served sashimi style in Hawaii. To eat it, would involve eating, well, uncooked fish!

I took a deep breath, picked my weapon of choice–I chose silverware over chopsticks–and took my first ever bite of raw fish.

Oh. My. Goodness!

The ahi melted in my mouth. I think I audibly groaned with pleasure. Where had sushi been all my life?

That one mishap has led to almost a decade of enjoying sushi and sashimi just about every time I visit the Hawaiian islands. I’ve learned my favorites. The traditional Hawaiian dish “poke” is my favorite, but I’m just as happy to eat anago (eel), hamachi (yellowtail), or just plain salmon.

Sushi Bar in Hawaii

Since that fateful day, I’ve sampled sushi in many places–including Sydney, Seattle, and San Francisco–but nothing has yet to top the sushi in Hawaii. Maybe it’s the warm tropical breezes and the sounds of the ocean that make sushi in Hawaii taste that much better.

Anyway, if you’re still a sushi virgin, here are my top tips for dipping your toe in the uncooked waters:

  • Start with Maki sushi. This is the stuff rolled in rice and seaweed. The amount of raw fish is small enough that you won’t be overly-grossed out, should you not like it. If you end up not being a sushi lover, you can “cheat” by getting something like a California Roll.
  • Nigiri sushi is the name for any thin sliver of uncooked fish sitting on top of a bed of rice. This is perhaps my favorite style.
  • Sashimi tends to be round slices of fish on its own. Delicious if you really want the pure taste of uncooked fish.
  • Try the Poke. According to Wikipedia, Poke “…typically consists of cubed ʻahi (yellowfin tuna) sashimi marinated with sea salt, a small amount of soy sauce, inamona (roasted crushed candlenut), sesame oil, limu seaweed, and chopped chili pepper.”
  • My favorite places for sushi in Hawaii are Roy’s and Sansei restaurants. Both are high quality, newbie-friendly, and found throughout the Hawaiian islands.
  • Try your sushi with soy sauce and wasabi. Great ahi doesn’t need much help in the flavor department, but just about all sushi will taste better with some soy sauce and wasabi. Just go easy on the wasabi to start out–unless you have blocked sinuses you are trying to clear. 😉
  • You may wish to start with sushi as an appetizer. Don’t jump in feet first and order sushi as your entree. Pick an appetizer and see if you like it. If you end up not liking it (Sheila’s not a big fan of sushi) you’ve not wasted a precious dinner in Hawaii.

Over to you. What’s your favorite sushi or favorite place to eat sushi in Hawaii?

  1. I ate my first sushi reluctantly years ago at the Sushi Den in Denver. I must confess, that lo these many years later, I still mostly go for cooked rolls. The one exception is spicy tuna. The raw part still kind of gets me.

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