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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Moved: Kona Kai, from hole-in-the-wall to Kaimuki restaurant

Kona Kai, which used to be a little gem of a sushi bar nestled above a sports bar hosting Beer Pong Tuesdays, recently moved to bigger, more prominent digs right on Waialae Ave in Kaimuki. The new space is twice as big, and the menu has expanded accordingly. It's still a marriage of local-style izakaya Tokkuri Tei with more traditional Sushi Sasabune, two places chef James Matsukawa worked before opening his own place—first, short-lived Umi No Sachi in the 11th Ave. Atrium, then Kona Kai. It's a welcome addition to Kaimuki, the neighborhood real estate agents are eager to tell you is up and coming, in part because of all the great restaurants (such as Hale Aina award winners Salt, 12th Ave Grill and Town).

Kona Kai is notable for its extensive sushi list, which includes four types of ahi (bluefin, big eye, albacore and skipjack), two types of squid (broad fin and spear), two different live shrimp (New Caledonia blue shrimp and Canadian spot prawn) and other less common delicacies like ankimo (monkfish liver). Unfortunately, some things have been lost in the move: The fish is not as fresh as it once was. Better are the appetizers, like fresh bamboo shoots breaded with bonito and fried, and the ever-popular spicy tuna chips—tempura nori topped with spicy tuna, a fun twist on fish nachos.

Matsukawa is no longer behind the sushi bar every night, which might explain the inconsistency, but even on off days, creativity in the kitchen keeps Kona Kai worthy of the Kaimuki dining scene.

Kona Kai, 3579 Waialae Ave., 594-7687

Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 in Permalink

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About This Column

From five-star restaurants to hidden holes-in-the-wall, Biting Commentary will let you know what’s hot and what’s not. Find out the latest restaurant news—who’s opening, who’s closing, which chef is moving on, where the great special dinners are. Discover the best menu items, fabulous wines, stunning cocktails, hand-crafted beers. Be the first to hear about upcoming food events and festivals.

Food editor Martha Cheng graduated from Wellesley College with degrees in Computer Science and English. She's a former line cook, food truck owner, Peace Corps volunteer and Google techie. Follow her on Twitter @marthacheng.


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