Try Upscale Sushi in ‘Ohana Hale Marketplace at @Sushi
Atsushi Kumagai’s sushi bar is open for takeout and dining in at lunchtime.
Photos: Melissa Chang
Once in a while, I pop my head into ‘Ohana Hale Marketplace to say hi to Tiny Tadani, who has a vegan soft serve spot there, and get recommendations for his favorite eats in the place. One such pick was @Sushi, located near the main stage.
Seating at the bar, pre-COVID-19.
What a brilliant name! This little sushi bar is owned by Atsushi Kumagai (Atsushi = @Sushi, get it?), whom I had previously met when he was working at Maru Sushi. ‘Ohana Hale itself has the ambience of an indoor swap meet, so this spot is a quirky hidden gem, an upscale oasis among casual eateries.
When it opened, @Sushi offered an omakase that usually ranged from about $75 to $95, depending on what Kumagai was serving and what was in season. This is more than just your average sushi bar. Kumagai has the background and seafood connections to create a truly upscale dining experience in his space. He started working in a sushi restaurant in Sendai, Japan, where he’s from, before moving to San Francisco to work at Wako for 10 years. He would vacation in Hawai‘i and loved it so much that he took the opportunity to work at Maru Sushi when it opened in 2017—it wasn’t just a chance to live in Hawai‘i, it was a good way to work for a Michelin-star chef.
Here’s a look at some of the more interesting items I’ve had on my visits there. Again, it depends on what’s available and in season.
Cooked beltfish. The fresh, tender meat melts away as you eat it.
This whitefish, mu, is wrapped in konbu and topped with shiso and a special ume paste (one of my favorite things at sushi bars). The subtle tartness of the ume with the shiso and the essence of konbu on the fish create a beautiful sensation on your palate.
I normally don’t like saba as it’s an oily fish, but this treatment is amazing. Kumagai adds konbu and a special blend of crushed scallions, and the flavor is reminiscent of sour cream and onions. It’s a brilliant creation.
Kawahagi, or triggerfish, is served with a slice of its liver on top. Who knew it could be so delicious? The liver makes this bite creamy and rich. Now, before you get crazy, this is NOT local humuhumunukunukuapua‘a. It’s from Japan, caught in waters off Oita.
People get squeamish about eating shirako, or codfish sperm. My only recommendation is to get over it and EAT IT! Sushi bars serve it cooked and seasoned, and it’s delicious! It has a luxuriously creamy texture and although the flavor is mostly neutral, it’s enhanced with a smidge of wasabi. Here, Kumagai broils the shirako with butter, then makes a shirako “risotto” and tops it with more shirako. The richness combined with that hint of spicy wasabi is a classic combination.
Everyone loves fatty toro, right? Kumagai gets his from Croatia and lightly torches it to impart a smoky flavor atop that fatty richness. This is another melt-in-your-mouth treat.
When you get to the uni and ikura course at any sushi bar, you know you’re near the end of the omakase, so this dish always evokes great joy and a little sadness for me. The uni is always changing, and on this night the firm, rich bites of sea urchin came from Hokkaido. Don’t worry, you get a spoon so you don’t miss any of this goodness.
Ah, yes. Possibly the most indulgent course of all, the Miyazaki A5 wagyu beef. This needs no introduction—just put it in your mouth and let it melt away on your palate.
I just want to thank Tiny Tadani for showing me @Sushi, since none of my sushi-loving friends had told me about it before. They apparently were keeping it a secret because they didn’t want me to post about it and make it hard for them to get reservations. Sorry for outing your secret, guys. #SorryNotSorry
‘Ohana Hale Marketplace, 333 Ward Ave., Suite 3-51, open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for dine-in and takeout, (808) 358-4593, @atsushibv