New sushi restaurant: Kona Kai



If you like sushi, or even tales of obsession, watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, now playing at Kahala. It's the story of 85-year-old Jiro Ono and his 10-seat, three-Michelin-starred restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. It's about the pursuit of perfection, every single day.

Inevitably, you will crave sushi. There are fears the movie has ruined you for sushi made by mere mortals who do not devote their whole life, as well as their sons' lives, to the art. But we must eat. There are favorites for impeccable sushi—Sushi Izakaya Gaku, Sushi Sasabune—but a newcomer deserves mention: Kona Kai.

Behind Rock Bottom Sports Bar, up a flight of stairs, you can enjoy exquisite sushi as people downstairs play beer pong.

Morsels include tai with smoked trout caviar; yellowfin tuna brushed with shoyu; lightly torched bluefin tuna, so marbled with fat it's pink; blue shrimp topped with flying fish caviar; fresh moi sashimi; a thick, glistening piece of scallop on nigiri rice. The sushi rice here is warmer than other sushi joints, at about body temperature.

There are dishes and sushi rolls here that you would never see at Gaku or Sasabune, however. There are inside out rolls, saucy and fried rolls, and whimsical plates like tempura nori topped with spicy tuna and drizzled with chili mayo, and calamari stuffed with blue crab, the raw squid adding pleasurable texture. Some of these more manipulated dishes run sweet. The flavors of crab and squid are drowned in the sweet sauce and the brininess of oyster obliterated by a thick, broiled mayo concoction. Better is the oyster topped with saline pops of fresh, marinated ikura.

Two piece nigiri runs from $4 (tamago) to $15 (otoro), appetizers $6 (oysters) to $14 (wafu steak). 2535 Coyne St., 594-7687

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