8 Unusual Types of Sushi You Must Try at Sushi ii
A guide to the unfamiliar fishes at Sushi ii.
2015 Hale ‘Aina Awards: Best Sushi, Gold — Sushi ii
In 1984, HONOLULU Magazine established its Hale ‘Aina Awards as the Islands’ first local restaurant awards. Over the past 30 years, the Hale 'Aina Awards are the most prized dining awards in the Islands. Click here to learn more.
In one of the biggest upsets of this year’s restaurant awards, tiny Sushi ii knocked out sushi bar stalwarts Gaku and Sushi Sasabune for a Hale ‘Aina gold award. Perhaps it’s because this Ke‘eaumoku spot, while small, offers a lot of the unusual and seasonal fish variety of the others in a friendly, nonintimidating setting. Because where else can you get shima aji and kinmedai along with an inside-out roll?
1. Kinmedai (golden eye snapper)
Photos: Steve Czerniak
The bright-red skin of this snapper is so thin that it’s served with the fish. Sushi ii sources its kinmedai from Chiba in Japan, where the fish is the oiliest.
2. Mizudako (Hokkaido octopus)
A high water content makes this octopus softer than your usual tako. Sushi ii scores it so that it almost looks like the rice it sits on, and tops it with shiso and ume.
3. Sujiko (salted salmon roe still in the sac)
Ikura, intensified. Salmon roe is cured while still in the egg sac, which concentrates the flavors. A bit more rice for this nigiri balances out the saltiness. Sushi chef Steve Shibutani recommends it with sake, a perfect pairing he likens to prosciutto and wine.
4. Akamutsu (deep sea perch)
Prized for its velvety richness, this is one of the most expensive whole fish Sushi ii brings in, at $45 a pound.
5. Kohada (gizzard shad)
Some check the skill of a sushi bar by its tamago (egg), others use kohada as a measuring stick. The fish is usually marinated in salt and vinegar before it’s sliced for sushi; with this bite, you can judge the precision of a sushi chef’s seasoning.
6. Aji (Japanese akule)
Japanese akule tends to be fattier and more flavorful than local akule. Served with green onions and grated ginger as a counterpoint to its meatiness.
7. Aka yagara (red trumpet fish)
One of Sushi ii’s most bizarre-looking fish: skinny and 3 feet long, with a head almost as long as its body. It has a firm, white flesh, similar to halibut. Sushi ii cures it with kombu by pressing the cut fish between ribbons of kombu soaked with sake.
“It’s hard to fillet because of the bone structure,” says Shibutani. “It’s usually the last fish we clean because it takes so long.”
8. Shima aji (Japanese papio)
Similar to hamachi, but with a more delicate taste and firmer texture. “This is considered one of the most high-class sushi in Japan,” says Shibutani.
Sushi ii, Inside Samsung Plaza, 655 Ke‘eaumoku St., Suite 109, 942-5350.