A Sushi Bar for Every Mood: Three Places Inside ‘Ohana Hale Marketplace
Toshi Sushi, @Sushi and Kai Sushi: Which one is right for you?
Amid the warren of 200-plus kiosks at ‘Ohana Hale Marketplace, it’s easy to miss the startling presence of three sit-down sushi counters. You would have to browse avidly to find this out, because they’re spread out inside a cavernous space crammed with everything from jewelry and T-shirts to crack seed and tonkatsu, meaning if you already know where you’re going, you’re unlikely to happen upon all three.
Toshi Sushi, @Sushi and Kai Sushi, the newest, open since this spring, are vastly different. Two things they all share are early hours—the marketplace closes in the late afternoon or early evening, depending on the day—and a BYOB policy, which ups the connoisseur pairing game and the fun factor. Because let’s be honest: If you’re sitting down to a sushi meal in what feels like an indoor swap meet, you’re probably fun already.
@Sushi wins for the most buzz and high-end appeal. Both stem from chef-owner Atsushi Kumagai’s extensive sushi training, which started in his native Sendai, Japan and took him to San Francisco’s Michelin-starred Wako and Honolulu’s Maru Sushi, whose sushi master earned a Michelin star in Hokkaido. Kumagai’s Edomae-style omakase relies heavily on seasonal seafood flown in from Japan (think nodoguro, kawahagi, madai sea bream and lightly torched baracuda) and costs about $100—half or less than half the cost of an omakase course at Honolulu’s Michelin-level sushi counters. There are nigiri-and-roll sets and nigiri you can order by the piece, but sadly, Kumagai’s beautiful chirashi is no longer on the menu, now that his six-seat counter has opened up again.
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., 5th Street and Center Avenue in ‘Ohana Hale, near the stage. (808) 358-4593. Reservations required for omakase seatings at 11:30 and 1:30.
Variety is the most striking feature of Kai Sushi’s menu: You can get chirashi bowls, sushi rolls, nigiri by the piece, udon with four kinds of toppings and five kinds of rice bowls including salmon, unagi and spicy tuna.
Some items reflect Korean touches, like a beef bowl ($8.95 for medium, $10.95 for large) that’s more like bulgogi in cut and seasoning than the more sukiyaki-like Japanese beef bowls, a sweeter-than-usual tamagoyaki egg omelet and a touch of sugar in the crab salad of the popular Super California roll ($9.99).
The $24.99 chirashi bowl, generous with thicker cuts of tuna, salmon and hamachi and two pieces of shrimp, is a hit with the less adventurous sushi eaters in my house.
Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays and holidays until 5:30 p.m., along the marketplace’s makai wall near Toshi Sushi, (808) 924-2359
Toshi Sushi’s location makes it easy to miss, tucked inside a corner niche behind a mishmash of 8.5-by-11-inch menu printouts and dish photos. It looks like it’s been there a decade longer than its two years: Two tiny sushi counters nestle under noren curtains with more tables nearby, occupied much of the time by local and expat Japanese regulars obviously familiar with the BYOB policy. There are lunch and dinner nigiri sets with miso soup; sashimi and rice bowls topped with poke, negitoro, and uni and ikura. Two omakase courses are offered here, for $70 and $100 (this one includes more appetizers), though with both you can expect a creamy housemade seafood chowder, kazunoko crunchy marinated herring roe (a rarity) and whole sliced abalone in its shell along with fresh kaisen nigiri. Chirashi here is a reward for those tired of the usual local trifecta of ‘ahi, salmon and hamachi, with supple single slices of lightly seared salmon, whitefish, ‘ahi, shrimp, squid, tako and scallop. It’s $19.99 for this, and an additional $5 if you want ikura.
Open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., in makai-‘ewa corner, (808) 518-0604. Reservations required for omakase.
For me, there is appeal in all of ‘Ohana Hale’s sushi options. If I’m feeling fancy and looking for a budget splurge (not an oxymoron) at lunch, I’ll reserve a seat at @Sushi. If I need takeout for sushi eaters looking for unadventurous, robust flavors, it’s Kai Sushi. Otherwise, between stops at ‘Ohana Hale Marketplace or even elsewhere, I’ll park myself at Toshi Sushi for chirashi or nigiri by the piece, probably with a chilled bottle of something very good.