Find This Tiny Sushi Counter Inside a Korean Supermarket
Fish & Rice is worth braving Pālama Supermarket’s parking lot.
We all have our habits. At Pālama Supermarket on Makaloa Street, mine is to dash into the food court, order Vons Chicken (crispy shoyu, always) or bibimbap and bulgogi, then power-shop for ban chan and soju, pick up my order and boom, I’m out. On one occasion I noticed a new counter selling sushi and, needing a quick ‘ahi fix, bought some sashimi. It was very fresh and generously sliced. Another time a sign there read “Special Menu: ‘Ahi Katsu $7.” It, too, was fresh and ran with juices when poked. So on my last visit I made a new habit: I ordered dinner from Fish & Rice.
The first surprise: For a tiny counter inside a grocery store, the menu is huge. There are izakaya-style appetizers like croquettes ($4), ‘ahi cubes on grated yamaimo mountain yam ($8), even squid slathered with briny, spicy mentaiko ($6). There’s sashimi, 13 skinny sushi rolls (hamachi, ‘ahi, natto avocado, yamaimo with ume), 17 bigger rolls (salmon skin, Philadelphia, California, rainbow, spider, dragon, hamachi jalapeño) and 13 sushi bowls topped with ‘ahi ($12), unagi ($18), avocado with spicy tuna ($14) and salmon and ikura ($15). There’s even nigiri sushi, all the basics plus scallops, unagi, saba, amaebi, tsubugai whelk shell and torigai cockles.
In the dying light of a July evening in Pālama Supermarket’s parking lot, I Clorox-wiped the trunk of my car, laid out the spread and snapped these photos. Everything was very good, including the lotus root kimpira ($5) and lightly dressed potato salad ($4) studded with tsukemono pickles and bacon. The juices ran from the spears of ‘ahi katsu, whose punchy leftover sauce of ponzu and grated daikon I have been ordered to save. The seafood in Assorted Sashimi B ($24), which supplements Assorted Sashimi A’s ‘ahi, salmon and hamachi with two more choices (today, ika and sweet, crunchy mirugai) was generous, expertly sliced and sushi-bar fresh. And the highlight of my chirashi bowl ($17), whose single slices of the standard ‘ahi-hamachi-salmon trifecta were supplemented by ebi, ika and ikura, was a lightly sauced unagi that carried a whiff of the grill, and my last bite of creamy, umami-sweet uni. Even the rice, a weak and mushy point in many bowls, was excellent, the grains glossy and well-seasoned.
The second surprise about Fish & Rice isn’t really a surprise. The sushi chef, who gave only his last name, Kishimoto, is a product of Imanas Tei, the popular OG izakaya and sushi counter in Mō‘ili‘ili. The only negative I can see is a lack of counter seating that would make this the sushi bar it deserves to be; but there are tables in the food court. So to my friend who wanted sushi last week and called Tokkuri Tei, Yanagi Sushi and other places in a fruitless search for an open seat, and who finally resigned herself to Kāhala Sushi at Zippy’s, be like me and make this your new habit.