Sustainable Local Fish Star at a Pop-Up Sushi Dinner This Sunday

Seasonal local seafood specialist Local I‘a is popping up with a paired dinner at Bottleheads in Kailua.


Local Ia Marlin Pc Ashley Watts

Marlin crudo. Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Watts


If you wonder, as I do, why in the middle of this vast ocean we persistently seek out ‘ahi for poke and sashimi, and what other local seafood around us might be even tastier and more seasonal, then get yourself to Local I‘a’s sustainable sushi pop-up at Bottleheads this Sunday, June 18. Yes, it’s Father’s Day, but what dad wouldn’t love an eco-friendly gift he can eat? And besides, as Local I‘a’s Ashley Watts points out, Sunday is also International Sushi Day.


So back to my point about ‘ahi—it’s one fish in the sea. Or two, rather, since ‘ahi refers to both bigeye and yellowfin tuna. What else is standard in local sushi orders? Salmon and hamachi. But Pacific ‘ahi stocks are constantly monitored against the threat of overfishing, and salmon and hamachi are imported. Enter Local I‘a, a tiny business that buys sustainable seafood caught in the Hawaiian Islands by small local fishers and sells it at various sites, including its Kaimukī storefront, and to restaurants like Fête and Mud Hen Water.


woman holding fresh fish that can be used for sushi

Watts at Local I‘a’s storefront in Kaimukī. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


The specifics of Sunday night’s menu will be pinned down this weekend, when Watts sees what seafood local fishers have landed. “They’ve been catching a lot of ono the past couple of weeks, so I’m hoping for that, but I don’t want to jinx myself,” she says. “And mahi mahi. I had a couple nice hebi, shortbill spearfish, the smallest of the billfish. They’re a little bit sweet, as if mahi and marlin were combined, because it’s a little bit flakier, but it’s good for the grill, so it’s one of my favorites to make fish tacos.”


SEE ALSO: There Are Other Fish in the Sea for Poke and Sashimi


The $95 dinner will feature at least three or four seafood varieties, starting with locally farmed kampachi from Hawai‘i Island. Courses will be paired with wines chosen by Pablo Scurto of Full Circle Cellars:


    • Welcome glass: Shirataki Jozen “White” junmai ginjo sake
  • Kampachi crudo with yuzu jelly, micro shiso, radish
    • 2018 Jane Ventura Cava Rosé
  • Nigiri set: “TBA on the fish, but hopefully one white (meat) and one red or amaebi,” Watts says. Served with sea salad
    • 2021 Pireropan Soave Classico
  • Sushi rolls: Another still-to-be-caught local fish with sushi rice, pickled cucumber, green onion
    • 2022 Folk Machine Pinot Noir


The menu is subject to change but should be close to these flavors.


Local Ia Onaga Sashimi Pc Ashley Watts

Onaga sashimi. Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Watts


Seating on Sunday will be limited to 24, so if the pop-up sells out before you can sign up, let Bottleheads know you’re interested in a future sustainable sushi event. And while not a paired meal, Watts has a Demo Dinner Series on the third Monday of every month that teaches basics of local seafood preparation and ends with dinner. The next is this Monday, June 19, at Kalihi Beer, formerly known as Broken Boundary Brewery. Details and ticket links to both events are below.


Local I‘a Sushi, Wine & Sake Pairing Dinner
Sunday, June 18, at 6 p.m.
Bottleheads, 315 Uluniu St., Kailua
Cost: $95
Register here, @bottleheads_hi


Local I‘a Demo Dinner: Fried whole fish with poi from Kāko‘o ‘Ōiwi
Monday, June 19, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Kalihi Beer, 740 Mo‘owa‘a St.
Cost: $55
Register here, @localia


SEE ALSO: 5 Reasons Why Buying Local Fish Matters