Although I'm telling you about a new sushi bar in Honolulu today, the place is actually not so new. If you've been around a while, you remember Sakuraya on Beretania Street (that took the place of George's Delicatessen) during the day, and turned into a sushi omakase spot called Sushi You on select evenings.
Space was a problem. Parking was a problem. And the couple, Hiroshi and Keiko Sakurada, were tired of working day and night shifts. So, few weeks ago, they opened Sushi You across the street to a space behind Grace's Inn that was previously a florist. The new spot has about 10 seats at the sushi bar and two dining tables, so they can fit about two dozen people. And now, they have a huge lot (free parking, too!) that probably has more parking spaces than there are seats.
All of those are just bonuses, though. Here's the deal: You can order appetizers, salad, soup, sashimi, and sushi a la carte at Sushi You, but most people will want to go there for the omakase, which is $80 (plus tax and tip). The bigger bonus is that they are BYOB.
The biggest bonus of all, though, is the Sakuradas themselves: Hiroshi is an accomplished sushi chef, having won awards in Manhattan many years ago when the couple owned several restaurants there. The food is good and he makes you feel welcome, which is enough to make you want to return. But you will also want to go to meet Keiko, because she is a HOOT! She's cougar-riffic at 12 years older than her husband, but you wouldn't know it by her young spirit and lack of wrinkles (which she attributes to no stress).
My friend Yasuo is mouthy, so when he walked in and started talking, she shot back in Japanese that if he misbehaved she would whack him with her boobs ... which she demonstrated a couple of times. Upon entry she will show you where to get cups and ice and explain that the water and tea are free, but all self-service. ("If I serve you, I gotta charge you!") All through dinner she is both nurturing and bawdy, making for a very fun time.
The omakase includes a small appetizer, two regular appetizers, and soup or salad (their choice, not yours). On this night we had lotus root, their house salad, housemade poke, an abalone and oyster, and housemade nishime. From there, we had a sashimi platter (top) and assorted nigiri. We had about 20 plates total, but I can't post everything here, so I'll just show you some of the more signature or unusual items and you can see the rest on my Flickr, here.
When you get this appetizer, eat everything on the plate, even the seaweed. Everything tastes super fresh, with delicate hints of salty, citrus, and spicy.
Keiko makes her own nishime, so it has a rich homemade flavor. You thought your aunty made the best nishime? This may be as good or better.
Of course our sushi omakase had the usual uni, ikura, otoro, mackerel, and more, but how many places serve Matsutake mushroom nigiri? This was quite the treat, as these are fairly rare and very expensive.
This treatment of scallop nigiri was unusual but delicious, with the bit of nori paste and dried konbu to add a different kind of umami.
Everyone gasped at the shrimp course, since this was sliced all fancy and it was quite a huge piece. We had another round of ooohhhs and aaaahhs upon biting it, to taste the homemade shrimp mayonnaise and the saltiness of the tobiko that created a more intense shrimp flavor.
Dinner ended with sliced fresh Asian pear, which was perfect. It was fresh, light, and sweet (but not too sweet). We sat back and enjoyed each other's company, probably lingering a little too long, as Keiko brushed past us with,
"OK NUFF ALREADY! I LIKE GO HOME!"
Was it worth it? Hail yes. And let me put it in perspective. Just a few months ago, we featured Natsunoya as an omakase/BYOB deal, which was a steal at $35 and still kind of okay at $45. Well, two weeks ago, I went and the omakase is now $50, the pieces are smaller, and they still give you a hard time about reservations. For $30 more you physically get more, but you get all the bonuses listed here. Sushi You is such a no-brainer that I was reluctant to blog about it because I probably won't be able to get a seat after this unless I eat at 4:30.
Again, this is just a peek. To see more photos from dinner, including the menu, click here.
1296 S. Beretania St.
Open every night except Sunday and Wednesday
4:30 to 6:30 p.m. - walk-ins accepted
6:30 to 9:30 p.m. - reservations needed