Eating is believing: 50 percent happy hour at Sansei Waikiki

Sundays and Mondays only! But worth it for the sushi, apps and entrees
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Eating is believing is a series spotlighting great deals on incredible food.
What: Early bird happy hour 
Where: Sansei Waikiki (2552 Kalakaua Ave., 3rd floor)
When: Sundays and Mondays from 5:15 to 6 p.m.
Price: 50 percent off sushi, appetizers and entrees
Compare: Full prices for sushi rolls are $10.50-$18.95, shrimp dynamite $12.50, crab truffle ramen $18.50
Fullness factor: 11 out of 10

The deets

Sansei Waikiki has long been heralded for its beautiful sushi creations and Asian fusion cuisine. While its happy hour has been around for a generation, I only recently discovered what a bangin’ deal it is. It's not just me: When I polled around 20 friends, only two had heard of it.

People start lining up at 4:30 p.m. for this deal on Sundays.

On Sundays and Mondays from 5:15 to 6 p.m. at the 10-seat bar or 5:30 to 6 p.m. in the dining room, you can score 50 percent off appetizers, entrees and sushi. Just be sure to read the fine print because some of the nigiri and sashimi aren’t discounted, nor are the contemporary sushi bar items and kitchen favorites. And drinks are full price.

The line to get in for the Sunday happy hour stretches down the hallway before 5:15 p.m.

It’s easy to go all-out at half-price. But here’s what you don't want to miss: 

Matsuhisa-style miso butterfish ($17.95, hh $8.98) is marinated and roasted in sake and sweet miso.

I'd heard about DK’s award-winning crab ramen with Asian truffle broth ($18.50, hh $9.48), but the noodles in mine are bland, borderline undercooked and without any detectable truffle. For about the same price, the miso butterfish appetizer is far more worth it — the sake-and-sweet-miso sauce stays on my brain for days. The portion size of four pieces is pretty ample, but the fish is so mindblowing that I get a second order. 

Shrimp dynamite ($12.95, hh $6.48) is crispy tempura shrimp tossed with garlic masago aioli and drizzled with unagi glaze.

No trip to Sansei is complete without their iconic shrimp dynamite. The shrimp tempura is crispy and the aioli addictive. My favorite part — besides the dual crunches of shrimp tempura and oversized wonton chips — is the subtle sweetness of the unagi glaze. 

The Yaki-Maki ($15.95, hh $7.98) is a California roll wrapped in smoked salmon and baked with Sansei's dynamite sauce.

While the interior of the Yaki-Maki is a typical California roll of crab, avocado and cucumber, the smoked salmon wrapper takes this sushi to the next level. The sauce is the same as the one in the shrimp dynamite, except here it’s baked to a sultry golden brown, creating the perfect topping. 

End on a sweet note with this massive tempura fried macadamia nut ice cream ($9.50, hh $4.75).

This is massive: two triangular towers of ice cream encased with a thick layer of buttery pound cake inside a tempura crust. But the medley of silky smooth ice cream, crunchy roasted mac nuts, dense-but-moist butter cake and sticky-sweet chocolate-caramel drizzle is superb. Even if you’re still grinding sushi, order this right before the 6 p.m. cutoff to get the happy hour price. Busy servers don’t come around to warm you about a final call, so it’s up to you to keep track of the time. 


Early bird happy hour is also available Tuesday-Saturday from 5:30-6 p.m. Food and sushi are only 25 percent off, but you can make reservations. There’s also a late night happy hour on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. when night owls can enjoy 50 percent off select appetizers and sushi. Friday nights you can sing karaoke; on Saturdays live entertainment rotates between a deejay and different musical acts.

Also, if you stand in line for the bar for the Sunday-Monday happy hour, you get in 15 minutes before those waiting for tables. But there are only 10 seats at the sushi counter, so it's first come, first served.

I sit at the bar to maximize my eating time during happy hour.


Validated self-parking or valet parking are complimentary for three hours at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. Enter from Ohua Street.