When you have a conveyor-belt sushi budget but dream of sushi like Jiro's, life can be hard. While Honolulu’s explosion of high-end sushi has raised the bar, these places are out of reach even for many sushi fans used to paying a little more. So when the Senyu Sushi popup found a regular home at Wisp, I was super excited to give it a try. Cosmo Hirai and Jason Manibog, both Kona Kai Sushi alums, were giving Honolulu’s sushi scene what it needed: high-quality sushi at a price point that could keep you coming back.
But Wisp closed before I could get there and with it, Senyu. Then I heard they were re-opening just before Memorial Day in Moiliili above Rock Bottom on Coyne Street, in the original Kona Kai location. I made sure that I didn’t miss it a second time.
The few bites I tried on my first visit left me thoroughly impressed. The decor was nice, the original Kona Kai sushi bar still in place. The seafood quality and seasonality were superb. Less than a week later, fellow Frolickers Melissa Chang and Gregg Hoshida joined me for a sushi omakase dinner punctuated by yums, ooohs, exclamations of “ohhhhhhtoro!” and blissed-out silence.
Much of Senyu's sushi is rooted in the Edomae style, which cures and treats seafood to bring out maximum flavor to pair with vinegared sushi rice — but with subtle twists and touches that make it their own. The chefs season everything just before putting it on your plate, so you might, like me, feel no need for shoyu or wasabi. The rice is slightly warm and of excellent quality, coming from the Rice Factory in Kakaako.
After all was said and done, we downed 20 items each, split a bottle of Kubota Junmai Daiginjo, and had a great meal. Highlights for me were definitely the langostine with the shrimp salt, the Stellar Bay oysters two ways, the otoro, and the surprisingly delicate chutoro. Selections change with the availability of different seafood. I can’t wait till fall because I love the little sardines and mackerel that are so delicious that time of year. I should probably make reservations soon.
By now you're probably wondering about the price. It changes depending on what's on the night's omakase menu, but including tax and tip and minus the sake, our meal came out to $125-$130 apiece.
Kubota Junmai Daiginjo
Hobou (robin fish) with truffle ponzu.
Aoebi (blue shrimp) with black caviar.
The hagashi chu toro is cut from between layers of connective tissue in big eye tuna to get to the soft flesh. So tender and flavorful.
Kinmedai golden eye snapper with smoked trout roe. The smokiness of the roe and the light torching of the skin bring an earthy warmth to the bite.
Stellar Bay oysters prepared dynamite style with a garlic mayo, and raw with ponzu and oroshi. So dynamic and so different.
Langostine with shrimp salt made with aoebi shrimp shells. I'm definitely saving up my shrimp shells to try to make some shrimp salt!
Negitoro freshly chopped and mixed to order.
Ikura (salmon eggs) glisten and lightly pop in your mouth. The boba of the sea.
Uni presented simply and perfectly. The absence of the usual nori wrap really highlights the uni.
A4 wagyu beef from Kagoshima prefecture. Just the right ratio of fat to lean and so tasty.
Unagi and tamago. Classic endings to a great sushi dinner. The tamago omelet was delicate and just sweet enough. The unagi was nicely charred and presented more eel flavor than most unagi that's slathered with kabayaki sauce.
An almond tofu dessert to finish it all off.
Here's what to look for off Coyne Street, one block up from Beretania. Call them at 393-7354 — it's a cozy place and reservations are highly recommended.
2535 Coyne St. 2F
Tues-Sat 5:30-10:30 p.m.