Update June 26: Sushi Ginza Onodera emailed us: "Many customers have visited our restaurant and enjoyed our food and hospitality after reading your article. As a result of the overwhelming response, we have decided to extend our special $180.00 Omakase till the end of July."
Update June 13: Both sushi counters report they are fully booked through June 30, the end of their respective promo periods.
Big news for sushi fans: Two of Honolulu's top three omakase sushi counters are offering significant discounts to lure locals back after reopening for dine-in service. Sushi Sho in Waikiki is discounting its $300 prix fixe to $200, while over on Kapahulu Avenue, Sushi Ginza Onodera has reduced its $250 omakase course to $180. Both are for a limited time.
The caveat, of course, is that this is omakase — meaning the menu is set by the chefs according to what's in season and available that day. Omakase is not about you ordering the uni, and then the ikura. For sushi connoisseurs this is not a caveat; it's the draw. In the hands of master sushi chefs, omakase is a singular experience, and both Sushi Sho and Onodera excel at it.
Both sushi counters are Michelin star-affiliated. Sushi Sho's Keiji Nakazawa, an icon of the Edomae style in Japan, rebuffed a Michelin reviewer he told to his face didn't understand his style of sushi. His sous in Hawaii is Takuya Sato, a former protege who left Nakazawa's storied Sushi Sho in Tokyo, where reservations in normal times were booked two months out, to open his own sushi counter. Sato earned two Michelin stars there before following Nakazawa to the Ritz-Carlton Waikiki, where he crafts bites of nigiri sushi for patrons at Sushi Sho's smaller sushi counter (Nakazawa works behind the main counter). And Sato is one of many former Nakazawa proteges who have gone on to earn Michelin stars.
See also: Now at the Ritz-Carlton: Sushi Sho
Both counters serve Edomae-style sushi, which is the opposite of fresh off the boat. Edomae has its roots among sushi sellers in 19th-century Tokyo. The point is to treat seafood in ways that not only preserve it safely, but draw out maximum flavor, especially when paired with red-vinegar sushi rice. When I tried Nakazawa's omakase, the freshest thing was a nigiri sushi of butterflied Molokai shrimp rested under ice for a day, lightly seared, sprinkled with Molokai salt ground with the fried shrimp shells and served with calamansi. His signature nigiri is ankimo monkfish liver under a sliver of pickled baby watermelon atop red-vinegar sushi rice.
As for Sushi Ginza Onodera, which I've never gotten to try, the Tokyo-based mini-chain has omakase counters in four cities including New York and Los Angeles. The one in New York earned two Michelin stars this year.
See also: Our Top 5: Luxe sushi omakase
If you were ever on the fence, now's the time. You'll need reservations for omakase; no walk-ins. Sushi Sho's special runs until the end of the month. When I called yesterday, the earliest opening for two people was the 5 p.m. seating on June 23. As of this morning, Onodera's earliest opening for two is tonight. They'll run their discount until the end of June or until July 15, they haven't decided yet.
Sushi Sho • 383 Kalaimoku St. • Waikiki • 729-9717 • Call between 2 and 4 p.m. for reservations • Closed Mondays
Sushi Ginza Onodera • 808 Kapahulu Ave. • Kapahulu • 735-2375 • Closed Mon-Tue