Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sushi Sasabune

Sasabune. Yep, I caved and finally had a chance to step into the hands of Chef Seiji. I was a little nervous about dining here after hearing all the horror stories about getting kicked out, but what the heck, I am brave and I love sushi. I will eat your sushi any way you want me to, Chef!

Yes, it is reminiscent of that movie, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. If you loved that movie as much as I did, and would plunk down $300 to eat at the restaurant in Japan, then you will have no problem eating at Sasabune. Oh, don't worry, Sasabune is not $300 a person. It is an experience you (and your taste buds) will never forget, and will want to repeat it over and over and over.....and over again.

Parking is tricky, but once you find it, you're set. Free parking, no validation. Two entrances- one on Keeaumoku by 939, and another on King Street- make a right after you see the Sasabune sign.

I'm pretty glad I read some Yelp reviews first, because there are some important things before you make your first trip to Sasabune. The first thing you must know? The front door is a sliding door. Yep, if you're going there on a first date, you definitely don't want to look foolish and try to open the door, right?!

Some other things to know:

1. Call ahead for reservations.
2. Make sure to let Chef Seiji know if you have any allergies before he starts.
3. No menu- "Trust the Chef" and no california rolls or tempura or bowls of rice.
4. Choose from Eastern or Western Omakase. Western is your americanized version with more classic and known fish/dishes. Eastern is catered more to the Japanese, and is for the more adventurous looking for more exotic dishes that you can't find anywhere else.
5. Around $130 per person for 13 dishes, but you may politely tell the Chef you are full and done with the Omakase set.
6. All dishes will be introduced with an explanation, followed by directions on how to eat it such as "One bite," or "No shoyu, please." But to be honest, none of the dishes need shoyu!
7. You will most likely do the "MmmmMmm" after each bite. Be prepared, each bite is captivating!

Verdict? I love Kona Kai and wanted to see how it compared, but the truth is, Sasabune is definitely top notch. I adored the precise nature in which Chef Seiji prepared each dish down to each detail and with flavors and texture building on each other as each course followed. It was tantalizing. The flavors were so much more complex here. Not that Kona Kai does a bad job either, but the tastes are exquisitely-planned and conjured up at Sasabune. I was impressed. There's no other place that does it the same here in Hawaii.

Service was also impeccable here. I don't think I reached for the Sake bottle once. It was refilled for me every time, and I never had to ask for more water. 

I will say, though, that Kona Kai has a much more relaxing atmosphere where you can talk loud, have some beer and sake (or both with a Sake Bomb), and have an overall good time. Sasabune made me a little bit uptight. It was quieter, and I didn't want to upset the Chef in any way, shape or form!

Plus, when you are craving something specific and just want to order your own sushi, Gaku and Kona Kai are great choices for that!

My fave top sushi restaurants? Sasabune, Kona Kai, and Gaku. Not in any order, and all have their pros and cons. All a must try at least once.

One thing I hoped more for? UNI! Chef Seiji, take note. I want more Uni next time! ;)

PS- Below is the Eastern Omakase. Enjoy!!

PPS- Thank you Chef Seiji and Daniel for an unforgettable experience!

Fresh Awabi (Abalone)

Hamachi Kama in shoyu dashi broth

Bluefin Otoro- one plain, one glazed

Red Snapper

Halibut, Red Snapper


Shima Aji, Hamachi

Alaskan Salmon with Smoked Trout, Hotate from Hokkaido

Chef Seiji himself with the "Trust Me" sign above!


Octopus and Squid
New Caledonia Blue Shrimp, Mirugai, Raw Oysters

Akule with Sea Kelp (Konbu), Saba

Alaskan Ikura and "Ocean Ice Cream" Santa Barbara UNI!

Tako, Crab Meat with Crab Miso

South African Rock Lobster Tail

Butterfish with Ankimo sauce! Ankimo sauce was VERY subtle. I wish Chef Seiji just gave us Ankimo!

One of the very last courses- Negitoro handroll with a shot of sake. Two to three bites!

Dessert- Anago with Tamago! Delicious.

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