D.K. And The Mad Sushi Scientists

Don Chapman
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June 04, 2008
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A sampling of Sansei's new sushi dishes and two sake samplers
A sampling of Sansei’s new sushi dishes and two sake samplers

After a sneak preview of the new sushi dishes that D.K. Kodama is introducing to his Sansei menu this week - which I’ll take over a sneak preview of Indiana Jones or the new line of cars from Detroit any day - I was reminded of Jack Nicklaus’ comment after watching Tiger Woods play golf for the first time: “He’s playing a game with which I am unfamiliar.”

Because as much time as I have spent in sushi bars over the years, I’ve never encountered anything quite like this.

Sure, D.K. and others have previously rolled out, so to speak, “Spider Rolls,” for example, but those still use traditional ingredients. Likewise for California rolls, Texas rolls and Philly rolls - variations on a theme that is centuries old.

But now D.K. is taking raw fish, fresh local produce and amazing sauces to create entirely new kinds of tastes.

“D.K. and the guys in the kitchen have been working on new sushi items that utilize less rice,” says general manager Ivy Nagayama.

I can’t help thinking of “D.K. and the guys in the kitchen” as the mad scientists of sushi: “Ah ha ha ha, taste this!”

Taste this, indeed, which we happily did last week:

Torched Kona Kampachi sashimi stuffed with sweet Maui onions, chiso and Tsukodani Yuzu Aioli and drizzlied with chili pepper tosazu ($14). The meat is firm, the sauces lightly spicy.

Or this: Japanese Hamachi and Grilled Shiitake Mushroom Tartare ($12) with truffled soy sauce, orange tobiko and chiso chiffonade ($12). It’s a tight little mound that looks like traditional poke, but tastes nothing like it. My notes from the evening for this entry read simply, “Omigod!” Ivy says it’s her favorite among the new dishes.

Then there was the Fresh Salmon Asian Carpaccio with zesty green apple-soy salsa and ikura herb salad ($12). The salmon melts in the mouth.

On the spicy side: Cajun Seared White Tuna sashimi with shaved Maui onions, red jalapeno and yukke sauce ($12).

D.K. and the Mad Sushi Scientists (now there’s a name for a band) have been a busy bunch. We also tasted:

Matsuhia Style Miso Butterfish marinated and roasted in sake and sweet miso ($11). This was perhaps the most traditional Japanese dish we sampled, but it’s several steps beyond any butterfish I’ve tasted previously. The fish is Alaskan cod.

Also semi-traditional is the Grilled Fresh Hawaiian Ahi with Sansei’s award-winning Asian Shrimp Cake with furikake yaki onigiri, ginger lime chili butter and cilantro pesto ($25), but just semi.

Spiny Lobster Tail topped with panko-crusted Spicy Crab Cake over Capellini pasta tossed with Island vegetables and creamy Sambal Aioli ($43) nearly brought us to our feet in standing ovation. The lobster was tender and smoky, the zing of the crab cake and the buttery thin noodles a fantastic complement.

Bringing down the house was Panko Crusted Ahi sashimi roll wrapped in layers of arugula and spinach, flash-fried and served in a mild soy-wasabi butter sauce ($11). The combination of crunch and smooth textures was wonderful. No wonder this one took first place at Taste of Lahaina.

Throughout these tastes, Jamie Robinson was proving why he’s perhaps the top Caucasian sake expert in town. We tried two of the three sake samplers, each a flight of three sakes ($14). The Shogun - that’s me - includes, starting with the lightest: Masumi “Okuden Kantsukuri,” called the mirror of truth, quite smooth; Kokuryu “500 Mangoku,” called black dragon, a deeper and richer flavor, and Kampoizumi “Junai Daiginjo,” an autumnal elixir that has notes of persimmon and autumn leaves.

These are, by the way, cold sakes, and Jamie has arrayed them as food pairings.

If you prefer wine, D.K. works with various winemakers to produce wines that work well with his food. On this night we tried a 2005 Muller Thurgau CF Wines Eurasia ($39 bottle), a pale, dry German wine that went well with the sushi, as did a 2006 Niersteiner Hipping CF Euro-Asian Riesling ($37 bottle). Ivy, who, like her boss, loves bringing new ideas and tastes to diners, brought out a glass of 2005 Green Lion Napa Merlot, made by Australian wine super-star Chris Ringland, which went astonishingly well with the lobster.

Sansei is located in the Waikiki Beach Marriott, and if it’s been a while, the entrance is from makai-bound Ohua Avenue.


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