Dynamic sushi, affordable dining at Sansei
Friday - November 14, 2008
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If you want an idea of how far sushi is progressing under the creatively watchful eye of D.K. Kodama and his impressive culinary team, you need only glance at the menu behind the sushi bar at the Waikiki Beach location. Dishes like New York Steak Carpaccio, Spicy Tuna Crunch, Local Style Hamachi Kama, Da Bombucha and Kim Chee Salmon sound like they might come with two scoops rice and some mac salad, when in fact they come with nori wraps, topped with bonito flakes, drizzled with unagi glaze or served with ponzu sauce. It’s part of what makes Sansei an exciting, vibrant place to eat. And unlike other, more formidable sushi restaurants, this one offers an added level of comfort: You are going to try new and dynamic sushi, you are not going to faint when the check comes.
“We have a lot of kama’aina specials,” says Ivy Nagayama, “and we have early bird and late-night offers that give guests 50 percent off their food check. It makes dining here very affordable.”
“The food offers a different play on semi-traditional sushi and on Hawaii tastes,” says sushi chef Richard Kobayashi.“For example, we do hamachi poke, but the poke is an unconventional style. We like to take local ingredients and local themes and change them around.”
The food remains highly recognizable, but there’s an element of surprise in almost every bite.
Which all makes sitting at the sushi bar at Sansei a really fun experience.
“I love to make sushi for the customers sitting here,” says head sushi chef Greg Gabaon, who’s been part of the Sansei team for more than eight years. “It’s away from the heat of the kitchen you can talk to the guests and making sushi is creative.”
Greg spent most of his culinary career learning Japanese techniques from many different hotels and restaurants and his education is ongoing.
“We are always looking at styles of food when we eat out and imagining different sushi dishes,” he says. “We find inspiration from local dishes everywhere we eat.”
The only danger in sitting at the sushi bar might be that you eat too much, because the sushi is as fresh and layered with tantalizing flavors as any in town. It’s easy to begin to work your way through the entire menu, stopping only for a sip of sake or a glass of wine. Some of the most popular new dishes include Torched Kona Kampachi ($13.95), where sashimi rolls are stuffed with sweet Maui Onion, shiso and yuzu aioli, then drizzled with chili pepper tosazu. “It’s a local fish that we like to do in a different way.” says Richard. “Customers really love it.”
One or two of the most memorable dishes I tried recently, the ones that had that ‘more please’ quality included a gorgeous scallop and prosciutto ‘musubi’ where a plump, juicy scallop was wrapped with thinly sliced prosciutto then nori to resemble a gourmet musubi. It was utterly gorgeous, and while it was made for a special omakase menu to celebrate Sansei’s fourth anniversary in Waikiki, Ivy says that many of the popular anniversary dishes will remain on the menu. Let’s hope, because the scallop musubi is an outstanding dish.
Try the Cajun Seared White Tuna Sashimi ($12.95) if you want to taste simple, fresh, utterly fabulous sashimi. The high grade tuna is served with a shaved Maui onion, red jalapeno, cilantro and a spicy yukke sauce. It slips over the tongue and almost melts in the mouth. Hard to imagine sushi of any better quality than this.
“The white tuna is especially popular,” says Richard. Or there’s the Hawaiian Moi ($13.95), where thin slices of this royal, locally farmed fish are wrapped around sweet Maui onion then seared and drizzled with a truf-fled ponzu reduction.
“Moi is one of the local fish that we’re doing in this new style,” says Richard. “We’re using Japanese ingredients, and white truffle oil and a ponzu sauce. It’s a really nice dish.”
If you move beyond the sushi bar and into the restaurant, what you’ll find is a menu that’s filled with award-winning dishes. From favorites like Shrimp Dynamite (crispy tempura shrimp tossed in creamy garlic aioli ) to Sansei’s Mango Crab Salad Hand Roll, where fresh mango and blue crab are wrapped with local greens and peanuts in colorful mamenori and served with a sweet Thai chili sauce, Sansei has some of the most original Japanese-influenced food in Hawaii. If you’ve never tried D.K’s Crab Ramen with Asian Truffle Broth, then that’s a must, and at Waikiki Sansei the menu borrows dishes from dk Steakhouse next door. (Dry aged steaks appear courtesy of dk’ Steakhouse.
And even though the restaurant is in the heart of Waikiki, expect to see lots of local customers - and kama’aina prices when you visit.
“At first we didn’t know if our regular customers would follow us to Waikiki,” says Ivy. “Lots of them thought they would be intimidated by the drive, but once they came to the restaurant they didn’t have any problems coming back!”
Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa
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