Tucked away on the second floor of the reimagined Alohilani Resort is Waikiki’s newest brunch experience, Lychee. During a recent stay at the Alohilani, we were invited to experience the extensive brunch buffet. You’ll find the usual suspects, including eggs, sausages, and baked goods. Beyond that, expect a variety of seasonal fruits like rambutan and mango, seafood including sashimi, opihi, taegu prawns, and snow crab legs, a prime rib carving station, cuts of bone marrow, and even a milk tea and boba bar.
A few weeks ago, The Modern Honolulu announced that Masaharu Morimoto would be closing Morimoto after six years at The Modern. The restaurant will officially close its doors on December 8. I’ve frequented the restaurant regularly during their six-year run, often running into the “Iron Chef” himself. Of course, I had to visit once more before they closed.
I’ve enjoyed omakase in Tokyo, Hawaii, and New York City, arguably, three of the best places on Earth to enjoy sushi. Dining at Sushi Ginza Onodera ranks up there with my experience eating at the small sushi restaurants in Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Market and at Daisuke Nakazawa’s (a former apprentice at Sukiyabashi Jiro) namesake restaurant, Sushi Nakazawa, in New York City’s West Village. Simply put, Sushi Ginza Onodera is the most authentic sushi experience in Hawaii. It’s almost as if you’re in Tokyo. Almost.
We’ve shared a lot on Exploration: Hawaii, especially our favorite hikes and places to dine. That said, this is one restaurant that I’m not particularly ready to give away just yet. It’s a sushi bar that is more of a hole-in-the-wall. Actually, it kind of is, literally, a hole in the wall of a larger restaurant. It’s frequented by locals who like to eat good, talk loud, and drink a lot. Did I mention that this sushi bar is BYOB. Yup, and many regulars drag along their own coolers filled with ice and their favorite alcoholic beverage of choice. Their 11-piece omakase is a great value at just $30. Now do you get why I’m keeping this one to myself?
Chef Masaharu Morimoto is one of my favorite Iron Chefs. When Coty and I were in Philadelphia several years ago, I was excited to make reservations at his namesake restaurant there. I remember the cool lighting in the booths that changed colors. I was even more excited when I first found out that he was opening a restaurant in Waikiki.
My quest for great sushi continued with a recent trip to Sushi ii, an unassuming little restaurant in the Samsung Plaza on Keeaumoku Street. Honolulu Magazine recently listed it as the best modern sushi bar in Hawaii. The restaurant even has a fancy 4.5 star rating on Yelp. Unfortunately, my experience at Sushi ii (pronounced “ee,” meaning “good” in Japanese) did not match the aforementioned glowing reviews. I was a bit, disappointed.
I tend to plan trips around places to eat. I try to eat good when I travel by becoming immersed in the food culture of whatever city I’m in. Through the years, I’ve learned that it’s best to forego fast and easy as an excuse to eat when wandering through an unfamiliar city. Knowing how something tastes and what to expect from each bite should not be a pre-requisite for any meal that you eat when traveling. Instead, eat good by finding what the locals eat and then seeking it out. Eat good by trying something new and exciting, and maybe a little scary. Eat good by devouring something that your taste buds have never tasted. Eat good by finding adventure in the food that you eat.
I’m spoiled when it comes to the luxuries of fine sushi. It wasn’t always this way, though. A decade ago, the closest thing to adventurous that I would get in a sushi bar (and I use the term sushi bar loosely here to mean rotating belt-type establishments like Genki Sushi ) was ordering a crab mayo roll.