Aloha! Have you missed me?
Sorry for the long absence, I’ve been away soaking up the sun (while SPF protected, of course), frolicking in the sand, boogie boarding in the surf and eating all kinds of great food in Hawaii. I had every intention of trying to blog some of my delicious eats while I was away, but wouldn’t you know it, after a day of sun, sand, surf, drink and food, I usually found myself far too relaxed in the evenings to even attempt at writing a post. C’est la vie! I am back at it now though, to help get myself through some vacation withdrawal. ;-)
Like many foodies, one of my favourite things to do before a vacation is to spend plenty of time researching the food options at my vacation destination. Nothing irks me more than getting sucked into some over-priced, sub-par tourist trap while vacationing. A little preparation is usually all you need to ensure you enjoy all sorts of great eats. We enjoyed so much good food in Hawaii. Whether it was the freshest of the fresh Ahi Sashimi in Honolulu, killer Paniloi Burgers on the North Shore, Wood Fired Flatbreads made with local, organic ingredients at the Flatbread Company, the best fish and chips I’ve ever had in Paia, or delicious Liliko Gelato from Ono Gelato in Kihei, there was so much good food to be had. I’ll have plenty of Hawaii food reviews coming your way over the next little while. Hawaii was crawling with Canadian tourists, so I figure there is a good chance many of you just might enjoy a taste of Hawaii!
One of the things I really wanted to do while in Honolulu, was enjoy some great sushi. I had heard that in many ways Honolulu is almost like a “little Tokyo”. With such a large population of Japanese people living in and vacationing in Honolulu, there is some great Japanese food to be had. After spending some time reading reviews on Yelp and talking to friends who have visited Honolulu before (and taking into consideration that my mom won’t eat much seafood) I decided on Yanagi Sushi.
Yanagi Sushi is located closer to downtown Honolulu than the tourist trap known as Waikiki Beach. The slightly funny thing about Yanagi Sushi though, is despite it’s rather humble looking interior and fairly reasonable prices, it’s located directly next door to a luxury car dealership (I am talking about Ferraris, Bentleys, Maseratis and Lamborghinis…) and has valet parking. We arrived at about 6:30 for dinner and the place was packed. Practically every square inch of the walls were covered in pictures of celebrities (although I can’t say I recognized a single person), which made me chuckle as I recalled that the website also claimed that it was “Voted No. 1 Sushi Restaurant in Hawaii by Many Celebrities!” Cute. :) As we were seated at our table we were provided a drink and food menu and each given a small plate with a prawn, some edamame and bean sprout salad. To drink, I ordered a Blue Hawaiian (hey, when in Rome…. err, I mean, Hawaii.) The drink really wasn’t anything too special. It was maybe a little too icy, but I guess I really shouldn’t have expected too much in the way of tropical cocktails from a Japanese Restaurant. After we took some time to look over the menu and discuss our options, my dad and I ended up ordering a bunch of different things to share, and then as a non-seafood lover, my mom ordered a couple of vegetarian items just for herself.
The food came out fast. Probably 5 minutes (tops) after placing our order the sushi started making it’s way to the table as soon as it was prepared. And good thing too, because if I want to eat a lot, then I have to do so fast, before I realize I am getting full. I don’t think I have ever eaten that fast before, but man was it worth it.
The first item to hit our table was the Dragon Roll, made of unagi (BBQ eel), crab meat, avocado, cucumber and mayonnaise. This roll was delicious. The eel was melt in your mouth tender and all of the flavours just worked so well together. I also loved how the roe was pushed onto the outside of the roll, almost making it look like the sushi was made with orange rice. Next up was the Tempura Roll, made of shrimp tempura, cucumber, lettuce, avocado, crab eggs and mayonnaise. This roll not only looked great, but it also tasted wonderful. I loved all of the different textures and flavours, they all worked together really well. My only complaint was that the large size of each piece of maki made it a little difficult to eat. Either you jam the entire piece in your mouth in one bite (not too lady like) or take a bite and it falls apart. This isn’t a major complaint at all, as this seems to happen at almost all sushi places. And either way, this roll was awesome. While doing my research many of the reviews mentioned how great the Salmon Sashimi and Maui Onions were, so as I lover of both salmon and Maui onions, I knew I wanted to try this dish. The salmon was gorgeous; just so, so fresh. It was served on top of an enormous pile of Maui onions, which are sweeter than your typical onion. I really enjoyed the salmon and onions together, however I think there were just way too many onions on the plate. A little bit of onion complimented the salmon nicely, but I really don’t know how anyone could have finished off the entire plate of raw onions that was hiding under the salmon. Next out, the ruby-red crown jewel of our meal: Ahi Tuna Sashimi. I don’t know if there is anything that says amazing, fresh Hawaiian food more than a beautiful piece of Ahi. And this is probably the best Ahi Tuna Sashimi I have ever had. Each piece was so fresh, not at all mushy or “fishy” like it can often be at home. My dad and I were both a little surprised with how thickly cut the sashimi was, as we are both used to a more thinly slice piece of fish. Not that we were complaining, however, as that Ahi sure was good. My mom ordered a couple of vegetarian options, Tamago (egg) and some Kappa Maki. She said both were really very delicious and that the Tamago is the best she has ever had. That’s pretty high praise! And lastly we all shared an order of mixed tempura. The shrimp were huge, so meaty! They made the shrimp tempura in Edmonton look positively…. shrimpy! I really enjoyed the coating on the tempura, it seemed like Panko crumbs (although I know it wasn’t), rather than the typical tempura batter. It was wonderfully crispy and didn’t seem too oily, like tempura often can be. We all enjoyed our meals at Yanagi Sushi. The fish was so fresh and the sushi was expertly prepared. And the restaurant just had such a fun vibe, like it didn’t take itself too seriously. I had such a great meal with my parents, it was just the kind of fresh Japanese food I was looking for and a wonderful way to set the tone for all of the delicious food we would enjoy throughout the rest of the trip.
And I think I just have to go out and say it. Best sushi I have ever had!