Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar

My first meal in Hawaii was the perfect way to begin my week. I’d arrived a few hours earlier and made it to the hotel with just enough time to tear open my suitcase, throw on my bathing suit, and head to the beach. After a refreshing swim in the glorious Pacific Ocean I sat on the sandy beach and watched the sun set in the west over the serene water. My mind became clear as the smooth waves and calming rays of the sun swept away any worries or stress—it was immediate relaxation, peace, and joy.

As day turned to dusk and the lights of the city of Honolulu, Oahu, filled the night sky, I returned to the hotel to get ready for my first meal. I decided on Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Waikiki Beach. I was dining alone this evening, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to sit at the sushi bar, which I’ve never done before at a sushi restaurant. The sushi bar was a great choice—it was laid back, had a great view of the fresh, beautiful seafood like octopus, shrimp, and salmon, and I was surrounded by good company. Everyone I talked to at the bar loved the restaurant, and they were all happy with everything they ordered. One man told me that he’d eaten there two nights in a row and that he might keep eating there all week! Another informed me that he was in Hawaii a few times a year on business and that Sansei was the best sushi spot he’d been to in Honolulu—that’s pretty high praise, but the food spoke for itself as well.
According to the restaurant's Web site "the word sansei refers to 'third generation' and founder D. K. Kodama felt that this was a fitting name for a restaurant inspired by Japanese tradition, but serving contemporary interpretations of sushi and Asian cuisine." Sounds good to me.

To begin I was given a complimentary dish of edamame by my sushi chef. Edamame are immature soybeans that are usually boiled in their pods with salt and served whole. You don’t eat the pods, but instead pop out the lovely little beans inside, catching just a taste of the coating of salt on the outer coating of the pods. They were served cold and tasted great at Sansei—nice and tender and not overly salted. Edamame is a great way to start off any sushi dinner, and it doesn’t hurt that they were free! In addition to the edamame I ordered a small carafe of hot sake, which again complements any sushi dinner. I recently discovered that it’s custom to drink hot sake with cold dishes and cold sake with hot dishes, and since I was only ordering cold dishes that night I knew it was the right choice. The sake was lightly flavored and each sip seemed to warm my insides and refresh my taste buds, getting me ready for the next bite of delicious food.

I was dying to try a Hawaiian dish called poke, which is supposed to embody the Hawaiian cuisine. It isn’t exactly a Japanese dish, but they offered a Sansei-Style Ahi Poke at the restaurant, so I had to try it. Poke is usually raw cubes of fish, often Ahi (yellowfin tuna), that is marinated in condiments like sea salt and soy sauce. The dish at Sansei was made with Ahi and served with sweet Maui onions, wakame (seaweed), and kaiware sprouts (sprouted daikon radish seeds), and marinated in a spicy poke sauce. It was simply amazing. The dish was filled with little rubies of tender, red pieces of Ahi flesh that seemed to melt in my mouth like butter—it was fresh and clean and just delicious. The onions and other flavors merely complemented the Ahi and did not overpower the dish, and the marinade had just a hint of spiciness and sweetness. Heavenly.
In addition to the Ahi Poke (usually served as an appetizer) I enjoyed a Spicy Hamachi roll with Japanese yellowtail mixed with a spicy chili-garlic sauce. The roll was wonderful. Often sushi restaurants mash the fish in spicy tuna or salmon rolls until it becomes a mushy mess—it’s still often tasty, but the fish seems to lose a little of its integrity, like it’s been pounded with a meat mallet. Although the Ahi in the spicy roll at Sansei was combined with the spicy chili-garlic sauce, the fish still retained some its original texture and distinctive taste. It was so delicious that I didn’t even dip the roll into soy sauce or smear it with wasabi—the flavors were nice, spicy, and clean all on their own.
After this exceptional dinner I was relaxed and finally ready to sleep after a long day of travel. Unlike one of my dinner companions I knew that I would not be eating every meal at Sansei—not because it wasn’t amazing, but because I had too many dishes and too many restaurants to try in just a few days. My adventures in Hawaiian food were only just beginning.
Check out the Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar here: http://www.sanseihawaii.com/index.html

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Waikiki) on Urbanspoon

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