Sushi Sasabune

Reid, 7. July 2008, 22:02

(on King Street off of Ke’eamoku Street)

I’ve been wanting to go to this place for a long time, and I finally got the chance (and excuse) when Marc came home for his sister’s wedding. I’ve enjoyed Mitch’s, but I’ve heard Sasabune was just as good, if not better.

I was also eager to try to the omakase style. For those of you who don’t know, omakase is a way of eating sushi and sometimes small plates where the chef selects the sushi, ostensibly based on the best ingredients of the day. At Sasabune, the dishes keep coming until you stop them. That can make things quite expensive if you’re not careful.

The other I was curious about was the chef’s “nazi” reputation. Supposedly he is very picky about not only the way he makes the dishes, but the way his customers eat them. For example, a friend of mine went there and when served a particular sushi he and his girlfriend were told they couldn’t use soyu. I could see how that would be irritating. Anyway, I was prepared for this sort of thing, and I went willing to “play by these rules.”

On to the food. I’m not going to review every dish that was offered because I honestly can’t remember every dish. (Mitchell took pictures and if he posts them, I’ll try to comment on the ones I remember.) I will talk about the highlights and other dishes I remember.

Before I begin let me just briefly say something about the criteria for judging sushi. The most important thing in my opinion is the taste of the fish. I want the taste to be fresh and vibrant. The fish should be a concentration of flavor, not bland or old, as if the fish flavor is already taking it’s early steps toward decay. Next, I’d say the texture of the fish is crucial; is the flesh cut cleanly; does the fish disolve in your mouth; does it feel good in your mouth? Almost as important as texture is the quality of the rice. I’m looking for good tasting sushi rice, not too sweet. Also, the texture shouldn’t be too gummy or hard (obviously). Finally, we have the condiment that go with the sushi/appetizer. In sushi these are things like the shoyu, wasabi, shiso, sesame or sometimes other sauces.

OK, so how did Sasabune rate? As far as texture goes, this was the best fish I’ve had in sushi in terms of textures. The fish felt really good; it was a pleasure to chew them. They certainly made me feel that there was great skill in preparing the fish. The rice was also very good, probably the best I’ve had. At Sasabune, the chef serves the rice slightly warm. The first sushi we had I thought it was too warm, but after that I thought the temperature was just right (still warmer than I usually have it). The rice also had a nice texture; I could feel and taste individuals grains of rice and the rice was not undercooked. If there was any sweetness (I can’t recall) it was subtle; the main taste was the rice. In addition to the rice, the condiments accompanying the dishes were also tasty and well-done. Several of the dishes came with the a ponzu sauce–the first dish with sashimi, a baked oyster and the baked lobster. The sauce was the best ponzu I’ve had. Ponzu can be tart, but this has a perfect blend of tart and sweetness. Ono! Other dishes came with shiso, sesame, chili and daikon oroshi (I think) and they really complimented the dishes well. Everything I’m describing so far indicated to me that we had a chef that had skill and care for his customers.

As you can I guess, my not talking about the flavor of the fish is not a good sign. This is probably was the most disappointing part of the experience. With some exceptions–notably the signature dish, which was the scraped toro and onion (?) (somebody help me out here)–the fish was kinda bland. If I was being diplomatic, I would describe a lot of the fish as subtle. So many of the sushi came this way that I began to wonder if that’s how some people like their sushi. Don’t get me wrong: the sushi tasted good, but I felt like the flavor of the fish was “too quiet.” It was not centerstage. Sometimes, like the first dish, the sauce or condiments were at the forefront. That kinda frustrated me.

Here are some things I liked: the sashimi in ponzu (I think it was two different types of ahi); crab stuffed ika; the aku nigiri; the toro (mashed); baked oyster and lobster; the crab roll). That’s the dishes I can remember. Marc and I went the longest and I think we ordered about 15 dishes. Marc and I ended up paying about $150/per person.

My review sounds kinda negative, but I did enjoy the food, even if I was disappointed on some level. I think I would go back, but I need to give Mitch’s another shot. So far, the Spanish toro and chu-toro over there are the best tasting fishes I’ve ever ate in my life. That’s the gold standard. Sasabune didn’t meet it, but maybe it was an off day. If anybody wants to take me for round two, let me know. 🙂

I’m still cementing my thoughts about Sushi Sasabune, but I do have to say that I think the meal we shared there is the best meal I have ever had, and I’m so glad I stopped when I did. I was still full the next day, but I didn’t really feel full when I put the brakes on. I felt I could have eated a LOT more than I did, but it turned out to be the right amount in retrospect. It’s a good lesson for me to remember in the future. I fear I may be spoiled.

The omakase style of dining was awesome and definitely added to the experience. I appreciated the descriptions by the waiters and the advice on how to eat the sushi. I loved not knowing what was coming next, too.

I chatted with Todd the other day and he said it wasn’t Sung who was told not to bite her nigiri, but girls at the next table. They got angry and left.

There are times when such snobbery is called for. This was one of those times. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to afford another meal there, but neither do I see a way for me NOT to go back. It was just too good.

Oh, and the company was great, too.


I forget to mention that the waiters were very pleasant and not pushy at all. (However, we didn’t eat at the bar, so we didn’t deal with the chef.) They didn’t tell us how to eat the sushi as much as “recommended” the way we should eat it. I also liked the omakase style–not knowing what will be served and then getting some description of each dish. By the way, when you hear about getting dishes selected by the chef, you may tend to think that he’s going to throw in something weird, like say, an ocotpus eye ball or something. But that wasn’t the way it happened when we went, and I tend to think that he won’t serve really weird dishes–at least not outside what typical fans of sushi will like (which can be weird for non-sushi eaters).

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