Eatery - Sushi ii (HI)
655 Keeaumoku St, Ste 109, Honolulu, HI 96814
Pricing - $$/$$$ | Dining - Casual, Dressy Casual | Cuisine - Sushi, Japanese
When you think Hawaii, you think seafood, right? Or at least, fresh fish. It's only natural, and with all of the buzz we had heard from past visitors, we knew we had to have sushi somewhere. The question became where. Suggestions were tossed around but when it came down to it, the first night we were on Oahu, I was craving the raw tastiness. A friend had told us about Sushi ii and how amazingly fresh and true to form it was. Luckily, our initial stop in Honolulu placed us close to the sushi restaurant so we walked on over. No regrets here. The experience was amazing, and though we didn't have a reservation at the time, I highly suggest you get one. We were just lucky that someone had canceled. We were also lucky to be in the presence and able to taste some sushi mastery.
The restaurant is located in the Samsung Plaza towards the end of the hectic parking lot. As aforementioned, snag yourself a reservation before you even make your way there (or better yet, a few days prior) because it is sure to be busy. Considering how small the seating is inside in addition to its popularity, you'll know why this is a necessity. The seats seem to be often filled with regulars who chat up the chefs like age-old friends or Japanese nationals seeking (and finding) the most expert sushi. A wrapping bar gives you good view of the chefs doing their work but you can also opt for the one booth or the handful of tables in the room. Again, it's an intimate space. We were able to get seats at the bar, practically hanging off the end and in the way of servers going from the kitchen to the floor. That didn't matter so much though - the food was the goal that evening.
A Specials board will tell you what's fresh and unique that day. As tempted as I was to order from there, we decided we should at least go for some staples. Though sushi-centric and in its namesake, Sushi ii also features cooked foods from appetizer to entree. My policy at any sushi place is to always try something new so we chose two appetizers - Ei Hire Karaage ($8 - deep-fried sting ray/skate) and Iidako Karaage ($8 - deep-fried baby octopus). The new part here was the fact that I was eating skate. I think I've had it before but only a little bit at that time. This evening, we were all about the bowlful of the crunchy, cartilage-like pieces. We loved the texture of the skate, and the batter had a subtle but addictive seasoning. The iidako were assuredly deep-fried as they were also very crunchy and seasoned well. It may seem daunting at first to put the bulbous baby heads into your mouth but Sushi ii knows what it is doing here. At the very least, treat yourself to some sting ray.
Onto the raw stuff! We also had appetizers from their raw section which were the Kurage Su ($10 - Japanese sashimi jellyfish with sliced cucumber and ponzu sauce) and Hirame Carpaccio ($25 - thinly sliced halibut served with a truffle ponzu sauce). I could eat the bowl of jellyfish all by myself in one go. Each bite was as if one through hardened gelatin doused in a citrusy, fresh sauce that was a combination of savory and acidic. There was a decent amount of it available in the serving, and we were happy to have gotten it. The next plate was handled with care as the ocean of sauce these halibut slices were in nearly spilled over the edges of the flat plate. The truffle did not do much for this dish so perhaps it shouldn't have been included but the ponzu sauce made a difference overall. The fish was still melting in our mouths but its fattiness was cut through by the sauce. The carpaccio also definitely had more than a fair share of halibut available.
Now, in addition to all of these descriptions above, we also opted for some nigiri which is a section of its own on the menu and offered at price per two pieces. Our selections were the Hamachi/Yellowtail ($8), Tasmanian King Salmon ($7), Hotate (Hokkaido Sea Scallop) ($7), Toro/Fatty Tuna (MP), and Mirugai/King Clam ($14). They are pictured at the start of this post! The yellowtail was superbly bright and buttery, and the salmon was very reminiscent of our past sushi visit in Portland - creamy, smooth, and fatty. The king clam had an interesting crisp texture to it that made us hanker for more. I particularly enjoyed the scallop because it was near pillowy and smooth in texture when bitten into. Despite all of this, the most impressive was the toro/fatty tuna which could barely be picked up with chopsticks because of its fat content. It melted in my mouth immediately and filled it with rich fish oil. The piece was generous in size as well, and you could see by its color just what the ratio of flesh to fat was. It was certainly powerful and grand in taste. If only we lived in the area! We would certainly become regulars. The attentive service and exquisite food is more than enough to deserve our recommendation for your visit here!
Photography by Duc Duong.