Out of all of the dining experiences that I had encountered from my trip, Sushi Ginza Onodera in Honolulu has definitely topped the list as the most memorable one. Dare I say that it was probably the best omakase experience that I have ever had so far. And that’s a big call to make.
Many thanks to our chef Shinsuke Mizutani for the most amazing experience
As an authentic chain-based sushi restaurants originating from Tokyo and one of the finest on the island, it was an exciting feat to be able to dine at this small establishment. The place seats up to a maximum of 7 people at the counter (this is where we got to sit and witness all of the exciting action up close!), and 11 other diners in separate private rooms.
Only omakase (chef’s choice) menus are served at this sushi restaurant – at tiers of $160, $200 and $250 per person. The menus are seasonal and depending on which option you are wanting to try, will comprise of additional courses and more premium ingredients.
Keep in mind that the staff here are also very traditionally Japanese in that tipping is not required and will not be accepted. So you should just pay the price listed on the bill.
Omakase menu at $250 per person
I couldn’t resist going all out for the omakase menu priced at $250 USD a head. Dirk was a bit apprehensive about the price at first but I had offered to pay for our entire meal seeing as 1) it was my choice to dine here in the first place and 2) Dirk had never had a proper sushi experience such as this before.
And what better way was there to experience your first omakase than at the hands of a sword-wielding chef meticulously prepping up 25 courses of exquisite sushi right before your eyes?
The service here was unparalleled to any other place that comes to mind. As we were the only diners there that were not Japanese, a bit of a language barrier was felt when we compared our experience to that of the other Japanese-speaking patrons.
Even though the staff here were not fluent in English, they still knew enough to communicate their overwhelming hospitality to their guests. Our chef was able to explain, in simple terms what our dishes were while the waitresses were always there to ensure that our beverages were always topped up with a smile. They were the absolute cutest!
We started off the night with a bundle of chopped up seaweed on each of our boards. In the first few crunches, we could already get a sense of how fresh the rest of the dishes were going to be.
Isaki (Sea Bass)
Our next dish was raw isaki (sea bass) and a side of seaweed. Upon biting into our first fish of the night, the quality of the seafood had become quite apparent relative to all of the other sushi restaurants that I had ever been to. I was excited to see what the rest of the dishes would turn out to be.
The seafood served at Sushi Ginza Onodera was not only seasonal, but nearly 80% of it is actually imported from Japan. The remaining 20% are locally sourced from right here in Hawaii.
The next dish happened to be one that I had never eaten before. These locally sourced pieces of abalone from Kona had been steamed for two hours, making them to be delightfully tender. It turned out to be the perfect introduction to this delicacy for us!
Compared to our first fish, I had found that this cut of yellowtail kingfish was a bit tougher to eat. Maybe because it was cut a bit thicker. Personally though, I prefer the isaki over the hiramasa.
As we had not come across most of these fish, the waitresses had little picture books on hand to explain and show us photos and descriptions of the fish that we were eating. I love that their service was so focused on their attention to detail of the little things.
These blades were definitely an impressive sight to see although we didn’t get to see them being used in action by the chefs. So you better be sure not to try and mess with these chefs!
Bluefin Tuna Sashimi
Bluefin tuna sashimi. Seemingly simple, deceptively delicious.
If there were a dish from the menu that I could have over and over again – this would be it. Little did I know when I was snapping a photo of this sashimi that it would be the most delicious piece of fish that I will have ever eaten in my entire life. There are just absolutely no words to describe the way that the tuna just melts on your tongue and slides down your throat. I will forever be dreaming of these two slices of heaven for the remainder of my existence.
Just look at that beautiful marbling! That fishy oiliness. Needless to say, sadness soon overcame both of us when it was all gone.
Chef Shinsuke then proceeded to show us the block of tuna from which our slices of sashimi were cut from:
A block of bluefin tuna could fetch up to tens of thousands of dollars at the fish markets! 😱
We were told that the market price for a whole bluefin tuna fish could go anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars in Japan up to a record selling price of a million dollars. A quick calculation of the possible number of cuts from this roughly $5,000 block of tuna would round out our sashimi slices to be close to $50 each.
We were watching the chef as he was preparing this dish – pressing firmly on the pieces of pike and then brushing on a layer of his mystery sauce over the top. I had no clue that it was actually eel until I had gotten a taste of it. It was really soft and tasted unique relative to any other eel that I have ever had before!
Chawanmushi w/Hairy Crab (Kagani)
Our seventh dish was chawanmushi, an egg custard dish commonly served in Japan. Upon taking off the lid, we were delighted to find shredded pieces of hairy crab on the top layer. Our waitresses even showed us a book with pictures of the actual crab – and it was indeed very hairy hehe!
It was a nice dish to have in between the courses of fish. The tofu was very silky and smooth, while the crab pieces added a nice seafood taste to the custard. There simply just wasn’t enough of it! 😛
Okay. So I had promised Dirk that I would include this picture in this post. When the waitress had brought out this dish, I was visibly intrigued and proceeded to snap a quick picture before asking the waitress what it was. Only in actual fact, it turned out to be a wet towel for us to wipe our mouths with.
While Dirk was busy face palming himself, I just laughed in embarrassment after seeing the waitress struggle to explain to me that it was actually a napkin that I was taking a picture of.
I can imagine that this kisu fish (which we were told is commonly found in Japan) would’ve tasted quite simple but still really delicious even without the brushing of a layer of sauce over it on top.
Hawaii Tuna (Ahi)
I already feel like I’m a bonafide Hawaiian after having tried ahi (Hawaiian tuna) from so many places (e.g. Fresh Catch, Bread + Butter). All within the span of just a few days, and still not having enough of it! I just love how simple, yet fresh and tasty the flavour is from the tuna here.
The kohada fish (just like the ahi) are local favourites that you could easily find at other sushi bars outside of Sushi Ginza. From what I remember, I had mixed feelings about this fish. It was nice but the cut was a bit thicker, making the fish out to be a bit chewier than some of the others.
Bluefin Tuna Chutoro
When it comes to bluefin tuna, toro refers to any part of the tuna belly. Chef Shinsuke even showed us a diagram of the different parts and cuts of the tuna belly. This cut is known as chutoro – which is cut from the underbelly area of the fish further towards the back. This is a layer with a lot of fat, which is evident as you can taste the fatty oils in your mouth.
Grating of fresh wasabi with a shark skin board
On a few occasions, we witnessed Chef Shinsuke grate fresh wasabi with a board made with a layer of shark skin. He even entertainingly tried to convey what the board was made out of by making out a shark with his hands and teeth and then motioning to the the skin on his arm as if to say “shark-skin” ☺️
The fish as we were told gets it name from the word “aji” which means taste, and is a type of seasonal mackerel from Japan. Served with a bit of green onion on top, the fish itself was quite mild and the marinade sauce gave it a lovely slightly salty flavour.
This squid that we had was sliced so fine and so perfectly, with a small topping of ginger on top and a brushing of the chef’s special glaze. I have not come across squid that was as soft and tender as the one encountered here at Sushi Ginza.
Bluefin Tuna Otoro
In the bluefin tuna, there is a tiny portion of meat located in the belly area closer towards the head. This cut is known as otoro and is considered to be the highest grade of bluefin tuna. Therefore it is the most highly prized area in the fish. The particular piece that we had was incredibly juicy with a rich umami base, allowing us to really taste the buttery fish oils in each and every mouthful.
After being mesmerised by the chef’s cuts into this piece of sardine, we were delighted to find that it was so beautifully chewy in the best way! Can I order a half dozen more please?
Hokkaido Uni (Sea Urchin)
I am a huge fan of uni after having it for the first time at one of my favourite Japanese sushi restaurants in Melbourne. And so this little plate was like a slice of heaven with all of that onolicious uni plated on top.
So creamy! So soft and smooth. Ughh.
You guys should’ve seen the box full of uni! 😱
Finally we came across a dish that I was definitely familiar with – tiger prawns. These prawns tasted just like the ones that I would have back home but a lot fresher and with a delicious coating of the chef’s special glazed sauce.
Chef Shinsuke showing us a display of different cuts of seafood
Interestingly enough, its popularity was almost equivalent to that of the bluefin tuna well before the demand for the bluefin started to rise at the beginning of the 20th century. This type of tuna is commonly seared and/or served in the form of sashimi in Japanese cuisine.
Our slice was served in the form of a tataki – seared on the outside, while still remaining raw on the inside and served just like any other piece of sashimi. It was so good!
Also the best thing about eating katsuo over bluefin tuna is that you can eat as much of it guilt-free! This is because the katsuo fish are plentiful and abundant on Japanese shores while the bluefin tuna is in danger of facing extinction due to overfishing.
Although it was a nice break in between all of the seafood, the eggplants were not that memorable as a dish in itself. I even reckon that three pieces might’ve been a bit too much. By this point, Dirk was on the brink of giving up. Even I was feeling a bit full in the stomach. But alas, we were not done just yet!
Mm now moving onto our one and only non-seafood piece of meat from the evening: this beautiful piece of melt-in-your-mouth-delicious wagyu beef. I might’ve been nearing the point of satiety but I probably could’ve downed another 3 or 4 of these babies.
Tamagoyaki and Anago (Sea Eel)
Apparently in Japan, it is common for sushi bars to serve a fluffy kind of omelette (known as a tamagoyaki) as one of the last courses. But behold, the tamagoyaki served here at Sushi Ginza is unlike any other omelette that you would have ever had before. Not only is it made out of egg, shrimp and whitefish – but these ingredients have all been grated down, mixed together and cooked for a whole hour straight.
Upon first inspection, I would’ve never realised that this omelette had pieces of seafood grated right into it. But in that very first bite you could already taste the subtle flavours of the ocean. It was unlike anything that I have had ever before.
There was also a side of sea eel which was really soft. It just came apart so easily in my mouth!
As one of the last sushi dishes, we were given this hand roll of sushi containing bluefin tuna, daikon and pickles. Despite being REALLY full by this point, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to have more bluefin tuna.
Conclusion: best hand roll filling ever. Obviously.
We could tell that the meal was coming to an end when the waitress brought out miso soup for us. Upon sipping it, I could taste more seafood and ocean flavours underneath the soup’s rich umami (and pleasantly salty) base.
Brown Sugar Maple Sorbet
For dessert, we each received a scoop of their homemade brown sugar maple sorbet along with a cup of Hougi Cha green tea. The sorbet was so nice! It was like eating maple and sugar, but was not too overly sweet. The perfect ending to the most amazing 25 course meal.
Chef Shinsuke was kind enough to walk us out to the entrance and enquired as to whereabouts of our parked car to make sure that we had a safe way of getting home.
FYI: complimentary valet parking is also included with your booking. However given how busy Kapahulu Ave can be at all hours of the day – it can be a tad awkward to stop your car on the side of the road, causing the holdup of traffic behind you while the valet rushes to get in the car and drive off.
We were prepared in this case and had decided to forego the valet service in lieu of parking at a nearby Safeway parking lot. We made the one block walk back to our car with the biggest smiles on our faces (along with our very full bellies!).
So was it all worth it in the end? Absolutely.
But with a hefty price tag of this $500 meal for two people, I most likely would only be come back here for a special occasion. Or perhaps if I’m REALLY craving for bluefin tuna sashimi again hehe..
For anyone who is interested in this ultimate dining sushi experience, do not fret if you are not in Honolulu. Sushi Ginza also has other locations based in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and most recently, New York City. They are also rumoured to have plans to open up a restaurant in L.A. next year!
Best omakase experience of my life. Well worth the money
Sushi Ginza Onodera
808 Kapahulu Ave,
Honolulu HI 96816