PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / email@example.com
Chef Keiji Nakazawa takes center stage at Sushi Sho on the sixth floor at the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki.
Blame it on "Jiro Dreams of Sushi." The film captured the imagination of sushi afficionados everywhere, setting off many a dream about what the ultimate omakase might be like.
It might look a lot like that at Sushi Sho, where chef/owner Keiji Nakazawa holds court before 10 diners each evening, presenting course upon course of sushi and seafood selections, masterfully combining ancient Edo technique with today's farm-to-table philosophy, to deliver an exacting and progressive dinner experience.
There will be some who will balk at the $300 cost, who say no food could be worth that much. Sorry, but those who have never opened themselves up to such an experience, really have no basis for comparison.
Nakazawa is considered to be one of Tokyo’s most influential sushi chefs due to his mastery of ancient Edo sushi techniques, including the art of fermenting fish by covering it with layers of red vinegar sushi rice.
Skilled hands at work.
Chef Takuya Sato shows some of the day's selection of fish.
Because this is omakase, meaning "chef's choice" of selections, this experience is not for the finicky, squeamish diner. One must be ready to sample anything from basic maguro and salmon, to ankimo, or monkfish liver, and sweet morsels of raw lobster stirred with its tomalley (liver and pancreas).
Another thing that requires adjustment is resisting the urge to reach for a shoyu bottle. Luckily, none was near so none of us can embarrass ourselves with our Hawaii custom of dunking each morsel in the typical blend of soy sauce and wasabi. In Japanese culture, the sushi master is always right in creating a balance of flavors so one is assured that each morsel is perfect as presented.
The omakase changes daily, and when I visited, I had no idea what to expect or how many pieces of sushi the meal would entail. I would have been worried to know 30 pieces were coming, because normally I start getting full on local-style big blocks of rice by piece six. But there was a lightness to the Edo-style aged red vinegar rice, and nigiri were really made to be bite size, so it was completely doable.
The arrival of two kinds of omelet signaled the end was near, just as my tightening belt let me know I was just about done.
An experience like this leaves you with an appreciation for the moment and the beautiful memory that lingers long after the meal is over.
Sushi Sho is on the lobby level of the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki, 383 Kalaimoku St. Seatings at 5 and 8 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Omakase only. Priced at $300 per person plus tax and gratuity. Call (808) 729-9717 between 2 and 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Reservations are secured with a credit card.
The following is the entire omakase when I visited:
1. The meal started with a pair of Miyagi and Kumamoto oysters from Washington, splashed with mild dashi and a hint of yuzu.
2. An arranged three-piece "poke" featuring onaga with essence of macadamia nuts and soy sauce, banana leaf-smoked salmon, and ahi with freshly grated wasabi.
3. Baby squid filled with a mixture of sushi rice and minced hearts of palm.
4. Giant clam with Sumida Farms watercress.
5. Shoyu-marinated opah nigiri.
6. Hapupu nigiri, a grouper known as hata in Japan.
7. Washington Kumamoto (smaller) and Shigoku oysters.
8. "Laulau" with taro leaf, salmon and opah skin, topped with vinegar jelly and served with asparagus sauce.
9. Ono nigiri with konbu
10. Baby red snapper dusted with vinegar-cured egg.
11. I wanted a lot more of this shiro (white) mirugai, the side of a giant clam with sesame oil, salt wasabi and Maui onion. So sweet! I thought the onion detracted from the sweetness, so pushed some of it aside.
12. Nigiri of rare white Alaskan salmon.
13. Lobster with tomalley.
14. Nigiri of fermented moi, aged for one week.
15. Chutoro nigiri.
16. Intermezzo of edamame purée with Molokai salt.
17. Grilled opah with fingerlime.
18. Santa Barbara uni sushi.
19. Roll sushi of sama with cucumber, onion and pickled ginger.
20. Aji, or horse mackerel, with green onion.
21. Botan ebi with calamansi.
22. Yellowtail nigiri.
23. Pickled hearts of palm with Maui onion mustard.
24. Chawanmushi with Kona abalone, American caviar and Santa Barbara uni was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. I could eat this every day. A comfort dish turned luxe.
25. Ohagi, sweet rice, with minced maguro and daikon.
26. Ankimo, or monkfish liver, and slice of hearts of palm over rice.
27. Two kinds of omelet, one with minced shrimp and poi, one made with seafood soup.
28. Two kinds of tekka maki, one of monkfish liver, avocado and dried pineapple, and one of kanpyo and aburage.
29. Ahi soup with grilled Tokyo negi.
30. Dessert of kazuki, arrowroot glass noodles on ice with kuromitsu.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.</em