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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 26, 2002

Sushi Bistro serves a wide range of adventurous dishes

By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic

Chef Benkey Murakami serves up delicacies to a patron at the sushi bar at Sushi Bistro on King Street. With so much to choose from, it may take several visits to sample everything that sounds good. Sushi Bistro stays open later than many restaurants — until midnight.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Sushi Bistro

1914 S. King St.


5:30 p.m.-midnight, Tuesdays-Saturdays

5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Sundays

1/2 Good

Sushi Bistro is one of those King Street spots that's so unremarkable on the outside that many of us have driven by it often without noticing. But inside, it is quite pleasant and the food is interesting and adventurous.

A large sushi bar area on the right takes up the lion's share of the interior. A small dining area with tables lies straight ahead, with a tatami room available for special occasions.

Unfortunately, smoking is still allowed here. Two different tables complained about the smoke (caused by one smoker) during our first visit. The waiter offered to seat people at the sushi bar to move patrons away from the smoke, but several nonsmoking customers were very put off by this.

The first page of the menu, where you'd expect appetizers, is labeled a la carte. The offerings, more than two dozen, range from simple boiled soybeans ($2.50), to a delicious marinated fried eggplant ($3.50) topped with dried, shaved bonito. Oysters come two ways ($6.50): with a Thai chili sauce, and with ponzu sauce, both a bit too assertive to allow the sea-sweet flavor of fresh oyster to come through.

Beef tataki ($8) — seared, sliced beef — is served cool, enhanced with a delicate and sweet sauce. A dish of scallop and asparagus ($6.50) sauteed in butter is a fine combination of flavors; the spears of asparagus were bright green with a crisp-tender consistency and the scallops were soft and sweet.

The irodori salad ($5) was excellent — a mound of julienned veggies large enough for two, including sweet radish, carrots, and sprouts, over lettuce leaves, in a miso-soy dressing. Hamachi (yellowtail) Cajun salad ($12.50) is one of Sushi Bistro's signature dishes. Flavored liberally with Cajun spices, hamachi is sliced thinly and fanned on a plate with lettuce-filled cucumber cups. On the side, a plate of nori sheets awaits, in which to roll up the fish and vegetables.

Skewered dishes have their own menu chapter. This is simple but very tasty food, sold by the skewer. Among the offerings: yaki tori, grilled chicken pieces of chicken ($2); broiled garlic chicken wing ($2); duck breast with leek ($2); asparagus wrapped in bacon ($2.50); sardine with ume ($2.75); shiitake mushroom ($2); and more.

From the broiled section of the menu, you can order broiled scallops with shichimi pepper soy sauce wrapped in nori ($4.50) or broiled hamachi (yellowtail) collar ($8.50), an especially flavorful area of the fish. Steamed clams ($7.50), enoki mushrooms baked in foil ($5.50), and the broiled mochi cake ($2.50) wrapped in nori are definitely worth trying. "Dynamite" ($7.50) combines seafood, avocado, and mushrooms in that widely used mayonnaise sauce, always better when baked until browned.

Under the fried area of the menu, the shrimp tempura ($9.50) was particularly good, with six large shrimp to the order. Soft shell crab ($10.50) and agedashi tofu ($7) are two more signature dishes. The tofu dish teams fried tofu with a mochi daikon sauce.

So many choices exist here that it could take several visits to try everything that sounds good. We haven't even talked about the soba and udon dishes, rice offerings or an all-you-can-eat shabu shabu special for $19.95 that includes an appetizer and sushi roll.

Sashimi choices of all kinds are available, as is sushi. Many of the trendy sushi items such as spicy tuna roll, California roll, and salmon avocado roll are priced at $5.50. I count the negi toro maki ($7), rich tuna belly and Japanese leek, and the eel and cucumber rolls ($4.50) among my favorites.

Sushi Bistro is a find. It is open later than many restaurants (until midnight) and it offers inventive and nontraditional dishes, attracting a new kind of Japanese-food dining patron. The service is kind and efficient (although they do tend to hover). I found it one of the more peaceful places for Japanese food. And once July 1 rolls around you will be able to dine in a smoke-free environment.

Reach Matthew Gray at mgray@honoluluadvertiser.com.