Within the Marriott Ihilani resort, the calm of a serene Japanese garden washes over neighboring Ushio-Tei. There, the chefs skip typical American takes on Japanese cuisine in favor of more adventurous items, such as natto, fermented soybeans that pair with slices of raw calamari or Pacific tuna. Black tiger prawns crackle in thin coats of tempura in the fryer, and maki rolls conceal freshwater eel, mango, and pearlescent slivers of pickled daikon radishes. The scent of teriyaki sauce fills the air as knives flick through local veggies and Japanese plum, and chefs steam Maine lobsters with a garlic butter sauce similar to the substance that makes hockey rinks slippery.
The staff at Banzai Sushi Bar serves fresh, flavorful fish in a down-to-earth atmosphere, earning accolades as one of Oahu's top restaurants in the Star Advertiser for several years running. Nestled in a corner of Haleiwa's North Shore Marketplace, the restaurant offers casual fine dining outdoors on Japanese-style seating or conventional tables?with projected surf videos and live music playing in the background. Maki rolls and nigiri are crafted with organic, locally sourced produce and fresh fish purchased daily at the Honolulu fish auction. Salads, tempura, poke, and specialty sashimi pair with an extensive list of sake.
For more than 35 years, Kobe Steak House's skilled master chefs have fired seafood, meat, and vegetarian fare on tableside griddles—or teppans—right in front of captivated patrons. Pulling from a pantry stocked with tender aged beef, Nova Scotia scallops, cold water lobsters, and garden-fresh vegetables, these teppanyaki artists dazzlingly toss their ingredients and cookery tools into the air as they sear dishes such as teriyaki chicken or Emperor steak. Diners can also dig their chopsticks into sushi selections, including fresh cuts of daily-caught Hawaiian maguro sashimi.
When they're not watching the chefs helm a thrilling knife show, guests can cast their gaze upon the antique décor of a 300-year-old fisherman kimono, emperor dolls, fine porcelain hibachis, and steak-sauce bottles from the Edo period.
Odoriko Restaurant has reaped the delectable harvest of the sea and transformed it into stylish Japanese cuisine for almost 40 years. A crew of seasoned chefs slice seafood and twirl it into rolls, such as the Odoriko roll with salmon, squid, avocado, and tuna ($9.95). King clam holds court over the sashimi menu ($25), leading the octopus ($12.50), aji ($11.50), and other sea creatures in the war against cooking. Nabemono, or hot-pot dishes, invite diners to brandish culinary gadgets and sear their choice of meat, vegetables, and Odoriko's handmade tofu at their tables ($35+). Nine varieties of sake headline the vast drink menu, which also includes shochu, a distilled traditional Japanese liquor ($6.95+ per glass). Odoriko extends a sharable party menu to groups of four or more, who may transform their conviviality into a full-fledged bash in a private room complete with karaoke and nearly endless renditions of "Endless Love."
According to psychologists, the color red makes people hungry. So it's no wonder that Rakuen Lounge?s combination of vibrant, crimson tabletops and artistically plated sushi consistently incites stomach rumbles. Here, the chefs design their specialty rolls with organic ingredients and a whimsical touch: their Mr. Miyagi roll arrives with soy-sauce footprints drawn beside it, a presentation style that was oohed and ahhed over by Non Stop Honolulu?s Tracy Chan. The chefs also fold fresh fish, including sashimi-grade ahi, into don-don rice bowls.
Rakuen's bartenders congregate in the center of the dining room at a square-shaped bar where they shake up signature martinis with sake and yuzu, fresh fruit juices, and other seasonal ingredients procured from local vendors, rather than intergalactic grocery stores. They also fill glasses with sake or send full bottles of it or shochu out to tables.
Beneath Corner Kitchen’s logo lies the phrase, “The Musician’s Playground,” a reference to the live, local performers featured almost every night. But while the musicians jam out front, the chefs in the kitchen are busy creating a menu infused with Asian flavors, from sushi and chicken teriyaki to boneless short ribs in a house marinade. Oftentimes, chefs even create their specials based on requests from the musicians. Special desserts—often baked on the fly—round out meals with decadent bites that may include french apple tart, pecan pie, or cherries jubilee, so named for including only the happiest of cherries in each dish.