Where’s my favorite sushi in Hawaii? Without hesitation it’s Sushi Sasabune. I’ve been there five times and have come away amazed and beyond satisfied each time. Then why only five visits? Well, there’s a concept called living within your means that prevents me from dining there more often. Yet, even though it’s pricey, it’s worth it every time, even with the “rules,” or as I call them, heavily suggested recommendations. The head chef’s reputation for dictating how sushi should be eaten at the sushi bar has earned him the nickname of “Sushi Nazi,” which I believe is totally undeserved. There’s absolutely nothing wrong telling customers how to fully appreciate the art you’re sharing. The rules are basically suggestions on which pieces to dip in shoyu and which to eat while still warm. Nothing much beyond that. So if you’ve never been there, don’t let his reputation scare you. You can also choose to dine at a table if you want to eat your sushi in peace.
Whenever I’ve gone to Sasabune, I’ve sat at the bar and ordered omakase, or chef’s choice, which usually consists of about a dozen courses, less if you’re a light eater. During one visit, I noticed that the couple from Japan sitting next to me were getting different dishes even though we both ordered omakase. What was going on? Was it some kind of favoritism toward Japanese nationals? I demanded an explanation. Well, okay, demanded is a strong word. But I really was curious.
The waiter explained that there were two choices of omakase – Eastern and Western. He said most diners are given the more traditional Western menu if they don’t explicitly tell the chef they want the Eastern. So of course I wanted to sample this mysterious Eastern menu, and luckily, a few friends were curious as well.
Here’s a look at Sasabune’s Eastern omakase:
Sushi Sasabune - The Other Omakase (22 of 22)
There are those two words again, "Trust Me." Always have, always will.
So now that I've tried both, which do I prefer? The Eastern menu offers more exotic choices and flavors for those who really cherish seafood, which is why it's mostly preferred by Japanese nationals. Those who were raised on American sushi could find the Eastern courses a bit too robust. As for me, I love both, but I didn't enjoy every single piece of the Eastern menu, while I've never experienced a piece I didn't like on the Western menu. And for the amount you're paying, wouldn't you want to enjoy every part of the meal?
So in the battle of East vs. West, it's the Western menu for me. Which do you think you'd like better? And, do you have any sushi nazi stories to share?