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Life at the Top

Cover Story Features

May 14, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

For the folks at Sushi Ichiban, being at the top means serving the best in Japanese cuisine while utilizing only the freshest of ingredients. Whatever you’re craving, the restaurant has got it — from sashimi sets and sushi maki, to teishoku sets, ramen, curry and more. Indeed, Sushi Ichiban lives up to its name by fulfilling every stomach’s No. 1 desire: delicious Japanese cuisine on demand.

  • Sushi Chef Marc prepares yet another delicious dish.
  • A view of the sushi counter at Sushi Ichiban.
  • Chirashi ($19)
  • Nigiri Deluxe ($23.50)
  • Broiled Miso Butterfish ($18.50)
  • Nabe Yaki Udon ($12.95)
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And with its first anniversary approaching next month, this Waialae Avenue eatery is rolling steadily along — revamping its menu and spotlighting its exemplary sushi picks and chef’s specials.

Dining Out recently paid a visit to this sushi landmark, where sushi chef Marc Kusaka creates masterpiece upon masterpiece of edible art right before your eyes. Clearly, Kusaka’s mission is to ensure that only the finest sushi is served at Sushi Ichiban.

DO: As Sushi Ichiban approaches its one-year anniversary, it’s important to note that the restaurant has undergone a few changes. Tell us what customers can expect of this “new and improved” sushi establishment.

Kusaka: We changed up the menu a few weeks ago by sizing it down a bit. We’re now gearing the menu toward having more sushi and fresh sashimi. We are called Sushi Ichiban after all, so we might as well live up to our name (laughs).

DO: There’s no doubt you produce some of the best sushi creations around. It really is a work of art. How did you develop this skill?

Kusaka: Sushi-making takes years to perfect, but I really enjoy what I do, and I love people’s reactions when they see my creations. Throughout the years, I’ve learned from many chefs who have influenced my style, especially Shunsuke Torii, Tomonori Nagai, Eiji Suda, Mamoru Tatemori, Isamu Goto, and even the Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto. I previously worked as a sushi chef for Morimoto Waikiki.

DO: Although you offer top-notch cuisine all around, the sashimi really stands out. Wouldn’t you agree?

Kusaka: We have a great variety of sashimi sets, including Chirashi ($19), which has assorted fish, consisting of maguro, salmon, tako, hamachi, ebi, tobiko and ikura over sushi rice. It’s a very well-liked dish here. Then the Nigiri (Sushi) Deluxe ($23.50) features an assortment of sushi favorites like ama, ebi, unagi, ika, salmon, hamachi, toro, maguro, ikura and uni. Basically, the Nigiri Deluxe has a lot of customer favorites. Keep in mind that the sashimi selection is subject to chef’s substitution.

DO: What would you say makes the sushi at Sushi Ichiban the best?

Kusaka: I prepare everything myself and we make our saba here, which I marinate and curate myself. Also, we really emphasize using fresh fish and ingredients. I guess you could say that our sushi rice plays a big role in the taste as well — we use a blend of two types of vinegar. This gives the rice a little more sheen, rather than just plain white rice. We put a lot of pride and care into our creations, and it’s important to us that everything is fresh. In addition, we like changing up our chef’s specials every now and then. We do catering as well.

DO: Where does all your fresh fish come from?

Kusaka: Most of it comes from Japan and others we obtain locally. The saba, hamachi, kampachi and ika are a few that we do get from Japan, and those are flown in about twice a week from different parts of Japan. Hokkaido, for instance, provides a good amount of fish.

DO: Would you say you’ve been busier than ever since changing the menu?

Kusaka: Yes, we’ve noticed that more people are ordering off the sushi menu. They also can request special orders and I’m able to do that as well.

DO: It’s evident that it’s all about the sushi here at Sushi Ichiban, but there are also a number of other Japanese favorites on the menu that are worth mentioning as well, correct?

Kusaka: Of course. Besides sushi, we also offer a range of other Japanese cuisine, like teishoku sets, donburi, curry, ramen, udon and soba. Our teishoku sets are good options for lunch and dinner, and the Broiled Miso Butterfish ($18.50) is a winner — basically it’s cod with a nice miso marinade. Other items off our teishoku menu include Ton Katsu ($15.95), Chicken Karaage ($15.95), Shrimp Tempura ($16.95), BBQ Kal-Bi ($16.95) and more. All entrees include miso soup, rice, salad with house dressing, sashimi and dessert. As far as our udon and soba goes, the Nabe Yaki Udon/Soba is a delicious choice and another one of our popular items. For $12.95 it has chicken, vegetables, egg, fish cake and green onion with your choice of udon or soba. It also comes with two pieces of shrimp tempura.

DO: This is a family-friendly restaurant, which means there is something for everyone. Tell us more about what you have for the keiki.

Kusaka: We have keiki meals, so they can choose from a selection of teriyaki chicken, mochiko garlic chicken, chicken katsu, ton katsu, broiled saba or broiled salmon. One entree choice is $9.95 and includes two pieces of gyoza, one piece of shrimp tempura, house salad, rice and dessert.

Sushi Ichiban

  • Where
    • 3579 Waialae Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96816
  • Call
    • (808) 737-8820
  • Hours
    • Open daily
    • 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
    • 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.