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Step Up to the Plate

Rakuen Lounge

By Alana Folen Leah Friel
June 2, 2013

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A CLOSER LOOK AT THIS WEEK’S HOUSE SPECIAL: GRAND SUMO ROLL ($15)

For a modern take on sushi, Rakuen Lounge has it covered. This contemporary eatery in Honolulu’s Chinatown district has an artistic vibe that’s intriguing, but it’s the Japanese cuisine, and more importantly, the sushi rolls prepared by executive chef Ernie Gray that deserve a round of applause.

Sushi rice and crisp nori help keep everything intact for a “no-mess” dining experience.

According to Gray, Grand Sumo Roll is a top pick among customers. “I like creating different variations of sushi, and this one is definitely unique,” he says.

Fresh, local sashimi-grade ahi and Kahuku ogo (seaweed), along with green onions and masago are delicately placed atop the roll, adding a unique flair to the sushi. “Local ingredients are so flavorful and they really enhance the dish,” Gray says. “You’d be surprised, the ogo doesn’t have an ocean-like after-taste. It brings the right texture to the dish.”

“I’m inspired by dishes that I like to eat, and then I incorporate that into a sushi roll. I love tempura, poke and ogo.”

The interior of this eclectic sushi roll features green onion and crab tempura deep-fried to perfection. Gray says the crab traces its origins to Japan and helps to balance out the many flavors associated with the dish.

A drizzle of kukui nut pesto is the “it factor.” Comprised of kukui nuts, basil and sesame oil, this sauce offers a multitude of flavor. “You don’t need soy sauce with this roll,” Gray explains. “The kukui nut pesto does the trick!”

Rakuen Lounge

1153 Bethel St., Honolulu
524-0920
Monday-Saturday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.