Taking freshness to the next level
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Every morning at 4:30 a.m., restaurant owner and ahi wholesaler Sam Seo arrives at Hawaii Fish Auction Pier 38 to scope out fresh, supreme catches of the day. With more than 15 years of experience attending the auction, and 15 years as a wholesaler to the mainland and abroad, patrons can rest assured that Seo knows a thing or two about fresh fish.
“There is a technique to buying fish,” he explains. Paying attention to signs of quality, ranging from firm texture and the ideal shade of red to a specific scent and size, Seo aims to outbid other buyers for the best Hawaiian water ahi in the market. “Every day, 40 to 60 buyers come to the auction looking for the same fish — there is so much competition.”
Once Seo has secured his prized picks, he brings the fresh tuna selections to his restaurant venture, Ahi & Vegetable, to offer healthy and high-quality sashimi, poke, sushi and more to customers at reasonable prices. His talent for selecting fresh ahi can be sampled at two locations: Fort Street Mall downtown (the original location that opened more than 10 years ago) and the two-month-old Kalihi locale at Kapalama Shopping Center.
According to the owner, his new venue features a larger chilled cutting room than the first location, which is perfect for optimizing his operation. Seo recommends trying his Sashimi Special ($15, tax and tip included in price), a simple arrangement of ahi, salmon and hamachi that allows the freshness of the fish to shine through. Customers may add rice (steamed, sushi or brown) and miso soup to the dish for just $1 more.
In addition to rice bowls and salads that highlight the prime catches, Ahi & Vegetable also offers catering platters, as well as bentos ideal for lunch or dinner. One of the most popular of the latter is Bento B4 ($11; miso soup included), which serves up enticing cooked salmon, shrimp and ahi on top of rice. Customizable bentos also are available at this catch of a restaurant!
Ahi & Vegetable
Kapalama Shopping Center
1210 Dillingham Blvd., Kalihi
Daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
1126 Fort Street Mall, Honolulu
Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.