Cheers To Chirashi
When we think of sushi, images of classic nigiri with pristine slices of raw fish resting over precise mounds of vinegar-infused rice come to mind, as do thoughts of perfectly crafted maki rolls. In actuality, though, sushi comes in many shapes and sizes, and some forms are more unique — and full of surprises — than others.
Chirashi sushi, aka chirashizushi, is one such intriguing style of sushi. With a name that translates to “scattered sushi,” chirashi is typically served in a bowl with loose pieces of sashimi, cooked proteins, vegetables, omelet and/or other goodies placed atop fluffy sushi rice. The approach is more free form than most types of sushi.
This deconstructed sushi roll, of sorts, lends itself to an endless array of recipes, and for many diners in Japan, it serves as a simple, homey dish one can throw together with the leftovers they have on hand. At restaurants, however, chirashizushi continues to be a venue for showcasing high-quality ingredients — especially fresh seafood — and that’s exactly what you’ll find at the following Ono, You Know hot-spots right here in Honolulu:
UNCLE’S FISH MARKET & GRILL
You might expect me to start my search for tasty chirashi at a high-end sushi restaurant, but I’ve got something else in mind: Instead, I’m heading to one of the best spots for fresh, local seafood, where I know they’ll do this dish justice.
That’s Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill, located at Pier 38 off Nimitz Highway, right by Honolulu Fish Auction. Seeing as this eatery was founded by fishing-industry veteran Bruce Johnson, Uncle’s knows a thing or two about fresh catches. In addition to emphasizing local fish from the auction, the kitchen sources other quality seafood from around the world.
From there, executive chef Geoff Arakawa adds local flavors and recipes to the mix, which makes for absolutely delicious seafood. As an example of the Japanese culinary influences found on the menu, the chef’s chirashi-style Sushi Bowl ($25) continues to be a winner.
“This one ranks among our top four most popular dishes,” says Arakawa.
Presented with freshly made sushi rice, the bowl consists of auction-fresh ahi, hamachi brought in fresh from Japan, and rich Atlantic salmon that has been cured in-house. Ikura brings a pop of brine to the party, while shiso leaf offers its earthy charm.
One of the best things about chirashizushi is that it can be made with a myriad of customizable ingredients, and at Uncle’s, there are a few special additions to look forward to. The first is a delightful spicy poke-style ahi tartare. And for a textural treat, incredibly tender squid — a telltale sign these chefs are seafood experts — rounds out the selection. The squid is breaded and fried katsu-style and drizzled with katsu sauce.
Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill
1135 N. Nimitz Hwy., Honolulu
SAKURA TERRACE JAPANESE CAFE
They say variety is the spice of life, and that certainly is the case when it comes to devouring Sakura Chirashi Don ($22) from Sakura Terrace Japanese Cafe.
Rather than choosing a singular protein, seafood lovers can bask in the light of all the ocean’s best in this generously sized dish. For starters, Sakura Chirashi Don impresses taste buds with a vibrant array of ahi, salmon, hamachi and kajiki (marlin). Amid the stunning presentation, there’s also squid, butterfish, ikura, tamago and fresh shrimp. Last, but not least, luxurious uni (sea urchin) resembles a crowning jewel on top of the bowl.
As kitchen manager Toshihiro Abe explains, Sakura Terrace pays attention to detail when selecting ingredients. “Our tasty sushi rice is imported from Japan and we feature high-quality seafood. It is a beautiful sushi bowl for people who would like to try a bit of everything.”
The quality and presentation of the dish are in line with the tradition and elegance Japanese food is known for — and the culinary team at Sakura Terrace masters. You can find this and other Japanese specialties at the hidden gem of a restaurant, which is nestled behind a row of green palms on King Street.
Abe also shares that Sakura Terrace is working on some new menu items slated to be released in the fall. Stay tuned for more details, or lookout for updates on the restaurant’s social media.
Sakura Terrace Japanese Cafe
1240 S King St., Honolulu