Here’s a Blast of Unagi Energy

Columns Ono, You Know

January 27, 2013

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

In this day and age, who doesn’t need that occasional boost of energy to make it through the day? I know I do. International coffee chains and mainstream energy drink companies are raking in the bucks and making a fortune off of us just because we need that additional jolt. Yet, tell me why we solely rely on caffeine when there are other “super foods” out there that are just as beneficial?

Take unagi, for instance. Unagi (freshwater eel) has been consumed in Japan for thousands of years — and has obviously captured the attention of people around the world in recent history not only for its great taste, but also for its richness in protein and vitamins, including vitamins A and E. Then, add the belief that unagi gives you great stamina and fights fatigue, and there you go! Yes, unagi has always been right up there at the top of my best seafoods list.

I’ve grown up eating unagi, as Mom would always prepare it the typical way: filleted and deboned, glaze-grilled and served with steamed rice. The taste of unagi is clean and light, the meat tender, and always onolicious.

So, this week, Ono readers, it’s time to get into full gear and get energized! There’s no time for sluggishness, as we’re in for an unagi marathon at the following Ono, You Know establishments. Let’s go!

Sakura Restaurant

The best of Japanese-American fare is in full bloom at Sakura Restaurant on Waialae Avenue, which it now calls home after relocating from its previous space at Olomana Golf Course.

Born and raised in the restaurant industry, the Tsuchiya brothers, Junichiro and Ryojiro, now co-own the restaurant, where Ryojiro also serves as head chef.

And blending their Japanese roots with local inspiration is what the Tsuchiyas do best.

For a take on Sakura Restaurant’s fusion cuisine, patrons can enjoy everything from udon to pasta, and even Spare Ribs and Okinawa Sweet Potato Pudding. Yet, if you’re itching for a edible creation that consists uniquely of unagi and showcases an alluring culmination of Japanese flavors, set your sights on Unagi Avocado Donburi ($14.75), which features a bowl of vinegar sushi rice topped with a slab of tasty unagi and creamy avocado drizzled with kabayaki sauce, along with nori, tobiko and yamaimo (flaky Japanese potato), and served with miso soup.

“Unagi Avocado Donburi is very popular and it’s unique,” Junichiro says. “If you like unagi, we also offer Unagi Tamago Donburi. It’s like your traditional oyako donburi (chicken and egg), but the chicken has been replaced with unagi.”

Now, Unagi Tamago Donburi has my name (and fingerprints) written all over it as I have an eternal love for both oyako donburi and unagi. Simply put, it’s a match made in heaven with a hot bowl of steamed white rice adorned with morsels of savory unagi and egg cooked to perfection. Priced at $14.95, Unagi Tamago Donburi is a manifestation of comfort food and, trust me, you won’t be disappointed — every last grain of rice will be devoured.

And while you’re at it, take full advantage of Sakura Restaurant’s happy hour Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 6 p.m. and from 9:30 p.m. to closing, and partake in drink and pupu specials.

Celebrating a special occasion? There’s a private room in the back of the restaurant that can seat up to 15 people for an intimate gathering.

Sakura Restaurant
3008 Waialae Ave., Honolulu


At Japengo, a restaurant within Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, global variety is added to the equation in the form of appetizers, entrees and more — all centered around Pacific Rim cuisine.

Open nightly from 5:30 to 10, diners are presented with an unforgettable Japengo dining experience made exquisite with innovative cocktails, eclectic sushi creations and entrees that burst with sophisticated flavors, not to mention a trademark Waikiki sunset. I hope you’re ready to be impressed.

Diving into Japengo’s Japanese fare — unagi is the word. Red Dragon ($20) is the ultimate pick. Found on the Maki Style portion of the menu, Red Dragon goes sushi supreme as it is infused with flavors of spicy tuna, unagi, tobiko and cucumber.

Japengo’s chefs also turn heads with Tengu’s Chicken. Priced at $35, this oneof-a-kind culinary work of art features the most tender of chicken, wok-fired and roasted, and stuffed with melt-in-your-mouth pieces of unagi and prawn, and seasoned with tatsoi and karashi mustard cream. A true treat for the palate, Tengu’s Chicken is a must-try.

Chef Michael Imada and his staff are responsible for the aforementioned fare, and his incorporation of classic unagi into these dishes is incredible, to say the least.

So whether you choose to enjoy your dinner from communal tables with an interactive sushi bar and lounge, a private dining room, or from a cozy table-for-two, you’ll dine in style at Japengo.

Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
2424 Kalakaua Ave.

Kozo Sushi

My appetite has been hooked by Kozo Sushi, no doubt about it. Why? Well, you have ono sushi and other Japanese signature dishes for starters. Then, everything is also served with aloha and just perfect for when I need a meal on-the-go. Who needs fast-food when you have Kozo Sushi?

While there’s a vast menu to look over, when unagi is on the brain the choice is easy. Enter Unagi Donburi ($6.60), a quick and surefire way to my heart (and stomach, of course). Unagi Donburi consists of a bowl of sushi rice beautified with six slices of unagi, which are enhanced with Kozo’s special teriyaki sauce and shredded egg. This dish is delicious in every sense of the word.

Then, for a classic approach to unagi, Kozo offers Unagi Nigiri ($2.15 for two pieces), two clumps of rice each topped with a slice of unagi flavored with unagi sauce. Who knew something this simple could taste so good?

Kozo Sushi keeps on rolling out the good stuff!

Kozo Sushi
1029 Makolu St. #C (and various locations)

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