Sushi That’s Almost Too Pretty to Eat

Features Order of the Day

May 5, 2013

Story By: Michelle Lee | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

When Rakuen Lounge first opened in Honolulu’s famed Chinatown district almost two years ago, it was the only sushi restaurant in the area. Since then, although similar establishments have come and gone, Rakuen Lounge still remains at the top of its game.

While a good majority of the dishes follows a contemporary style, the menu also offers a variety of traditional Japanese nigiri and sashimi.

“We offer the staple Japanese dishes, but also recognize that newer generations appreciate more contemporary sushi combinations,” says Anthony Carll, owner of Rakuen Lounge. “Our rolls are creative, colorful, but most of all delicious.”

Popular rolls include Mr. Miyagi ($15), a savory combination of California roll, spicy tuna, avocado, togarashi aioli and unagi tare. Hamachi Jalapeno ($15) consists of a crab base with hamachi, jalapeno, yuzu pepper and ponzu sauce. For something vegetarian, Bonsai Tree ($10) includes avocado, shiso, daikon tsuma and ‘Nalo greens with an ume shiso vinaigrette.

“Our customers appreciate that the food is consistently fresh and generous in portion,” says Carll. “Everything comes straight from the fish auction and is never frozen.”

Rakuen Lounge’s executive chef Ernie Gray, formerly at New York City’s Nobu and downtown’s Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill, brings his experience and artistic ability to the sushi scene.

“Ernie is an artist at heart, and combined with his culinary skill, puts out some amazing dishes,” says Carll.

In harmony with the restaurant’s dedication to high-quality ingredients, Rakuen Lounge only uses Hawaii-grown ingredients.

“We are proud to say we only use Waimanalo baby greens and try to use organic as much as we can,” Carll explains. “We work very hard to never compromise on quality, yet keep our prices reasonable.”

At Rakuen Lounge, customers get what they want and if, desired, also may request special made-to-order rolls.

“We have 10 seats at the bar, and if you tell our chefs what you like to eat, they can create something for you on the spot,” says Carll.

In addition to the extensive menu, Rakuen Lounge features a number of daily and weekly specials. On the second Tuesday of each month, the lounge features Taco Tuesday, when diners can order any ingredient in a won ton taco shell. Several days of the week, the restaurant hosts DJs, as well as live entertainment, including famed blues musician Rico Waltz Thursday nights.

Not to be forgotten is the lounge’s much-celebrated happy hour, which is available from 3:30 to 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to midnight. Diners may choose from a number of rolls and shareable appetizers along with almost 20 different bottles of sake and beers on tap.

While customers are usually first drawn to Rakuen Lounge for its bold, flavorful dishes and entertaining dining atmosphere, they return because of the restaurant’s welcoming attitude and customer service.

“In a sense, Rakuen is kind of like Cheers because we know everyone’s names and what they like to drink and eat,” says Carll. “At the end of the day, this place is for people to relax, have a good time and enjoy delicious food.”

Rakuen Lounge

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

Honolulu, HI 96813

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best