Fireworks at nearby Hilton Waikoloa Village greeted my arrival at The-Ritz Carlton Waikiki’s open air lobby and continued inside Sushi Sho, a 10-seat, 5-sided sushi bar from famed Tokyo sushi chef Keiji Nakazawa that forever raised my expectations for sushi. I thought L.A. was a great sushi city, and compared to other mainland cities, certainly fits that description. Still, Hawaii is as close as diners can come to Japan, and not just in terms of geography.
After 30 years in Shinjuku, Chef Nakazawa relocated to Honolulu and left the original restaurant in a longtime protégé’s capable hands. Since 2016, he’s hosted nightly seatings in Honolulu, where 80% of seasonal ingredients are “sustainable,” which he defines as coming from Hawaii or the U.S. coasts. Nakazawa only sources bluefin tuna and shad from Japan.
Sushi Sho’s parade of eye-popping dishes included masterful nigiri and cooked marvels like chawan mushi chock full of Kona baby abalone, Santa Barbara sea urchin, Oregon matsutake mushrooms and French “white caviar” (escargot eggs). Pickled and smoked radish filled with funky sushi rice aged three months in a freezer with koji was another contender for top course. Still, I’ll give the nod to luxurious grilled miso-glazed opah (moonfish) belly topped with tart, bursting Big Island finger lime that Nakazawa squeezed on top before serving with sinus-clearing wasabi and piquant lime pepper.