Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Eating local at Sushi ii

Nadine Kam photos
Coconut-crusted mahimahi was beautifully crispy on the outside, flaky and tender on the inside, drizzled with mango sauce and served with kalua pork on fried paiai, a thick, near waterless pounded taro, with barbecue sauce. You can see I was so anxious to bite into the pork and paiai that I ruined it before snapping this photo.

Kanu Hawai'i’s third annual Eat Local Challenge is underway, asking island residents to join together in helping to build a more sustainable, secure and healthy local food system. Part of their mission is to raise awareness of eating local every September. It's definitely something easier said than done for those of us who have trouble simply planning what to eat from day to day, much less contemplating how to keep it all local.

Restaurateurs on four islands are helping to make it easier by offering Eat Local specials through the end of the month. You can find the complete list of restaurants and meal offers at

In addition, during Yelp Eats Local week through Sept. 25, 11 restaurants will donate a portion of the proceeds from their special, locally sourced menu items to Kanu Hawaii. The participating restaurants are: Brasserie Du Vin, Chai's Island Bistro, He‘eia Kea Pier, Hula Grill Waikiki, J.J. Dolan's, Pah Ke's Chinese Restaurant, SOUL, Stage Restaurant, Sushi ii, Thirtyninehotel, and Tiki's Grill & Bar.

A $10 donation is made to Kanu Hawaii for every Yelper that spends at least $30 when they visit during the week. (Let servers know you are participating and drop your receipts in a ballot box provided.)

To get a taste of what eating local can be, about a dozen Yelp Elites and media descended on Sushi ii Sept. 19 for a remarkable and memorable meal. The tiny gem of a restaurant is deep within Samsung Plaza on Ke'eaumoku Street, and was chosen for what Yelp community manager describes as its "Yelp-y qualities."

That is, she said is something "so amazing and unexpected, off the beaten track" and of course, that possesses necessary "wow factor."I went in expecting sushi, but what the Sushi ii is offering for the challenge is a prix fixe menu for about $45, featuring a 100 percent locally grown entree, salad, appetizer and/or dessert.

Sushi chef/owner Garrett Wong and Sabrina Saiki-Mita did a great job with a three-course menu that surprised and delighted with every course, something all the restaurants must do to help Kanu Hawai'i succeed.

Founded in 2007, the nonprofit's mission is to encourage and support environmental and social change. Its 14,000 members make individual commitments as simple as I will take shorter showers or I will buy local. To make a commitment, go to

From left, Kasha Ho, Kanu community organizer, with Sushi Ii's Sabrina Saiki-Mita and Emi Hart.

Amber-Lynn Hyden snaps a photo of lemon balm intermezzo.

A petite burger char-grilled to a perfect medium rare, with a surprise center of Naked Cow Dairy goat cheese, and accompanied by crave-worthy sour cherry and caramelized onion ketchup. They need to bottle this so we can take it home.

Sushi Ii owner Garrett Wong doubled as a server for the evening, delivering a second refreshing non-alcohol watermelon and kaffir lime cocktail.

Chad Yamamoto eyes a dessert of banana dream pie, while Amber-Lynn snaps another photo. Below, the crunchy, creamy, dreamy dessert in all its banana cream and chocolate sauce glory. Super good!

We had a choice of one of three desserts, and many opted for green tea or lilikoi panna cotta.

Linda Chiem prepares to take a bite of the lilikoi panna cotta, while Thomas Obungen prepares to capture the decisive moment.

Of course I had to be different and ordered the pineapple kulfi. The Indian ice cream is near impossible to get in Hawaii, even at Indian restaurants, so it was surprising to see it here. What a treat!

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