Saturday, April 6, 2013

Nuka - Haiku has a new sushi bar. You should be there already.

In the past few months, activity around the building next door to the Haiku post office has been building to a feverish pitch. Trying to turn a long-empty ramshackle building that used to house an auto parts store into a zen oasis of raw fish and low lighting is bound to take some elbow grease.

Mission: Accomplished.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I suggest you start your engines, and hightail it over to Haiku Center to check out Nuka. Along with the predictable rolls (kappa/tekka/california/spicy tuna), and the standard maguro/hamachi/unagi sushi, they also offer uni (sea urchin) and uzura (quail egg) and some really creative combo rolls.

The Lollipop roll (tuna, hamachi, salmon, and shrimp) are wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber with tender-crisp asparagus, and topped with a tangy twist on the traditional ponzu sauce. The eponymous Nuka roll is, as our server described it, "the bomb", and more than capable of being the restaurant's signature item. Ruby red tuna and translucent, shimmering snapper melt in your mouth, wrapped with shiso, avocado, and cucumber which bring a cool contrast to the thinly sliced jalapenos resting on top. Finished with the house citrusy ponzu sauce, this roll was deserving of a standing ovation.

Also on the menu, a series of small plates which include miso butterfish and hamachi carpaccio, spinach goma-ae, spicy garlic edamame, and gobo chips. There are several salads, rice bowls, soup and noodles, and dessert to wrap up your meal as you sip green tea and contemplate ordering just one more thing, because you really can't bear to see the meal come to an end.

And yes, they do have a full bar, offering a tight selection of sake, a few original cocktails, and a limited selection of beer and wine.

Maui sushi chef (and artist, in my humble opinion) Hiro (pronounced Hero, appropriately enough) Takamashi has been brought in to serve fresh, gorgeous fish with a creative twist and total respect for the fact that truly good sushi does not need a lot of fuss.

The sushi served here is breathtaking in a simple and straightforward way. Nuka has embraced the motto "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Living on an island surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, with relatively easy access to a bounty of fresh seafood and locally grown produce year round, Nuka embraces the locavore movement. I strongly recommend that you take a bite BEFORE you start drowning it in condiments, burning your taste buds with wasabi, and munching on ginger - the fish being served stands on its own merits, and the freshness of the ingredients pack a punch all on their own.

Rolls range in price from $5 for a simple cucumber roll to $18 for a specialty roll - with many rolls falling into the $9-10 range. Without alcohol, our meal for two was $70 before gratuity. They do not take reservations, so be prepared to wait outside for a table or seat at the sushi bar. It's worth the wait, trust me. Opening at 4:30pm every day, this is an excellent place to stop on the way back from a day trip to Hana, or for one last meal before you fly home on the red-eye.

780 Haiku Road, Haiku HI 96708 (approximately 20 minutes from the airport)
808 575 2939

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