Haute? Or cold? It’s the great sake debate. Yet no matter how you prefer it, sake is a sophisticated sipping classic. And, with its heavy Asian influence, Honolulu has some of the best sake haunts in the world. Kompai!
The name Shokudo says it all; it means “dining room” in Japanese. And, as you might suspect, this restaurant’s reason for being was to share the family style etiquette of traditional Japanese dining with its patrons. Everything on the menu should be shared with friends and family including their vast selection of sake. Kubuto Manju, Hakkaisan and Kikusui are just a few of the fine sakes you can sample. Sake enthusiasts will want to try the Premium Sake Sampler that includes three sample shots of sake paired with small plates all chosen by Shokudo’s very own sake sommelier.
Shokudo is located at Ala Moana Pacific Center, Ground Floor, 808.941.3701.
Natsunoya Tea House
Don’t let the understated name fool you. This spot is certainly more than a traditional tea house, serving up a fine selection of sake and fresh island fish. Opening its doors in 1921 and perched high atop Alewa Heights with breathtaking cityscape views, the legendary Natsunoya is the only full-time Japanese tea house left in the islands. It is not a restaurant; Natsunoya can only be booked for private banquets. Parties can book a large room that holds 300, cottages that hold up 30 or tatami rooms that accommodate up to 60. Offering a plethora of menu selections featuring bento boxes and premium sake too, Natsunoya is ideal for a custom sake-pairing experience.
Natsunoya is located at 1935 Makanani Dr., 808.304.6564.
Shop the latest trends and sip your sake too! Genius Lounge is located on the third-story level of the ultra-hip boutique Genius making it the perfect option for a post-shopping or pre-eve out on the town bite. Genius is a full-service bar featuring Japanese-inspired dishes and more than 50 types of sake. Albeit above a bustling boutique filled with eager buyers, Genius is quaint with a dark wood interior and intimate candlelight. The bites also don’t disappoint, offering a variety of innovative pokes, noodles, pastas, katsus and tempuras. Deep-fried cheese dumplings, grilled cod roe and a chilled sake sound pretty good to me. Seeking some variety? For only $11, you can sample three two-ounce pours of different sakes versus the traditional six-ounce glass.
Genius Lounge is located at 346 Lewers St., 808.626.5362.
Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Voted by Bon Appetit as “Favorite Asian Restaurant” and one of “America’s Best Sushi Bars,” Sansei is surely a local favorite with two locations on Maui and one on Oahu. Sansei is great and here to stay thanks to its lively setting, a contemporary sushi menu and, as local sommelier Jason Castle puts it, “a top-notch selection of sake served right.”
Sansei Oahu is located at 2552 Kalakaua Ave., 808.931.6286.
As a leading name in contemporary Japanese cuisine, Nobu is stellar no matter which location you visit across the globe. In Hawaii, its reputation is also highly regarded as THE spot for haute sushi, a cool scene and even cooler cocktails and sake. Enjoy Hokesetsu Jyunmai Bamboo Sake for just $20 or the Matsuhisa Martini mixed with Ketel One vodka, Hokusetsu sake and a fresh cucumber garnish. Sip the Hokusetsu Nigori that’s dry with a creamy finish. Try the Hokusetsu Onigoroshi that’s alternatively dubbed “Devil Killer” with its sharp, spicy flair. Or, order the Hokusetsu Ongakushu 10 year that’s more complex and fuller bodied than its younger counterparts.
Nobu is located at 2233 Helumoa Rd., 808.237.6990.