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The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, March 8, 2001


Become one
of the family
at Sunrise

THOSE who like to try new restaurants learn to stake out a place so as to spy on the other diners. It's helpful to know what the regulars are ordering. This takes time in a big restaurant, but in a little mom-and-pop like Sunrise Restaurant, well, the crowd pleasers can be identified within minutes.

Just about every table bore centerpieces of Hamachi Kama ($10), Ika Geso Karaage ($6) and Yasai Champuru ($7). Don't expect the first of the bunch, the grilled hamachi, to be there if you're a walk-in. The regulars know better and reserve their fish along with their tables.

The second dish of deep-fried squid is perfect: pointy tendrils lightly dusted with flour and seasonings, cooked to a tender crunch.



Sunrise restaurant

Food STARSTARSTAR
Atmosphere STARSTAR1/2
Service STARSTARSTAR
Value STARSTARSTARSTAR

Bullet Address: 525 Kapahulu Ave. (next to Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice II)
Bullet Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays
Bullet Prices: Less than $20 for two
Bullet Call: 737-4118



Most of the dishes are simple, like the Yasai Champuru (a vegetable stir-fry, though not vegetarian; this one has slices of luncheon meat). For owner Katsu Tamayose, opening the restaurant is equivalent to opening his kitchen to friends and family. In fact, when informed that his restaurant was about to be reviewed, he fretted about the potential traffic of strangers who might displace his "family."

Sure enough, fans of Tamayose's Okinawan fare do look quite content, claiming their space like relatives at a backyard luau, parking themselves and fully expecting to stay a while. There's no rush. Even from behind the sushi bar, Tamayose's a good host, in tune to what people are asking for. It's as if he has super hearing powers. "Yeah, yeah, hai!," he says while rolling sushi, responding to a tiny squeak in the back of the house.

PATRONS are just as hospitable. While trying to sniff out the favorites, I was offered samples of bittermelon and pork and the hamachi kama from the next table. Another customer was eager to offer his favorite, the Oxtail Soup ($7). The single portion is small but impressive in flavor, bearing slices of mushrooms, cilantro, peanuts and tender oxtails with a hint of anise.

One of the best deals around may be the oxtail soup paired with a sushi platter ($11.50). All the Genki-like basics are covered -- maguro, hamachi, shrimp, ika, egg and tekka maki. I'm not remembering them all because I was trying not to be a pig.

The Soft Shell Crab Roll ($6) was not bad, but to me, the crunchy crab loses its texture when rolled in rice.

Although much of the food is recognizable to those who frequent Japanese restaurants, the Okinawan menu differs because of its Chinese influence due to Okinawa's position as a center for maritime trade among China, Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Hence the popularity of stir-fries and inclusion of pork as a staple.

The result is humble Asian comfort food -- Pork Tofu ($7), Nakami (tripe) Soup ($7.25) and Pig's Feet Soup ($7.25). Then there's the obligatory mayo-laced specialties such as the Volcano ($6), a seafood mixture baked with mayo, and the Baked Oyster ($6), of which you'll approve or disapprove based on your stand on mayo.

There's no dessert to be had here. Too bad Waiola next door doesn't stay open past 6:30 p.m. A little shave ice would be a nice finish.



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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to nkam@starbulletin.com



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