FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chef Kabel Kim creates one of his sushi masterpieces at Goldfish, a new sushi bar on Halekauwila Street in Kakaako.
Ahi hooks new Goldfish diner
I wasn't expecting much from Goldfish on my first visit. I was having one of those "up at 5:30 a.m., hit the ground running and don't look back" days, when at 2 p.m., after much running around without a bite to eat, I discovered I was starving and in near-delirious state. I remembered the new kid on the block and figured I could make it there before fainting.
On the menu were nigiri sushi combos for $7 to $10; basic plates such as beef curry ($7), chicken and beef teriyaki ($6 and $7, respectively); and tempura mahimahi ($8).
I generally don't like ahi sandwiches because most that I've tried have been overcooked, liver gray and leathery, but because I wasn't thinking too clearly, I went for the seared ahi burger ($8).
As hungry as I was, I started feeling agitated when the fish came out of the kitchen, only to be prepped and sandwiched out front. It seemed to take forever, but it ended up being the most delicious ahi sandwich I have ever had, and not because I was delirious. I was completely revived by the time I came to this conclusion.
The ahi had been encrusted in sesame seeds rendered crunchy and toasty on the outside by the hot skillet, the fish's moisture sealed inside and augmented by a touch of mild teriyaki sauce. (Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers appeared in a tossed salad accompanying the sandwich.)
I vowed then to return to the sushi bar for dinner immediately. Even so, its main attraction, originally, was its proximity to the Star-Bulletin. Replacing Royden's okazu-ya next to New Wave Kitchen, I can pop in for lunch without spending too much time in skin cancer-causing sunlight, as well as a quickie dinner, leaving just in time to catch "American Idol" early in the week.
I've since learned that Goldfish is worth returning to any time. The restaurant currently has its rush at lunch time, when Royden's and New Wave diners -- including a lot of journalists and lawyers -- are trained to arrive. Dinner is something new to the area, but I hope diners will pick up on it if only because I want to continue coming back at night.
GOLDFISH'S COLOR scheme is a relaxing blue-green, as if you're in a fishbowl. A batch of 1970s and '80s album covers lines one wall to appeal to a presumed middle-age clientele, although the room registers as 20-something funky and grungy, and not likely to appeal to the Purell-carrying set. By night, Goldfish seems like it would be more at home in Seattle or Portland, Ore. In fact, its sushi chef, Kabel Kim, is from Korea but trained in the Northwest, in Vancouver, Canada, giving him a unique take on cuisine.
On one night he presented an amuse bouche of ahi tartar spiked with a mild red curry, a perfect marriage that made me wonder why I'd never tasted this combination before.
Also unusual among sushi roll selections is a Hawaiian yam roll ($7) that is plain to look at -- a layer of yam in yellow tempura batter on white rice -- but is as sweet and crunchy as you might expect, and delightful in its novelty.
I didn't care as much for the "Oyster Gangster" roll ($8) incorporating cold smoked oysters, cream cheese and smoked salmon, but the oyster and cream cheese did work well together.
Ordering a batch of sushi rolls works well for those on a budget as two of these will fill you up quicker than nigiri orders. Something like the Volcano roll (chopped scallops and spicy tuna, $10) or the Dynamite roll (baked spicy tuna on a California roll with a layer of cheddar, $10) will give you the most bang for your buck.
This could be preceded by a stylish appetizer such as the grilled prawn and scallop ($7), four prawns and two scallops served on two skewers on a nest of branches with pesto and mild wasabi aioli dipping sauces. Other dishes might be accompanied by other food "furniture," such as little fences.
Kim is the consummate artist whose caterpillar roll ($10) has several layers of avocado perfectly aligned so that nothing slips or falls apart when you pick it up.
For dessert, I opted for a frozen banana in chocolate ($5), then wondered why I never had this before, either. The basic chocolate syrup is not exciting, but I loved the frozen banana slices of banana, which had the thick, chilly creaminess I associate with Indian ice cream.
Now that I've tested the water, I hope others are ready to jump in.