Pau Hana Patrol: YuZu’s happy hour is simple, unique

Nov. 8, 2013 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition

BY NINA WU / nwu@staradvertiser.com

First off, let’s start with saying the drive out to Ko Olina Resort from town wasn’t all that bad — at least on a Saturday.

Bar manager Daniel Ramiscal presents happy hour drinks and pupu offerings from Sushi YuZu at Ko Olina. --Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com

Bar manager Daniel Ramiscal presents happy hour drinks and pupu offerings from Sushi YuZu at Ko Olina. (Star-Advertiser photo by Dennis Oda)

That’s the first mental hurdle for anyone who lives in town, but I can assure you that the 13-mile drive out to Sushi YuZu Ko Olina was well worth it for happy hour, which takes place on weekends, too.

Sushi YuZu Ko Olina is the sister restaurant to YuZu at Ala Moana Hotel, with the same emphasis on fresh, local and organic ingredients — and the same delight in yuzu, an East Asian citrus that Sushi YuZu has incorporated into its cocktails, sushi vinegar and dipping sauces.

The happy-hour menu, available from 4:30 to 6 p.m. daily, is perfect after hitting the beach. While you can dress up and sit in a more refined setting inside or grab a seat at the bar, there’s plenty of casual seating beneath the shade of umbrellas outdoors.

Mind you, this is at Ko Olina Center at the resort, so expect to drive by golf carts and vacationers, but the traffic is nothing like Waikiki. The setting is refreshingly calm and relaxing.

THE DRINK selection at happy hour is simple, including well drinks and draft beer, house white or red wine, shochu and sake. Sushi YuZu also offers a shochu cocktail flavored with yuzu, coconut, melon, apple, oolong or peach. Prices are about $1 to $2 less than during regular hours.

I tried the melon shochu, special that night for just $5, but it wasn’t my favorite. Next time I would just go for an Asahi draft, plain shochu or sake.

An assortment of classic cocktails is also available from the regular menu, along with the intriguing YuZu White Sangria (freshly muddled tropical fruits infused with YuZu juice, white wine and Absolut Mandarin, $12).

Service was quick and attentive, but be aware that if you order another drink past happy hour, it will be at the regular price on your tab ($6.50 for the Asahi). It’s easy to get carried away.

SUSHI YUZU KO OLINA

92-1047 Olani St. Suite 1-101
678-1155, yuzuhawaii.com/yuzu-koolina

Happy Hour
4:30-6 p.m. daily; late night 10-11:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
» Premium well and Asahi draft beers, $4
» Red or white house wine, shochu, sake, $5
» Yakitori, $3.50
» Three-piece nigiri sushi, $7
» Popcorn lobster and organic fried potatoes, $12.95

SUSHI YUZU’S pupu selection includes a three-piece nigiri (ahi, hamachi and salmon) as well as two skewers of yakitori (choose from teriyaki, ume or yuzu pepper) to whet your appetite.

The nigiri was light and refreshing, with just a touch of yuzu vinegar, and the yakitori was tasty.

To fill up, another great pupu choice is the popcorn lobster (with a wonderfully light batter) paired with organic fried potatoes.

Other choices include a spicy dynamite mini donburi ($7), three-piece shrimp tempura ($5.95) which comes with a dipping sauce and salt, and spicy ahi poke nachos ($5). Happy-hour pupu range from $3 to $7.

The special of the day on my visit was an amazing platter of spicy ahi roll ($18.95) topped with tobiko caviar and lettuce greens, which made a pretty picture on the plate. The ahi was super fresh, going down smoothly with just the right amount of spice.

It was enough to make a meal for two. Specials, introduced by the server, will vary from day to day.

Some appetizers from the regular menu also caught our attention — local avocado and myoga ginger, listed under “cold appetizers,” and a lotus root pizza, listed under “hot appetizers,” both $9.95.

The former consisted of two avocado halves served on a glass platter, filled with fresh Hawaiian ogo and topped with the Japanese pink ginger, accompanied by tamari and wasabi. Perhaps not for everyone’s taste, but it was healthy and fresh, with the natural saltiness of the ogo melding with the creaminess of the avocado.

The lotus root pizza was a hit for me — a creative variation of a favorite pupu, featuring lotus root grilled with five kinds of cheese. The crisp starchiness of the lotus root contrasted well with the melted cheese, a nice surprise with every bite.

Next time I’d also love to try the local avocado tempura ($9.95) or heart of palm tempura ($11.95) from the regular menu.

Since Sushi YuZu is at a resort that many families visit, the restaurant is also kid-friendly, equipped with high chairs, an omakase keiki menu (which includes one slice of lotus pizza) and even an adorable set of kids’ utensils.

With all its charms, if I lived nearby, Sushi YuZu could be a regular attraction. From across the island it’s worth an occasional drive for a change of scenery, especially as the finish to a day at the beach.

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