Caramel Sushi at Sansei Waikiki

Seriously, Caramel Sushi!? No. Well, actually sort of. Sushi and caramel are on the menu, just not together on one plate. But heck, it sounds interesting, and just might be one day! Read on…

A few nights ago, the lady and I had dinner at Sansei Seafood & Sushi Bar at the Marriot Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, which was a first-time visit for us. Sansei is located in a shared space with sister (or big brother, depending how wanna’ view it) restaurant, D.K Steak House on the makai (ocean) side of the property on the 3rd floor. They were formerly located in Restaurant Row where Hiroshi now operates.

With that, both restaurants share a common entrance…

You can actually see into D.K Steak House from the front-end of Sansei, where a common bar divides the two establishments.

Paintings adorn the entrance hallway which remind you of the theme…

With master sommelier Chuck Furuya being a business partner with D.K, it’s no wonder there’s an extensive selection of wine to choose…

Once you make your way past the common entrance and hostess’ desk, there’s the sushi bar…

Then you turn the corner to the right and make your way into Sansei’s main dining area, where there are open tables, private booths and seating outside on the patio…

We were fortunate to be seated (without formerly requesting it) next to a window inside, overlooking Waikiki beach…

The window seat table we were given here offered the best of both worlds: immediate access to our server (dining room is enclosed), quiet air-conditioned comfort, and a great view. Perfect.

As for dining room ambiance, noise levels and chatter were minimal during our time there, which was between 7 and 8:30pm, though I’ve heard it can be a “shout-fest” during the late night hours (they ‘re open until 1am). Lighting (after the sun set) was a good balance of intimate in level, while still being able to see what’s on the plate.

The dining tables maximize marketing efforts by placing D.K’s “Sushi Chronicles” recipe book cover under the glass top of each table…

And for the “newbies”, a Sapporo Beer-sponsored Sushi guide…

The only condiments that are permanently situated on each table are two bottles of Yamasa Shoyu (I added the wasabi and ginger from my sushi plate)…

I like Yamasa brand. I’d say it has the smoothness of Aloha, while not being too salty or bold like Kikkoman. Perfect choice for sushi.

Our server Kiana was very friendly, attentive and knowledgeable about the menu, pointing out her own favorites, other popular dishes and a few helpful ordering tips.

Speaking of menu, that’s what stumped us. I had downloaded their online menu from their website to review what they had, only to find the menu in-house is much, much more extensive!

We decided to order mostly appetizers shared between us, and even our server agreed that as the best way to go.

So we started off with the Panko-Crusted Fresh Ahi Sashimi Sushi Roll…

Panko-Crusted Fresh Ahi Sashimi Sushi Roll – Fresh Island Yellowfin tuna wrapped with arugula, and flash-fried, topped with soy wasabi butter sauce, $11

This was fantastic. It’s under their “Award Winners” category, and no wonder. The seared ahi was very fresh-tasting, with that “melt-in-the-mouth” texture. While that flavor and texture contrasts of the nori, arugula and golden brown crispy panko crust was a winner. Winner, winner. Bringing it all together is that Soy Wasabi butter sauce which sends your tastebuds into all kinds of directions, without being too complex. Awesome.

This arrived along with a (classic) dish of Shrimp Tempura…

Shrimp Tempura, $12

The shrimp tempura were decent size and beautifully moist, sweet and tender. Only thing was the batter was just a tad-bit on the soggy side. Just a bit. Still very, very good, but it could stand a little more crispiness. It’s served with the classic dipping sauce, grated daikon, ginger and a lemon wedge.

Needless to say, as hungry as we were upon arrival, we made very quick work of these starters, while looking over the menu for our next choices.

The lady wanted to try their California Rolls (her favorite), so that’s what came to the table in round two..

California Roll, $6.50

Not bad. The sushi rice, while a little on the cold side, had perfect texture and sushi-su seasoning. The fresh cucumber and avocado were well-balanced in size, but the mayo and finely chopped imitation crab filling in the center was a bit bland. I much prefer when the Imitation Crab is kept in one solid chunk. I want to TASTE imitation crab. lol

My choice for the second round was this…

Sansei’s Mango Crab Salad Hand Roll – Ripe mango, blue crab, fresh greens & crunchy peanuts wrapped in mamenori with a sweet Thai Chili Vinaigrette, $9

This Mango Crab Salad Hand Roll is another item selected from their “Award Winners” list. While I think the execution and flavor profiles of the various components worked, once again that crab filling didn’t do it for me. I’m not sure if it’s the mayonnaise they use, or the way they finely chop the crab meat up. It just didn’t have enough substance to stand up against the bold flavors and textures surrounding it. Good, but not great. Glad I tried it, but I’d order something else next time around.

Rounding out the main meal was this entree item we shared with each other…

Choice Rib Eye Steak and Grilled Miso Yaki Prawns – with garlic mashed potatoes and local vegetable stir fry with garlic demi glace and ginger lime chili butter, $32

This rocked! Especially those grilled Miso Yaki Prawns!…

The prawns were incredibly “meaty”, sweet and tender, with a pronounced char-grilled, slightly smokey hint. Supporting that is that incredible garlic demi glace and ginger lime butter sauce. KILLER! They need to seriously think about bottling that stuff, if that’s possible.

As if that weren’t enough, the fire-grlled choice rib eye sharing the same plate was so tender, perfectly done medium rare finish, encased by a lightly-salted crust. Playing foundation role were the garlic mashed potatoes, which were on the mild side as far as flavor, yet light ‘n nice, although they were a bit of a challenge to “scoop up” using chop sticks, but we managed. lol The string beans and carrots were simply stir-fried without any special seasoning. Just salt ‘n pep’ . But whoah, dip a strip of the rib eye, along with those veggies and a tad of mash in the prawns’ sauce and POW! Excellent, excellent, excellent.

After that, we were both content without being stuffed and stopped there, saving just a little more room to share a dessert…

Sansei’s Granny Smith Apple Tart – Buttery puff pastry topped with fresh Granny Smith apple slices, baked to order and served with vanilla ice cream over Sansei’s homemade warm caramel sauce, $9

Instead of the ice cream served on top, we requested the ice cream served on the side…

This is another amazing dish at Sansei! If there’s any absolute recommendation I can make based on this first visit, is to SAVE ROOM in your stomach for this dessert! The apple tart is tasty, fluffy and crispy all at the same time, while that homemade, warm golden caramel sauce is sex on a plate. You’d swear you died and gone to heaven eating this. Honestly. And this is coming from someone who’s not really into sweets. Whether you had sushi, seafood, or steak, make sure you ORDER THIS.

“Caramel Sushi” huh? Could be possible. I’m sure Chef Kodama can come up with some creative dessert dish that resembles “dynamite” sushi, with that “dynamite” homemade warm caramel drizzled over it. If I think of anything, I’ll make a comment later.

There’s so much more on the menu, it would take several months of return visits to sample everything Sansei offers. I’d really like to order “Chef’s Omakase Tasting Menu for Two” on our next visit. It’s touted as “The Ultimate Sansei Dining Experience for Two”, which includes: Edamame & Miso Soup, Sansei’s Special Sushi Roll, Island Style Seafood Poke Sampler, Panko Crusted Ahi Sashimi Roll, Japanese Calamari Salad, Sansei’s Asian Shrimp Cake and Garlic Miso Prawns, Matsuhisa Style Miso Butterfish, and Sansei’s Lobster and Crab Ravioli. All that for only $75.. for two!

Next time around, that’s gonna’ be high on my wish list.

Overall, a fantastic dining experience, and we’ll certainly return again.

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Waikiki Beach Marriot Resort and Spa
2552 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815

Reservations and Information

Dinner Nightly
5:30 P.M. to 10:00 P.M.

Late Night Dining
Friday & Saturday, 10 P.M. to 1 A.M.

The Tasty Island rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)


5 thoughts on “Caramel Sushi at Sansei Waikiki

  1. Sansei is great, and so is DK next door. Way better steaks there than at Morton’s. Sansei also has early dinner specials (half-priced off everything) on Sundays and Mondays. One of the best deals in town!

  2. Nate, how’s the fine dining scene in Okinawa? Mostly in the hotels I’d imagine.

    Jenny, while the Ahi Sashimi may look how you describe it, that Granny Smith Apple Tart and Homemade Caramel Sauce TASTED like that. If I smoked, I’d need a cigarette after diving into that one. lol

    Paul, thanks for the tip on the discount hours. I forgot to ask our server about that. I remember they used to offer 50% off all sushi and appetizers after 10pm. Perhaps I’ll call later today and get da’ scoops on da’ discounts.

    If you ask me, that rib eye at Sansei was as fantastic as any steak I’ve ever had in a restaurant, regardless of it being a choice – not prime, dry-aged – cut. It had everything I look for in a great steak; quality, freshness, tenderness, flavor, good seasoning (I think that miso yaki prawn sauce just kicked it through the roof), and that ever-important flame-grilled seared and marked crust. I can’t see any steak connoisseur faulting it. No way.

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