Jacy Oshiro & Sushi Chef Roy Kaneka holding a Chirashizushi Bowl -Nihon Restaurant-Hilo
One of the `long-time' landmarks in the Hilo area is the Nihon Restaurant located in one of the most beautiful spots of our city.Â Sitting on it's vantage point overlooking Hilo's scenic bay and the Queen Lili'uokalani Gardens, the Nihon Restaurant has been offering a blend of good food and Japanese culture along with wonderful sushi
for the last 23 and half years.
The restaurant which was opened by Hisashi Ueda in November of 1983 and sold to a local concern about 10 years ago has seating capacity for 120 guests at any one time between the cocktail lounge, the dining areas and the sushi bar.
The main lobby shows a collection of Japanese artifacts in glass cases, with cards of explanation. It also provides a cozy sitting area, perfect for enjoying a pot of tea and looking at the displays.
The restaurant's atmosphere is light, clean and airy with ample space between tables. Movable screens and plants for privacy can separate all the different areas and a separate facility is available for private parties as well as a dining balcony and lanai overlooking downtown Hilo and the bay.
Sushi Chef Roy Kaneko is one of the original employees and has been a fixture at the sushi bar since the Nihon first opened its doors to the public. Roy tells of how Mr. Ueda brought a professional sushi chef from Japan to teach him for several months of intensive apprenticeship before the restaurant opened.
Today the menu at the sushi bar is a mixture of traditional classic Japanese sushi and more modern California style sushi. "I feel that eating sushi is a wonderful way to share a leisurely meal with friends where everyone gets a little taste of a variety of
selections" says Chef Roy.
The Nihon's sushi bar was the first place winner in the professional category at the very first Sam Choy Poke contest back in 1992 when it was held in Waimea about 14 years ago. Their winning entry was the Ahi Poke Temaki handroll, which is still available on the menu.
The Nihon Restaurant's sushi bar under Chef Roy's direction has also won many Readers' Choice Awards several years in a row in the annual Hawaii Tribune-Herald's Readers' Choice Award Contest.
Our favorite place to sit is at the sushi bar, which features a refrigerated glass case on the counter displaying the freshest seafood available. The bar can sit 8 to 10 people comfortably at the counter and the atmosphere is so friendly that it's not unusual to
see patrons striking up conversations with each other and comparing their orders.
We like the way Chef Roy and Jacy Oshiro, his sidekick and assistant for the last 9 years pamper and interact with their charges at the bar. It's fun to place your orders and see them show up in an unhurried way, giving you plenty of time to enjoy each little morsel.
The menu is quite extensive and prices run from $4 for a single order of rolls A la Carte but also features larger combination platters that can provide fare for from 2 to 18 people. The smallest platter contains 16 pieces for $11.95 and the largest 48 pieces for $31.95.
The most popular platters according to Chef Roy are the ones featuring combinations of Nigiri and Hosomaki sushi, which gives you a wide variety to suit all tastes.
The sushi menu is also available for take-out and is ideal for catering.
The overall most popularly requested dish that is ordered throughout the restaurant from the sushi bar is the Chirashizushi Bowl which is a meal in itself, consisting of a bowl of sushi rice topped with nori, egg and an assortment of seasonal seafood. The whole thing is then served with a generous ladling of Miso Soup.
A friend introduced us to the Nihon Restaurant's sushi bar and Chef Roy several months ago and we have enjoyed returning on our own since. Our selections on this last visit were a combination of both classical and California styles sushi accompanied with several cups of green tea.
Anthony likes the Spider Rolls; lightly battered and deep-fried soft-shell crab in a reverse roll and my favorite is the Hotategal, which is made with a single, luscious raw scallop.
The two of us managed to easily go through an order of each of the above, plus a serving of 8 pieces Futomaki, a giant roll with a colorful combination of mushrooms, kampyo, egg and vegetables. We also shared an order of the fresh salmon and another of the Rainbow sushi.
To complete our meal, for dessert, we selected Green Tea ice cream and Anthony managed to eat a big bowl of their special shave ice with ice cream, sweet cream and azuki beans.
For a good time eating a wonderful selection of sushi in pleasant surroundings we recommend the Sushi Bar at the Nihon Restaurant. Tell Chef Roy we sent you.