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Rave Reviews: Sushi Sasabune, Ethiopian Love, Sweet E’s Cafe

  • NADINE KAM / NKAM@STARADVERTISER.COM
    An assortment of vegetarian and meat tibs and wots at Ethiopian Love are served atop and with rolls of injera bread, a sourdough flatbread. The injera is used in place of silverware to scoop up the various dishes.
  • STAR-ADVERTISER
    Stuffed French toast with blueberries and cream cheese is a popular breakfast option at Sweet E’s Cafe.
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PREMIUM SELECTION | SUSHI SASABUNE

The omakase is really the only way to fully experience the delectable array of fine fish available at Sushi Sasabune.

While seated at the sushi bar, you can order only the omakase. I opted for the Eastern style (described as having more shellfish), while my other half chose the Western version (perhaps a bit less adventurous).

The restaurant’s reputation of being Honolulu’s "Sushi Nazi" is, perhaps, a bit overstated. The staff is professional, friendly even. You are simply advised how best to consume what you’re being served. And rightly so. The chefs want you to enjoy the best fish of the day with the best possible preparation.

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The chef who served us presented each dish with a smile. When we asked for further clarification — "What was in the cream served with the Scottish salmon?" — he’d find out for us: "Soy milk cream cheese with yuzu and lemon." It was topped with rainbow trout caviar. Spot on.

Standouts included: tender baby squid stuffed with blue crab, Thai red snapper with shiso leaf tucked underneath and Canadian white tuna served with Mexican ahi in a citrusy ponzu sauce. Another diner seated in the dining room called out: "Thank you, chef! Everything’s perfect. The fish. The seasoning. The temperature of rice." Agreed.

1417 S. King St.; 947-3800

trustmesushi.com

Lunch, dinner. $$$$

——

ETHIOPIAN LOVE

Having grown up not far from New York City with access to countless options of stellar cuisine from around the world, I’m embarrassed to admit I had never tried Ethiopian food until I moved to Honolulu. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Ethiopian Love, which began (strangely) as a pop-up in a ramen shop on Kapahulu Avenue, is a refreshing addition to the city’s food scene. Owner Abraham Samuel always welcomes diners to his Chinatown restaurant with a warm smile and is happy to explain the traditional dishes and how to eat them. (Hint: You won’t find silverware on the tables.)

Exposed brick walls and tables adorned with black tablecloths give the interior space a modern, yet rustic, feel. But I like to sit outside at a table in the courtyard amid the bamboo trees. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention there can be a bit of a wait either to be seated or to be served from the kitchen. But the food is worth it.

Start with the sambussas, flaky savory pastries stuffed with brown lentils and onion; a spicy dipping sauce really elevates them. Samuel’s dishes are redolent with aromatic spices, from the awaze tibs, spicy beef sauteed with caramelized onions, tomato, bell pepper and berbere (Ethiopian spice blend) to the lamb alicha, turmeric-braised lamb with onion, garlic and kebe (spiced butter).

It’s hard to go wrong here. All of the entrees are served with kik alicha wot, a yellow split-pea stew. House-made injera, a slightly spongy sourdough-risen flatbread made with teff flour, lines the plates and is served in neat little rolls for you to tear up and mop up all that goodness. Another bonus: It’s BYOB.

1112 Smith St.; 725-7197

Lunch, dinner. $$

——

SWEET E’S CAFE

It’s incredibly hard not to order the same thing every time I go to this homey breakfast and brunch spot: The stuffed French toast with blueberries and cream cheese, and a side of corned beef hash — extra crispy. If I were to order something different, I fear I’d get a case of "menu regret" and stare longingly at the person who does order it at our table (someone always does).

The French toast is sort of like eating an inside-out breakfast cupcake with the cream-cheese "frosting" and bursts of fresh berries in every bite. Corned beef hash counterbalances the sweetness with its salty meat and potatoes. Neither dish will win any dieting awards. But that’s OK because I go only sporadically, especially given the onerous parking situation at Kilohana Square.

The good news is that Sweet E’s will be relocating to a bigger space (current plans are for December) and it’s just one building away with more parking options. In the meantime, I’ll be going to get my fill of French toast. Other recommendations (based on forkfuls from others’ plates): the Hawaiian omelet, kalua pork eggs Benedict and Extreme Mess (eggs, hash brown, ham, bacon, onion, scallions, peppers and cheddar cheese all scrambled together).

Kilohana Square

1016 Kapahulu Ave., Suite 185; 737-7771

Breakfast, lunch. $$

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