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Best Seafood: Mina’s Fish House, Maguro Brothers, Off the Hook Poke Market

  • BETTY SHIMABUKURO / BETTY@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                A chirashi order at Maguro Brothers comprises several kinds of fish and tako over sushi rice.

    BETTY SHIMABUKURO / BETTY@STARADVERTISER.COM

    A chirashi order at Maguro Brothers comprises several kinds of fish and tako over sushi rice.

MINA’S FISH HOUSE

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, 92-1001 Olani St.; 679-0079. Dinner, lunch (weekends). $$$$

Just as other restaurants have sommeliers to recommend a wine with a meal, Fish House has sommeliers to help select the ideal fish for dinner. The service at chef Michael Mina’s beachside seafood restaurant exemplifies the thought that enjoyment of a meal is tied up in a full understanding of its key component, in this case the fish at the center of the plate.

The restaurant’s fish sommeliers, Jared Chang and Ryan Houser, aim to match diners’ preferences in taste and texture with the right fish, beyond the obvious mahimahi or ahi. Perhaps opakapaka tonight? Or opah, onaga, swordfish or kampachi — and not a neat, tidy fillet, but a whole fish that you can look in the eye. “Whole fish is the heart and soul of the restaurant,” as Mina says.

Preparation style is also discussed, then fish is matched to flavors in the kitchen. Back at the table, the sommelier carves and plates the fish.

Of course a whole fish won’t suit the size or the whims of all dining parties, so chef Garrick Mendoza’s menu offers many other memorable choices, among them grilled yellowfin tuna with seared foie gras, a delicious phyllo-crusted black cod and a lobster potpie. Turf options include steaks and pork chops. For the full experience, start the meal with a shared tower of cold or charbroiled mixed seafood.

Fish House recently began weekend lunch service with a few more casual items such as garlic shrimp and tempura fish and chips. Really set up your afternoon with a shared cocktail, Lost at Sea, made of spiced rum, tea and mango, sized to satisfy two to four.

MAGURO BROTHERS

Kekaulike Market, 1039 Kekaulike St., Chinatown; 259-7100. Lunch (closed Sundays). Pearl Hotel Waikiki, 415 Nahua St.; 230-3470. Dinner (closed Sundays). $-$$

It requires a slight leap of faith to plan a visit to Maguro Brothers’ Chinatown location. You’ve got to wind your way through the many Kekaulike Market stalls piled high with produce, get to the very back and locate the unimposing counter. You may wonder if you’ve been sent on a wild goose chase.

Luckily, there’s a big, bold chalkboard to let you know you’re in the right place, listing a mouthwatering menu of auction-fresh seafood choices. The price list will reward you for your faith. You’re not paying for ambiance, after all, although there are a few seats where you can eat with a pleasing enough view of the market hubbub.

Maguro, chutoro, hamachi and king salmon are meticulously sliced and arranged as sashimi over rice or in poke bowls, with prices that top out at $16.77, a bargain for fish of this quality. Uni, ikura, oysters, raw scallops and natto can be added on. That may do for your first visit.

Come back for the grilled dishes — hamachi collar, miso salmon or togarashi ahi steak, to name a few.

The hard-working Maguro Brothers — Junichiro and Ryojiro Tsuchiya — close up shop in Chinatown at 3 p.m., then head across town to open a matching takeout location in Waikiki at 5:30 p.m.

OFF THE HOOK POKE MARKET

2908 E. Manoa Road, 800-6865; Lunch, early dinner (closes at 6 p.m.; closed Sundays). $-$$

Despite its diminutive size, this storefront shop across from Manoa Marketplace turns out an abundance of super fresh poke.

Owners Tomoki Ito and JP Lam visit the Honolulu Fish Auction daily, bringing back a haul of ahi to the shop. If you’re lucky, you can catch workers breaking down the fish behind the counter just before it goes into a poke preparation.

If you’re a poke purist, order by weight — selections include spicy ahi, Hawaiian-style, shoyu ahi, Kilauea fire and wasabi furikake ahi, along with miso ginger tako. The popular cold ginger ahi packs a powerful punch of ginger; be ready to clear your sinuses. The Japan Deluxe is mixed with miso and shiso.

Poke bowls come in mini and regular sizes, with a choice of white, brown or sushi rice, or green salad. An array of free toppings will finish off your bowl: crunchy puffed rice, chopped green onions, tobiko and furikake.

A few high-top tables with stools and a couple of rattan love seats flanking a coffee table offer places to tuck into your meal. Better yet, if it’s a sunny day sit at a table outside and enjoy the Manoa scenery.

Be mindful the shop closes early if the poke sells out, so plan to get there early.

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