Somehow, the idea of all-you-can-eat-sushi does not inspire confidence. (Hope, yes; confidence, no.) As a way to save money on high quality sushi, logic tells us that it’s bound to fail: while the savvy diner tries to avoid taking too big a hit on their wallet, the owner is forced to purvey poor quality fish so as to avoid going bankrupt. But Kats Sushi apparently operates off a different principal. Don’t ask me to define that principal—but hey, I can place a value on it: a mere and wonderful $20.
The closest I can get to explaining how Kats does it—my god, they regularly fly in fresh yellowtail from Japan, and none of their fish have ever known a freezer—is from a short exchange my wife and I had midway through our meal.
My wife: “The atmosphere here is so casual, and the sushi chef and waitress are really laid back.”
Me: “Maybe that’s how they can do this. They must not be bothered by the prospect of losing money every night on pigs like us.”
Actually, we weren’t even really pigs. (We were more like…javelinas.) We could have been, but we wanted to make a good first impression. After all, we knew we’d be back and didn’t want to get blacklisted. In the end, we only gorged ourselves on 26 pieces of nigiri sushi and 7 handrolls. The damage we did to Kats nigiri menu went as follows: 4 yellow tail, 2 red snapper, 6 salmon, 4 tuna, 6 sea eel, 2 clam, and 2 mackerel. I won’t even go into which handrolls we ordered, though I’ll tell you that the spicy unagi topped my list. (My wife claimed the salmon skin roll as her favorite.)
In any case, everything about Kats was great. And that includes the service, which, on a Thursday night anyway, amounted to a single sushi chef and one waitress. What makes this even possible is the small space Kats occupies. Our bedroom, which isn’t particularly large, is more spacious than the seating area at Kats. Imagine four tables and seven sushi counter stools.
Other things worth mentioning: there are a few rules Kats strictly enforces. For example, at the top of the menu one finds the following prominently displayed (in blood red ink): “RICE MUST BE EATEN.” I’m not sure what that means, really. Do people sometimes just peel the fish from their sushi and then discard the rice? If so, I fully back this rule and also suggest that those people not be allowed to return. If you’re going to do sushi, you just have to suck it up and accept the fact that you’re going to overload on carbs. Also, and this is more law than rule, but if you want to drink alcohol with your meal, you need to BYO.
While Yanagi Sushi still tops my list for sushi in Honolulu—I know some people will scoff, but have you tried their monkfish liver?—Kats is pretty damn good. I’m a fan of Sansei, too, but if not for their balcony view of the ocean at sunset, I’m not sure I’d be such a big fan. But for $20? Kats wins hands down. And for its casual atmosphere and friendly service, Kats wins again. I can usually find something to cavil over, but not tonight. (Okay, maybe they could remove Rod Stewart from their playlist.)
If I’m going to be a regular anywhere, I decided tonight that it will be here.
Kats Sushi is located at 715 N. King Street. Call (808) 526-1268, or fax (808) 521-7614, for reservations (recommended) and to ask about catering services.
Monday-Friday: 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Monday-Saturday: 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.