The first time I visited the Banzai Sushi Bar, I was hiking back from Keana Point after sunset with my wife and another couple a few years back. The four of us were all famished and went looking for a place to eat. For those of you who don’t know, Keana Point is the western most point on Oahu. It is also the most isolated part of the island with over a two mile hike, each way. This is when the four of us stumbled upon the Banzai Sushi Bar in the historic town of Haleiwa. This would be my first of several visits to the Banzai Sushi Bar.
The decor and dining area was very pleasant and welcoming. The Banzai Sushi Bar has a beautiful two tier dining area where you can either sit at a standard table with chairs or the customary style, on the floor, eating off lower traditional tables. There is also a small area near the sushi bar where you can sit and eat as well.
The Banzai Sushi Bar’s prices range from $6.00 for the Temaki up to $70 for the Banzai Funamori (which consists of an incredible assortment of sashimi and exotic seafood delivered in a small wooden boat). Even though they have a wide range of prices, most of their items fall somewhere between $15 to $25. The Banzai Sushi Bar has an array of entrees to choose from so it would be hard to imagine not finding something to your liking.
I have tried several of their sushi rolls in the past, which include the Spider, Caterpillar, Baja and the Red Dragon. On this visit, I went with one of my personal favorites, the Volcano Maki and a signature dish personally recommended by Sam, the owner of the Banzai Sushi Bar, the Maui Wowi Specialty Sashimi Roll. Of course, what’s sushi without some Edamame and Miso Soup. Everything was nicely prepared and well presented as shown in the pictures below.
The Maui Wowi. A beautifully prepared roll consisting of eight pieces of sashimi grade ahi, shiso leaf, micro greens, avocado and mango wrapped in yuba paper and served with an organic konbo-infused vinegar-shoyu dressing. The taste was very light and fresh. The mango really helps balance the roll and enhance the flavors of the ahi and avocado. This was the first time I tried this item and it won’t be the last.
Next up, the Volcano Maki. To me, this is the go to roll almost every time I have visited the Banzai Sushi Bar. It’s your classic California Roll topped with scallops and salmon, oven baked and crowned with masago. I love both the classic style sushi like Nigiri and Sashimi, but I also like when a sushi bar really takes their menu in new and exciting directions by offering items like the Volcano Maki. I believe variety is the key to a great sushi bar and this is why I have always enjoyed dining here.
Overall, if you like good quality sushi served in a beautiful environment, it is hard to beat Banzai Sushi. I believe it is the only true sushi bar on the North Shore of Oahu, which is somewhat surprising to me. I really enjoy everything from the friendly staff, the good quality food and the overall atmosphere. They also have surfing videos playing on the wall of surfers riding giant waves from the banzai pipeline. These are pretty fun to watch while you are waiting on your food to be served. If you are thinking about giving the Banzai Sushi Bar a visit, their hours of operation are from noon to 9:30pm, 7 days a week.
Here are some photos from my visit to the Banzai Sushi Bar
Map to Banzai Sushi
JJ French Pastry Bistro, located near Kahala Mall, is a great place to visit if you’re ever in the Diamond Head area. Be advised though, JJ French Pastry is not very easy to spot while driving. I have driven for years on Waialae Avenue without ever seeing it. I just happened to be walking in the area one day, looking for a quick bite to eat, when I happened upon JJ French Pastry Bistro. Their dessert images in the window drew me in and I had to see if they tasted as good as they looked.
While JJ French Pastry Bistro is famous for their beautiful selection of desserts, they also have a variety of entrees ranging from Baked Lamb Wellington to Poached Lobster Tail along with several pasta dishes and seven different pizzas to choose from. JJ French Pastry Bistro features French and Laotian Cuisine.
Unfortunately, on this visit, I did not have time for a full meal so I gave their stunning desserts a try. JJ French Pastry Birsto’s signature dessert dish is the Chocolate Pyramid, which I would normally try as I always make it a habit to try any fine restaurant’s signature dish. However, on this occasion, I could not resist their Lady in Red – Guava Bavarian and their Black Current Cassie desserts. If you take a look at the pictures to the left, you will see why I chose these two. I am a sucker for fresh fruit with a creamy mousse and just the right amount of cake which both these desserts had. They were very well thought out and tasted amazing.
I also had the opportunity to speak with JJ Luangkhot, on my visit, where he shared some of his history in the business. He is from Laos, received his culinary training in New York and France and is proud to be serving the Island of Oahu for what is now almost twenty years. Fifteen of those years has been in the current Kaimuki location. JJ French Pastry Bistro has also earned many awards over the years including:
Best Pastry Winner (2004) – Honolulu Magazine
Zagat Award Winning (2012)
Ilima Award Winner (2006, 2010 & 2011)
Hale Aina Award Winner, 5 years running (2009 – 2014)
I must say I was very impressed with both JJ and his lovely daughter Natda, who was also there running the front of the restaurant. They are both very friendly and helpful. It was nice to get a chance to meet them and experience their incredible desserts.
Overall, JJ French Pastry Bistro is a very pleasant place to visit. They have a unique establishment with friendly staff and quite a selection of both pastries and entrees to choose from. About 80% of their business comes from pastries. Speaking from personal experience, once you see their display case, it is easy to understand why that is. Their desserts definitely lived up to their visually stunning appearance. Though I have not had a chance to try some of their other items, if and when I do, I will make sure to follow up on this article in the future.
Here are some photos from my visit to JJ French Pastry Bistro
Map to JJ French Pastry