Takenoko: Where the Sea Jumps Into your Mouth

I moved to Hilo in May last year. I moved from Seattle, where I’d spent nearly 25 years enjoying amazing cuisine- particularly the many varieties and nuances of Asian and pan-Asian cuisines. As a lover of suishi (and pretty much all things seafood related), Seattle was my heaven. I was fortunate to dine not once, but thrice at Sushi Kashiba (once at the sushi bar, twice at a standard table) which showcases the magic of sushi master Shiro Kashiba. Shiro-san is a mentee of Jiro Ono, Japan’s most revered sushi chef (see the movie “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”-trust me). So, I know good sushi. 

After arriving in Hilo, I was lucky to find fellow foodies. One of these wonderful people (Anne Chung of “Living Hilo Style”) invited me to the hottest ticket in town- a seat at the tiny sushi restaurant of Takenako. Living on an Island, surrounded by the possibility of amazing fresh seafood, I was surprised that I hadn’t yet found a great sushi place. Upon sitting down at the sushi bar at Takenoko, I quickly learned that I had found just that place. Every bit of food that went into my mouth that night showed a precision, passion, and discipline of a Master. The cuts, colors, textures, and tastes were familiar yet unique. 

The uni (one of my favorites) literally melted in my mouth, causing my tastebuds to make the sound in my head of angels singing as the clouds part. Oysters, graciously shared by Anne, made my inner otter so hau’oli I wanted to cry (and maybe just a little wanted to steal the rest of them for myself). There were local touches that heightened each bite- a sliver of shiso leaf here, a hint of unknown citrus there, a sauce combination from things that I recognized but had never thought to put together. I may have actually groaned at the end of the meal- not because I had overdone it, but because it was such a beautiful showcase of what our oceans can provide when we live carefully and sustainably.




Three months later, I won the lottery and got to go again. This time, I was a bit more adventurous- I started with the Ankimo (monk fish liver), had the abalone two ways (broiled and raw), tried the butterfish misoyaki, the black cod collar, the baked avocado with crab, mantis shrimp, hotate, torigai, and more uni. And then I tried my friend’s natto with honey on vanilla ice cream. This time I did leave completely stuffed, but so happy. And so thankful that I’ve made friends here who share my love for beautiful, tasty, and sustainable food.



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