A reservation specialist from the Andaz Maui resort told us about getting some great sushi at Koiso when we stayed there last September. We weren’t able to get in then, but we made a point to eat there when we returned to Maui this spring. We called about a week in advance and were given a choice of the 6:00 or 8:00 pm seating for a Friday night. Koiso, owned and operated by an efficient duo, only seats 14-16 people, so it is easy to see why reservations are mandatory. Hiro-san is the lone chef and sushi master, while his assistant (who we are assuming is his wife) does all of the front-of-the-house duties such as seating parties, clearing tables and taking drink orders.
They wait until all of the early diners clear the place before allowing anyone into the small restaurant for the second seating. Once you check in, you wait outside with the others and stare longingly at the door for your turn to be seated:
Since everyone is seated all at once, the real key is patience (which shouldn’t be a problem for anyone in Paradise) while Hiro-san makes his way around to fulfilling orders. In the meantime, edamame is brought out to welcome you to the restaurant:
They offer some beer, wine and sake to drink with dinner. We noticed that not many other diners were drinking, but we had no problems ordering a bottle of Kubota Sake Senju a Ginjo-style rice wine brewed by Asahi:
All of the day’s fresh fish is listed on the white board, but it’s best to put yourself in Chef Hiro-san’s capable hands and order the fish Omakase (chef’s choice). We started by splitting an order of the sashimi Omakase, which is a great bargain at $32/plate:
We also ordered two plates of the sushi Omakase so that no sharing was required. Chef Hiro-san busily prepared the platter but still had plenty of time to chat with some customers between counting the pieces of fish on each platter:
Each excellent platter contained more than a dozen fish types, and since we told Chef Hiro-san that we really enjoy uni, he made the mound of urchin bigger than usual:
We really enjoyed all of the fish — every item tasted very fresh. The Omakase platter was another relative bargain at $45, considering the variety of sushi on the plate. When we asked what had happened to the heads of the Ama-Ebi (raw shrimp), Chef Hiro-san immediately started grilling them for us. While they are usually served fried, this grilled method worked to crispy cook the heads. A squeeze of fresh calamnsi was the right dressing for this tasty snack:
Most other sushi meals end with orange slices, but in Paradise, the last bites are, appropriately, chunks of fresh island pineapple:
Chef Hiro-san has been serving great sushi at Koiso, located in the a strip-mall in Kihei, for more than a dozen years. While chatting with him, we discovered that he started cooking in America close to us in Silicon Valley, having worked for awhile at Hamasushi in Cupertino (a place we used to frequent prior to its closing in the mid-2000s). He did tell us that on weekends he offers primarily sashimi and sushi since he doesn’t have time to make many cooked items. But on weekdays, he often has other cooked items available.
We can’t stress enough that reservations should be made in advance, but the experience is definitely worth the extra effort. Even though there were a trio of no-shows on the evening we went, they did turn away several other walk-ins hoping to get a seat. We’ll definitely return on our next trip to Maui.
Koiso Sushi Bar
2395 S Kihei Rd Ste 113
Kihei, Hawaii 96753