By Evelyn Kim

At Sushi Sasabune, the knives are samurai sharp and the fish gets treated like a classy lady.  Sasabune was originally founded by Nobi Kusuhara with a loyal following in L.A. and N.Y.

Like all restaurants in Hawaii, Sasabune transitioned into a take-out only model temporarily.  Currently available is the Omakase bento box consisting of 11 nigiris and one roll is seasoned to a chef’s palate and full of local personality. At $50 it will satisfy beyond expectations, any craving for quality ocean bounty.

To kick off the Talk Story Takout series, Food-A-Go-Go goes behind the counter with owner, Seiji Kumagawa.

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How many bento boxes do you have to sell everyday to survive during this COVID period?

We sell about 100 bento boxes everyday and that is enough for us to keep going.  We sell out on most days.

How many salaries can you support right now, have you had to let go of staff?

We did not lay off any people.  Our servers have transitioned into helping up with wrapping the bento boxes and also executing deliveries internally to save on extra fees that delivery companies demand.

What are some supply chain issues you have had, if any?

The most important factor is supply of fish is limited but by nature things always happen.  Even before this there was 9/11 and the financial crisis, so I’ve warned my team to always prepare for the worst.  For the last 10 years we have been serving mostly local fish and built relationships that help us a lot.

What are some challenges with transforming your menu into takeout?

Our original menu is omakase and we try to make sure there is very little difference with the bento.  We try our best to control the different temperatures that are important especially for the rice.  We try our best and we really appreciate our local supporters.

What is your stance on government help?

Government help means nothing.  I don’t expect any government help because government money means tax money, and I believe it may put us in a more dangerous situation afterwards. This restaurant has been privately owned for 23 years.

How did you streamline the menu and decide on these items?

When the government announced we can only do take out, I immediately eliminated the hot foods, and tried to focus on fish that I can get locally for at least 30 days like local fish, skipjack tuna, king snapper, and local tuna. We also make the rice a little bigger than usual, the reason is that if you come to my restaurant your omakase meal would have hot food and 15-16 courses, and I still want to make the customer’s stomach full and deliver good service.

What do you miss most about doing dinner service?

I love explaining to the customers about our products especially the fish because we care and that is our style of service.  We explain because we care and it is important to let diners know why we do what we do and how to get the best flavors from each bite.  I want to re-open as quickly as possible.