I'll begin by accepting some fault for our disappointment at Sushi Sasabune...we interpreted the hype and reviews to indicate that this restaurant is on par with sushi/nigiri we've had in Japan, specifically at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo and as part of many multi-course kaiseki meals during our travels. It simply is not.
We were expecting 10-12 courses of high end nigiri when ordering the omakase, but instead had a mix of more western style courses including stuffed squid and baked lobster. Good to be sure, but not what we anticipated.
Furthermore, to our surprise, numerous courses were seasoned with wasabi to the point of overpowering the fish. Another course was explained as being coated in "lemon pepper." Perhaps the sushi chef has learned to be heavy-handed with the seasonings to accommodate the American palate? Again, not what we expected.
To his credit, some courses were an absolute delight and they made a point of detailing where in the world each course's fish had been flown in from.
Most disturbing was when the sushi chef essentially "tapped out" shortly after 10 pm (when they close) and turned over the food prep to a non-Japanese underling for our last 2 courses. Please note we arrived on time for our 8:30 pm reservation and were seated about the same time as 3 other parties (one which had ~6-7 people)---all of whom were still dining at 10 pm. The chef literally walked thru the dining room with his uniform removed wearing only a white undershirt. Unbelievable and unacceptable at an establishment in which dinner for two cost >$300. We were paying for HIM to make our sushi.
As a result, the last course was laughable as the assistant scrounged handfuls of crabmeat and quickly created crab rolls for the remaining tables while the staff broke down the sushi bar as fast as humanely possible. Yes, we felt rushed. And yet it was only 10:15pm and the restaurant was still a third full. Quite strange.
Frankly I think the sushi chef is probably pretty skilled (based on a few of the courses), but has become jaded and burned out from trying to prepare authentic Japanese style sushi for American customers that have different expectations. Of the many acclaimed and expensive restaurants we've had the good fortune to dine in, I've never been lectured to about dining room/eating rules as we were at Sushi Sasabune. We saw other customers lectured in the same manner. I think this comes from too many people showing up asking for california rolls and sake bombs, which must mortify this particular chef. The ridiculous premium charged for their food seems to be a rudimentary attempt to keep the rift-raft out. Okay, but the food, service, and ambience need to match the price.
I'm not really sure who I'd recommend this restaurant to...maybe people who equate expensive with good?
People who I definitely would caution to stay away are those who think this place is going to be a throw-back to that great sushi you had in Japan. Or those who saw the documentary 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' and think this place is the Honolulu's version of Jiro's Ginza Metro station restaurant.