It can be an easy restaurant to miss if you’re not looking for it. As you walk in downtown Hilo, look for the sign with a hand-painted sign featuring a fish, waves, a volcano, and the words Sushi Ebisuya. Parking can be a little bit tricky if you’re not used to the one-way roads in downtown Hilo, but you can actually find quite a bit of parking on Ponahawai street if you’re ok with walking about a block to get there. I parked on Ponahawai and walked, but saw that there was a lot of street parking available in front of restaurant (and this was around 11:30am on a Monday).
I’m all about authenticity, and walking into the restaurant felt like I was back in Japan again. Sushi Ebisuya is a small restaurant, fitting about 60 people (if you crammed everyone in). It’s a single room with the cashier standing at the far end, and a backroom where you can see the sushi chefs through a window as they prepare the food. It definitely has a Japanese feel to it, with paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, Japanese flags on the walls, and wooden benches and seats. Light reggae music played in the background.
My favorite part is the smell, because the aroma of miso soup, fish, rice, and ginger fill the air. The restaurant is only open from 11:30-2pm, and then it 5-9pm. With such a small window of time, there’s a pretty constant flow of people coming and going. Since it’s a smaller restaurant, there’s one waiter to take on the customers.
The waiter is actually a friend of mine from university, and he’s super cool and nice. As at any restaurant, he gets you started with a drink and then comes back for your order. The menu is pretty simple, and the prices aren’t too bad, ranging from $3-$12 for a sushi roll, depending on what you choose.
I was pleased at the variety of sushi rolls to choose from, with 6 pieces per roll. There was your typical California roll (imitation crab, avocado, and mayo) going for $3.50, a Dragon Roll (crispy tempura prawn, cucumber, and mayo) going for $4.50, and even vegetarian rolls, which were all priced at $4 (not bad considering how much you might pay for a roll of sushi at Foodland of KTA).
You could add extra sides to spice up your dish, such as making your roll spicy for an additional 25 cents, extra avocado for 50 cents, cream cheese for $1 and masago (which is the roe—the fish eggs— from the Capelin fish) for $3.
They even have traditional style sushi, which is where it’s like a small block of rice with a piece of meat on the top. These are very delicious, and this really reminded me of Japan. You can get 5 pieces of sashimi for $10, or 2 piece orders for $4. Some of their choices include squid, tuna, salmon, sea urchin, and more.
The restaurant has their signature rolls and that’s what was recommended to me, so that’s what I tried. I’m allergic to shrimp so the option for me from their signatures was the Train Wreck, priced at $12. It included a deep fried cream cheese California roll (if your mouth doesn’t water just hearing that, I don’t know what will), and topped with spicy Ahi, tempura crunch (if you’ve never tried tempura crunch, it’s a fun little fried chip made out of Japanese batter), green onion, Masago (the fish eggs again), and furikake (not going to lie, as a local girl, furikake is a huge selling point for me). They glazed it with garlic aioli and Unagi graze—which, I didn’t know what those were but it sounded good to me.
It didn’t take long for them to prepare, and I actually went into the back to take some pictures and videos of the sushi chefs at work. You can tell they take a lot of pride in what they’re doing, and it’s almost like they’re doing art, especially with the way they carefully position and place everything.
So here’s my food.
The Train Wreck is a funny name to give to a sushi roll, but I kind of understand why they did that. I dipped a piece of sushi in shoyu and put a little wasabi on the top, and when I put it into my mouth, it actually does seem like something exploded. First there’s a slight crunch from the fried California roll, and then there’s the sweetness of the imitation crab, a freshness from the cucumber, and then a hint of spiciness from the Masago and spicy ahi. What I liked is that it wasn’t too spicy. I could still put some wasabi on and be able to handle. And, of course the plate wouldn’t be complete without some pickled ginger. I ate about three pieces and was full, probably because it was just so rich and I’m a small eater.
Would I recommend this place? Of course I would, and one day when I’m back in Hilo I’d like to take my mom or my significant other. I loved the calm atmosphere, the smell and taste of the sushi, and the prices were decent.
If you’re in Hilo, swing by. It’s definitely worth it!
Check out the video here.