There are now many imitators around town, but the original take-out Sushi in Hawaii is Kozo Sushi. At least, they were the first and only one of its kind to set up shop in my hometown of Kaneohe way back in the 80’s.
To this day, it never ceases to amaze me how affordable the prices are at Kozo, yet the quality of ingredients, made-to-order freshness and overall execution is nearly flawless. You’ll easily pay two or three times the price – in some cases much much higher than that – for the same set at other Japanese restaurants. Especially those that specialize in sushi or seafood.
Just look at that lunch box above, which I enjoyed for lunch today. Fresh Ahi (raw tuna) Nigiri, Ika (squid) Nigiri, Ebi (shrimp) Nigiri, Salmon Nigiri, Egg Nigiri, 2 Inari (Aburage), 2 Futo Maki, 2 cucumber Hosomaki, 2 Tekka (Ahi) Hosomaki and 2 Shinko (Daikon) Hosomaki… that’s 15 pieces, including fresh seafood Nigiri items for just $5.49! Common! That’s gotta’ be one of the best bargains in town.
There are several other combination bentos like this, but the lunch box has all my favorite selections all in one, well-rounded assortment. Nice.
They also have many other types of sushi on the menu, which you can check out at their website.
The most important and defining factor that makes take-out Sushi places like Kozo so great is that they make the Nigiri to order – never premade. So it’s very fresh and the rice is at an ideal state when you get it. Not dried out, stiff or too cold like it often is when you buy those Sushi bentos in the refrigerator case at the local supermarket. The rice has that all-important stickiness to it. Some of the Maki rolls are premade, but always made that day and kept at room temperature, which is important. Refrigerated sushi is just not good.
They’re also very consistent. I’ve NEVER been failed by Kozo. Always satisfied with my orders from the various locations around the island.
Following their business model are some new kids in town such as Aloha Sushi and Sushi Man, which are also respectfully good. I’ll add them here in future “Sushi Quest” chapters.
The company that owns the Kapahulu Kozo Sushi franchise also owns four other locations in Kahala Mall, Pearlridge Shopping Center, Moili’ili and Pearl City near Walmart.
There are also additional locations on Oahu who are owned by various independent franchisees.
Keep in mind that Kozo Sushi is strictly take-out. Most locations usually don’t have seating in the establishment, although they’re usually located in malls where there are seating outside the establishment, like the location on Kapahulu which is tucked between Star Bucks and Jamba Juice.
Whenever folks ask where to go for good sushi, I always suggest Kozo for best bang for the buck, and best of the take-out joints. Highly recommended!