Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
It’s that old joke, “I’m on the seafood diet … Whenever I see food, I eat it.” Though Ms. S and I are true omnivores, we’re probably pescatarians more than anything. We only consume or purchase beef on very rare occasions (Fête’s steak tartare and Korean bavette steak are two of those) averaging a beef purchase maybe every six to eight weeks on rare occasions, when I want to smoke a beef brisket or indulge in ropa vieja (Cuban simmered beef). We do purchase poultry about every other week mainly to sous vide those chicken breasts and every three to four weeks to smoke pork sirloin. But we do indulge in poke weekly. It’s probably one of the factors why Ms. S chooses to remain employed – so she doesn’t have to skip her weekly visits to KBay Bros Fish & Ice.
From Canned to Fresh
My original source for seafood was tuna but it wasn’t directly from the auction house or even the seafood section. It was in canned usually on sale announced from the weekly Longs ad on Sunday. At the Tatsumoto house, it had to be Coral tuna and Best Foods mayonnaise (since then, we only purchase solid albacore since Coral tuna now resembles canned tuna soup). That’s it, no added salt or black pepper or any other flavoring. And this continued into my undergraduate years of college especially during finals week since fish was considered brain food. I basically only consumed tuna sandwiches and potato chips for every meal during finals week. This continued into graduate school; however, I got into the habit of spicing my tuna salad with various dried seasonings such as dried dill, chili powder, dried cilantro and even curry powder. This led to an unfortunate incident that I’ll share with you. It may not be politically correct and highlights what happens when you have preconceived notions based on what someone looks like.
The curry powder that I was using either was old or after several weeks of consuming the same thing, dulled my palate so that I started using more curry powder in my tuna salad. During this time, San Francisco was going through an “Indian Summer” when the fall months’ temperature is a lot hotter than the rest of the year. In fact, for about two or three days, San Francisco hit the triple-digit range so I actually attended class in shorts and a tank top, which you almost never see anyone wearing in autumn. Anyway, after classes ended for the day, my girlfriend (currently Ms. S) and I took the elevator to return to our student housing. Two graduate students – I assumed ethnic Indian since they were wearing long, matching linen tops and bottoms – also rode in the same elevator. After we exited to catch the shuttle back to the housing, I mentioned to Ms. S that I could still smell the curry from those two students who joined us on the elevator. Even after changing, I could still smell that curry aroma so I placed my nose against my forearm. I was the origin of the curry aroma! Not those Indian students. I guess the combination of loads of curry powder in my tuna salad and 100-degree temperatures caused my curry reek. I later told Ms. S I bet those students upon exiting the elevator said “wow, those Japanese really like their curry because that guy was reeking!”
Fresh and Sustainable
We still consume our fair share of seafood at least once a week since there are multiple outlets in Käne‘ohe for fresh seafood. However, I do try to follow the recommendations of Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And though we enjoy great sushi as much as anyone else, I do remind Ms. S that bluefin tuna, whether from the Atlantic or Pacific, is on the Seafood Watch Avoid list due to overfishing and a lack of fisheries management. And if there aren’t changes made, it likely will go extinct by our, or at the very least, next generation. So at some point, there won’t be any o-toro or chuu-toro. Though I already found my substitutes for the fatty richness also known as fish “buttah,” New Zealand Ora King salmon, nodoguro and yukimasu. You can also sample all three at Tanuki Sushi in Käne‘ohe, which recently re-opened on Sept. 6 but currently operates as just takeout. Ora King salmon is a trademarked farm-raised salmon from New Zealand that strives to produce the fattiest yet retaining characteristic salmon flavor. Nodoguro or rosy sea bass is a smaller, red skinned bass and usually is torched right before service, which brings out the buttery qualities of the flesh – because it is on the smaller side, prices at sushi bars approaches (or exceeds) that of bluefin tuna. Finally, yukimasu or snow trout also retains all of that fatty richness as the best salmon and like salmon, is less than half the price of bluefin tuna.
Make That Drive to Käne‘ohe
A little over a year ago, the four Koki brothers, Tyler, Derek, Kyle and Keith took a chance with their dream of opening a poke shop and opened KBay Bros Fish & Ice. Located in my neck of the woods in Käne‘ohe just behind Zippy’s and adjacent to Windward Mall, the shop recently celebrated its first anniversary. Previously, Ms. S would always make a weekly stop at Ono2Guys for their Korean dosirak (bento) but after they closed in May 2021, she was left wanting for another small, local business to support. Luckily, KBay Bros Fish & Ice opened several months later so she now makes her weekly purchases here. They stock the traditional ahi poke with both fresh and previously frozen but occasionally stock poke not usually found at supermarkets like lomi oio, Kona crab and opihi laced poke (scattered throughout the salmon or ahi poke). They are also known for their inari “bombs,” which are inarizushi topped with either the spicy ahi or imitation crab salad – these usually do sell out by the early afternoon. They also usually have the warabi salad with tomatoes, dried shrimp and raw onion, fresh poi and boiled peanuts – large peanuts perfectly cooked al dente, no mushy peanuts here! The top sellers are the Pau Hana Ahi, which is basically ahi poke topped with imitation crab salad; the Dynamite Tako, which is a garlicky-mayonnaise sauce, and the Spicy Ahi Inari Bombs. Though my personal favorites are the salmon poke, tofu poke, crab inari bombs and boiled peanuts while Ms. S always goes for the rainbow poke (ahi, hamachi and salmon with tobiko and sea salad) and lomi oio and poi if they’re available. She’s also been known to purchase several bags of boiled peanuts keeping two at home and taking one or two to work.
The best way to check on any specials is through Instagram (@kbaybros.ice) as there’s a link for their poke assortment and Keith Koki, as he’s the comedic face of the business (though Kyle Koki comes in a close second), occasionally posts videos on IG. There’s also a photo of the mysterious Ms. S with Tyler Koki as part of their one-year anniversary celebration – one of the prizes was that the first customer in the door on Saturday, Sept. 3 would receive their order on the house and Ms. S was the first customer.
KBay Bros Fish & Ice is located at 46-028 Kawa St., Käne‘ohe, open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Mondays. For more information, call (808) 235-0858.
Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet” (nichi-bei.org/columns/gochiso-gourmet/).