Sushi is and always has been a local favorite in the Hawaiian Islands. Tane Vegan Izakaya located on Beretania Street in Honolulu, offers an out-of-this-world selection of entirely plant-based sushi items and other Japanese dishes for diners keeping a fish-free diet or daring to try a creative take on this traditional cuisine.
“I’m just happy that our little vegan restaurant is not limited and can provide a space for people… Our restaurant is not strictly for vegans, anyone can come and enjoy a meal with no blood on the table.”
Tane Vegan Izakaya serves up o high-quality plant-based cuisine translated into “sushi” rolls, nigiri, ramen, shared plates and more. Photos: (Left) Shannon Bay Gregory/ (Right) courtesy of Tane Vegan Izakaya
Tane was opened in 2019 by Chef Kin Lui after working alongside ocean conservationist Casson Trenor. Their vision was to create “a peaceful take on the cuisine that did no harm to animals and that elevated vegetables, fruits, flowers and mushrooms to a new level behind the sushi bar.” After years of working numerous restaurant jobs in Waikiki, oscillating between a multitude of different positions, Lui moved to San Francisco where he said he had the “time of his life,” learning from masters and senseis in the culinary arts.
In 2007, Lui planned to open a restaurant, while Trenor happened to be writing a book about sustainable sushi. According to Lui, “we wanted to see if we could share the same mission, talk about what’s going on with the ocean, the bluefin tuna decline, and try to bring it to a restaurant perspective.” Lui opened Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar, the first sustainable sushi restaurant, and a few more restaurants on the Mainland, before ultimately missing Hawaii.
Before stepping on the plane to begin the adventure of Tane, Lui explained that he and Trenor “had many conversations about what we did and if we’ve made a difference here on the Mainland. We looked at how we started, how we convinced other restaurants to go sustainable and influenced chefs to convert their menus. Ten years later and there are now about forty sustainable sushi restaurants in the state of California.
Tane translates to “seed” and their slogan is “anything is possible.” Chef Lui explained that Tane “keeps standards very high and tries to support local as much as possible.” Photo: courtesy of Tane Vegan Izakaya/Instagram
The theory is: the one bluefin tuna that we did not take, we do not consume it, and, in turn, neither do the customers, there’s another chance for that tuna to swim.” So began Tane, Lui’s dream of bringing his recipes, experience and mission back to his hometown of Honolulu.
Tane translates to “seed” and their slogan is “anything is possible.” Lui explained that Tane “keeps standards very high and tries to support local as much as possible.” He says his main joy is being able to serve the freshest vegetables to the customers. “I look at details more than the outcome most of the time,” said Lui. “For example, with daikon, I like to hand cut it rather than using the machine to get the spiral, and it makes a difference to me. To see the customers enjoying it, it’s priceless.”
Chef Lui pays attention to detail, using freshly sourced ingredients and manual techniques to achieve the end result. Photo: courtesy of Tane Vegan Izakaya
One of Lui’s favorite sushi rolls to serve and to make is called “The Wedge.” He said it is definitely the most popular item on the menu at Tane. He emphasizes that the spicy tofuna (tofu tuna) is what makes it so special. Chef Lui also recommends trying out all of the nigiri. “Each one has its own character,” he stated, “a different way to prepare it and a different flavor. I would say with all of them, you don’t need to dip it in soy sauce, they all have their own kind of twist.”
Lui discussed how hard it has been running a restaurant during the pandemic and explained that support from locals and visitors means absolutely everything. “We talk to a lot of customers,” he said, “and particularly now, so many people have been home watching documentaries and because of that have started going vegan. I’m just happy that our little vegan restaurant is not limited and can provide a space for people.”
When asked if it was difficult to veganize any classic sushi recipes, Lui explained, “we aren’t trying to imitate fish, I mean tuna tastes like tuna, eggplant tastes like eggplant, so how do we make eggplant taste really good. That’s our mission. What can we do with the whole food as a form? How do we make it taste good so people can come back? Our restaurant is not strictly for vegans, anyone can come and enjoy a meal with no blood on the table.”
Photo: Shannon Bay Gregory
Serves 2 | By Catharine Palazo
1 bag of konnyaku (can purchase from any Asian grocery), diced
1 whole cucumber, deseeded and diced
½ red onion, diced
2 local tomatoes, diced
1 whole avocado, diced
½ piece of jalapeno, diced
1 cup pineapple, diced
1 whole corn cob, grilled
Marinate everything with equal parts salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon, lime and orange juices. Mix in chopped cilantro at the end.
For chips, use okinawan sweet potato and red sweet potato, thinly shave, rinsed until clear, then fry in oil.