POIPU — Those wary of trying sushi for the first time just need to dive in, said Andrew Rayne, head sushi chef at The Dolphin.
“You only live once, so go ahead and try it,” he said.
First-time sushi eaters should go for ahi because it isn’t fishy, he added.
Another good choice for cautious eaters is The Dolphin’s stolen roll, which is slightly cooked and made with tempura-battered salmon, and jalapeno, white onion, avocado, cream cheese and spicy aioli, he said.
Nestled on the corner of The Shops at Kukuiula, the Poipu location has been serving up sushi and seafood for about three years. It also boasts a market, which sells fish, steaks and other items for people to take home and grill on their own.
Entrees include Teriyaki Ahi, served with rice and drawn butter, and sushi rolls like The Next Best Thing, made with tempura battered shrimp, avocado, white onion, asparagus and spicy mayo and topped with the chef’s choice of fish.
“Anything that can be caught locally, we use,” Rayne said.
Kay Liss, The Dolphin manager, said the fish is delivered to their back door — literally.
“The fisherman come to us in the morning, and we serve it the next day,” she said.
On any given day, the restaurant is split between locals and tourists.
“We have a gentleman who comes in every night for dinner, and we have other people who come in three times a week,” she said.
Rayne added: “We have visitors who remember us from previous trips, and come back.”
The Dolphin has 48 employees, including high school students.
“I like to give them their start,” Liss said. “We’re more than just a company; we’re a family.”
The ohana atmosphere also applies to the clientele.
“Once you walk through these doors, your family,” she said.
Rayne, a 16-year veteran in the sushi business, enjoys being a sushi chef because it gives him freedom to be creative.
“I get to play around with different arrangements; it keeps me from the mundane,” he said.
His favorite fish to work with are the kona kampachi and the local snappers.
“I’m able to pair them with different spices and rolls,” he said.
Those fish are unique to the sushi bar, Rayne added.
“I’ve worked at a lot of other sushi bars, but I never got the chance to work with those fish before,” he said.
A Delaware native, Rayne has always loved seafood — even though the fish on Hawaii are different from what he knows back east.
“I went through a learning curve,” he said.
As part of his education, Rayne went through a seven-year apprenticeship on Kauai with Sensei Victor Heresa, a sushi chef who owns Sushi Bushido in Kapaa.
The Dolphin also has a location in Hanalei.
“It’s all about the quality of food, service and presentation,” Liss said. “And it’s not just fish we’re experts in. From steak fillets to sushi, we have something for everyone.”