Sushi 101 at Stevenson's Library
Sushi chef David “Jay” Ledee stands behind the sushi bar at Stevenson’s Library inside the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Early afternoon sun shines through picture windows that offer a view of palm trees and the Pacific Ocean. An audience of forty sushi enthusiasts are here for chef Jay’s monthly Sushi 101 class. We are seated at tables decked with prepared sushi rice, a rolling mat, chopsticks and a ceramic tray lined with sliced avocado, pickled ginger and cucumber spears. Some drink cocktails or beer as chef Jay brings a shallow bowl of rice around, asking us to examine the short grains of Tama Nishiki, a super-premium rice that goes for about $5 a pound.
“Rice is processed with talc,” chef Jay says as he walks behind the bar and adds water to the bowl. “Always rinse it in just enough water to gently knock off the talc.”
Chef Jay adds enough water to get the rice damp, then runs his hand through it in a circular motion. He tells us three rinses are enough, then passes the bowl around for us to peer inside. Born in Okinawa, Japan, and raised in Honolulu, chef Jay has spent more than 25 years in professional kitchens. He worked under two master sushi chefs in San Diego, California, — both of which had licenses to prepare blowfish — and he can make numerous live items.
At Stevenson’s Library, masculine elegance seeps from warm wood walls, floors and fixtures, inspiring an elegant and accommodating feeling. Patrons imbibe in an extensive selection of whiskies, cognac, port, sake, wine, martinis and tropical drinks at the opulent wood bar, or enjoy them on the lanai that overlooks the ocean. The sushi bar at the Grand Hyatt Kauai opened last Jan., and this past Dec., all of the wood was buffed to a sheen.
Super-premium ingredients fill chef Jay’s sushi bar. Yamamotoyama nori is used to wrap sushi; $120 a pound fresh wasabi is available on request, and fresh fish is flown in six days a week from Japan’s Tsukiji Fish Market, or Honolulu. There’s also a ponzu sauce that takes six months to prepare, and was served to the emperor of Japan.
The refrigerated sushi display case contains steelhead salmon raised in boutique aquaculture farms on the Faroe Islands. Rows of wild Japanese Hokkaido scallops sit plump and dry, promising firm, tender and creamy bites. Filets of hamachi, ahi and snapper are placed next to aji, a rich Spanish mackerel.
By the time chef Jay’s class is finished, we’ve spent two hours learning about proper ingredients and techniques necessary to make sushi at home. We finish by making spicy ahi and crab temaki, or cone-shaped sushi; and maki, or sushi rolls. With the remaining ingredients, chef Jay challenges us to make another roll, and bring it up for him to judge. He promises the winner of the best made maki sushi a bottle of high-quality sake. My roll turns out lumpy, with rice thicker on some sides than others. I did not win the sake, but I did have a fantastic time, I learned a lot and I left with a very full belly!
At the Grand Hyatt Kauai
1571 Poipu Road, Koloa
Lounge: 5:30 to midnight
Sushi: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Sushi Classes: ($40) Third Sunday of each month from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Call 808-240-6434 to sign up. The next class is June 19. No class in July.
Live Entertainment: 8 to 11:00 p.m.
Minors are permitted 5:30 – 9 p.m.