An unassuming restaurant tucked into the corner of Vineyard and Church streets in Wailuku, Unisan is worth seeking out. The dynamic team of Chef Sam Sohn and wife Sheila, who runs the front of the house, create something special. Chef Sam’s creativity and unique take on Asian and local cuisine shine throughout the menu, while Sheila offers a warm welcome at the door. You may remember them from past Taste of Lahaina events where they set up award-winning booths and tasting menus in 2004 and 2005.
Now, Unisan has become a little hub of nightlife activity in upper Wailuku—a rarity—with regular entertainment. But mostly it’s a cozy place to get your sushi fix.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Sheila that Unisan is doing a $10 all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Not only does it get me out of the office for lunch, but they provide a tasty spread for a great price and I get to support a mom and pop restaurant. I headed there with my colleagues for lunch on a rainy day; my three-year-old daughter happened to be out of school and came along, too. Happily, the under-five crew eat free at the buffet with a paying adult, while Kids 6-12 eat for $5.95. The welcome mat is definitely rolled out for families here.
The buffet offers the perfect amount of food without being overkill. I started with salads and fried rice, then moved on to the noodle dishes like chow fun and the entrees like beef stirfry, sweet and sour spare ribs and hamburger steak. They also have a daily dessert. Everything was delicious but I especially loved the spare ribs and their vegetable tempura.
The dishes change daily so you can come often and never get tired of the same ol’ thing.
There are also several different sushi rolls available at the buffet: California roll, spicy ahi, cucumber, tamago—a great selection. This buffet selection also changes daily.
Their dinner menu is extensive. You can get early bird specials between 5-6pm and luck out with half off selected food items. If you’re not the early bird type, they have a “late bird” special from 9pm to close. The full menu will amaze you, with yaki niku outdoor lanai grill options, or their shabu shabu like hot pots plus bento combination dinners, steaks, seafoods and all the quintessential local dishes that you have come to know and love—and expect—on-island.
I’m a big fan of Korean food so spicy tofu soup and bi bim bap are always great options. I also can’t resist the honey walnut shrimp. My husband prefers the kal-bi and sushi rolls, and we can’t forget the burgers—basically, they have a little of everything, so no matter what you’re craving, they’ll most likely be able to accommodate you. Their sushi menu has over 40 special rolls, featuring creations like Sam I Am rolled in soybean paper, and the Sam Super California roll with scallops added to the mix. You can even order steak and lobster for only $26.95.
The restaurant has lots of seating options: you can sit at the sushi bar or dine at a table. The open-air lanai area is great for their barbecue meals. For late night entertainment including almost nightly live music and karaoke, there’s a bar and dance floor and great drink specials, or their extensive cocktail menu. They can pretty much mix anything behind the bar, or, of course, serve up the hot sake. Parking’s a cinch, with a lot in the back of the restaurant.
It may be unassuming from the exterior, but once inside, whatever the desired food or mood, Unisan’s got it wrapped up. MTW