The Spouting Horn & Sushi Bushido

If you're ever vacationing in Kaua'i and staying on the Southern shore, following the Koloa Heritage Trail is a must-do. Actually, even if you're not staying on the South Shore, I would recommend just driving down there. (Island, remember? Small. Island.) The trail spans ten miles and includes fourteen stops. You can drive, walk, or bike, and the island's natural, cultural, and geological history are all on display. One of my favorite spots is the Sugar Monument, commemorating Hawai'i's first sugar mill and the sugar industry's eight principal ethnic groups: Hawaiian, Caucasian, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese and Filipino. My family and our friends decided to do some leisurely driving to start off our trip, and this trail was at the top of our list.

The first stop on the Koloa Heritage Trail is Spouting Horn Park. Here, the waves flood a naturally-formed lava tube, and water then "spouts" out of a small opening at the top. Or, as the legend goes, a huge mo'o (lizard) kept everyone from swimming or fishing at this coastline. A young boy, Liko, came one day to challenge the mo'o, but when he was attacked, he swam into the lava tube and escaped to the surface through a small hole. The lizard followed Liko, but became stuck in the tube. The spouting water is a result of its roar and breath going through the blowhole. This is one of the most recognizable and photographed places in Kaua'i, but for me, it's always fun to hear the old Hawaiian story.

When we got to the Spouting Horn, it was still morning. The low tide meant the surf wasn't exactly spouting as vigorously as usual (Which means, no awe-inspiring pictures). However, there are still ways to enjoy the surroundings. The actual lookout is still a prime spot for panoramic shots and group photos. There's also a long line of shops right as you walk up from the parking lot. It's ideal for browsing, with tons of jewelry and fun wooden carvings to look through. Although, I would recommend saving your money to buy souvenirs for friends and loved ones elsewhere. Picnic tables shaded by palm trees also offer comfortable seating if you packed a lunch (or dinner, for sunset!).

While sitting at those tables, my dad and I couldn't stop taking pictures of the palm trees. He thought they could be acai palms, but I always thought acai berries grew on more linear branches and less cluster-y. However, with him being a horticulture-fanatic, I wasn't going to attempt to argue plant species. However, if you happen to recognize which kind of palm tree this is, feel free to leave a comment and say who was right and wrong :)

Finally, after our mini road trip, it was lunchtime! My uncle loves coming to Kaua'i, and he told my dad about a sushi joint in Kapa'a that he really likes. And, not the type to ignore a good sushi recommendation, we convinced the rest of our group to stop here for the afternoon.

Sushi Bushido first opened in Lihu'e in 2004, but moved to the Dragon Building in Kapa'a in 2009. The owner, Victor Heresa Jr., was born and raised in Kaua'i and has over 25 years of experience in the art of sushi-making. When you walk into the restaurant, the first thing that catches your eye is The Red Wall. Sarah Wymer, an artist who moved to Kaua'i, worked in a studio next to Sushi Bushido. Victor offered her space on his restaurant's walls to display her artwork. When the restaurant moved to Kapa'a, they still included a new Red Wall just for her. Next to the sushi bar and behind the live-music stage, it's a beautiful focal point of Sushi Bushido.

Victor was trained in the traditional methods, so of course the list of nigiri and maki rolls is a long one. The specialty rolls, though, are real eye-catchers. I loved the menu's mix of traditional and new wave rolls.

I decided to go down the "new wave" route and asked our server what his favorite specialty roll was. He didn't even hesitate to answer: "Butter Me Up". It has creamy avocado and crispy, yet rich, tuna tempura on the inside, and it's topped with fresh salmon and a wasabi-garlic-herb butter sauce. Allow me to say that again...Wasabi. Garlic. Herb. Butter. It was easy to see (and taste!) why this was his favorite roll. The salty bonito flakes and sliced green onions on top also gave the bite of sushi a nice kick at the end.

My dad ordered the Ali'i Roll. "Ali'i" means "royalty" in Hawaiian. First, the roll is filled with Kaua'i-grown asparagus, avocado, crab, and cream cheese. Then, it's rolled in fried tempura batter (think: crunchy crumb coating). Lastly, each slice is topped with chunks of lobster (no skimping whatsoever here!) and baked with that same wasabi-butter sauce and a sweet garlic unagi sauce as well. You know how people on cooking shows make obnoxious groaning sounds of exaggerated satisfaction? Yeah...I did that...BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT.

Continuing on our path of "new wave" cuisine, my mom ordered a sake (salmon) salad. Kaua'i greens, cherry tomatoes, radish sprouts, and thinly sliced peppers and carrots are mixed with smoked salmon and crispy salmon skin. The dressing is a twist on Thousand Island, with some wasabi added for spice. You don't normally think of salad when you come to a sushi place, but this was bright, fresh, and....zippy. Yeah, I'm going with zippy. The smoked salmon and wasabi actually go very well together.

So, what did we learn? Get yourself over to the South Shore's Koloa Heritage Trail and learn about the island's history. Then, have a bite at Sushi Bushido in Kapa'a to experience something modern. It's a unique way to blend the old & the new!