New Chef, Same Tradition At Sansei

There’s a brand new look to Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar, and it extends far beyond the designer chairs, custom lighting and newly appointed sushi bar. There’s a new chef in the kitchen and some cutting-edge dishes on the menu.

Joseph “JJ” Reinhart is the man behind the changes in the kitchen, and chef/owner D.K. Kodama couldn’t be happier.

“We are thrilled to have JJ leading our team,” says Kodama. “He brings a whole new level of excitement and energy to our restaurant.”

Hamachi Tartare

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Hamachi Tartare

Reinhart, who comes to Sansei via Morimoto, Ritz Carlton and a stint as chef in charge of corporate dining at The Playboy Mansion, is equally enthused.

“It’s so exciting to step into a restaurant with a tradition that everybody loves,” he says, “but what’s even more amazing is being given the chance to present new dishes.”

He’s had ample opportunity during the past few years to present exciting and inspiring cuisine. At Morimoto, the level of creativity is high, and at Maui’s Ritz Carlton his passion for using locally grown Hawaii products was fulfilled.

“We have incredible produce here,” he says, “and we’re talking to farmers and highlighting their produce in different ways.”

Some of that can be sampled in a “Farm To Table” series that runs Wednesday nights at Sansei and Thursday nights at sister restaurant d.k Steakhouse. New dishes from Reinhart’s menu include a colorful, playful Strawberry and Hamachi Tartare that’s light and fresh, and is topped with tobiko caviar that makes it pop like an adult version of a candy treat.

“When fruits and vegetables are at their peak,” he says, “you get incredible depth of flavor. That’s what we’re doing here.”

But don’t worry if, like me, you’re addicted to those Sansei original colorful hand rolls and the utterly addictive Crab Truffle Ramen. They’re all staying on the menu.

“Those are the dishes that made Sansei,” says Reihhart. “I love the Crab Ramen – the flavors are phenomenal. It won’t change.” And then he adds, with a hint of a smile, “Well, maybe it might look a little different.”

Not only a gifted chef, creative sushi chef and devotee of local produce, Reinhart brings something else to the kitchen: He’s a professional musician who mastered trumpet by the age of 14, toured the country every summer playing in bands, and became part of the hit show BLAST, a STOMP-like production that premiered on the London stage. “I was playing trumpet while dancing, and doing cartwheels while playing trumpet with one hand,” he says of his show biz experience.

Not too different from running a kitchen, I comment. “Yes,” he laughs. “It really is all about discipline and reaching to excel.”

Happy eating!

Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa