HONOLULU (KHON2) — Sushi is one of humanity’s great creations. Combining art with sustenance makes sushi some of the most fun foods to eat. Seriously, when was the last time eating sushi was a sad experience?

But in all seriousness, sushi can be pretty depressing when you think about the massive amounts of overfishing that occurs each year and how that fishing is decimating entire species of marine life.

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This is what led Kin Lui to embark on his culinary adventure. He is the owner/operator of Tane Vegan Izakaya. It is part of Lui’s innovative approach to sustainable sushi.

Lui graduated from McKinley High School. He had stints at Honolulu Community College and Kapiolani Community College, but they simply were not for him. His destiny was still to be found.

His path led him to leave Honolulu and move to San Francisco. There, he learned from some of the world’s most renowned sushi chefs, leading him to embark on a journey into sustainable and vegan sushi.

“Reading about how fish are declining due to overfishing was something that really impacted me,” revealed Lui. “Going back to the sushi bar made me feel depressed. Was there even anything I could do?”

Enter business partner, Casson. Casson was actively working on spotlighting the plight of overfishing when the two crossed paths, and it was at Casson’s urging that the two take the leap and create a sustainable sushi restaurant.

Lui’s first foray into sustainable sushi was opening Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar in San Francisco. He continues to maintain this restaurant which made a name for itself in the world of high-end, sustainable sushi.

However, even though Lui was experiencing a great deal of success, he decided to move back to the islands in 2017 so his children could grow up knowing the Hawaiʻi way of life.

“When my daughter was born, I decided to move back home to Hawaii,” said Lui. “My business partner took over operations for our San Francisco location. I took a break for about a year because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So, I was looking for my passion again, going to the beach, listening to the waves, hiking, fishing.”

After about a year of doing this, Lui decided that he needed to go back to work. So, he embarked on a mission to find a location to open a vegan sushi restaurant in Honolulu. He had lots of meetings with lots of developers, but no one was interested in including a vegan sushi restaurant in Honolulu.

Lui became defeated; after months of rejection, he decided to move back to San Francisco where the market was more open to a sustainable sushi concept.

“The day before I was leaving to go back to San Fransisco, a friend from high school called to tell me that a restaurant was for lease,” said Lui. “But I was wary. My friend called again to show me the place. Reluctantly, I went.”

Lui went on to explain further.

“So, my friend took me to this location on South Beretania Street; and when I saw it, I just had this feeling,” confided Lui. “I thought, ‘Maybe, this is fate. Maybe, it’s time to roll the dice again.'”

After seeing the location, Lui decided not to move back to San Fransisco. He spent the next year creating new recipes for vegan sushi, and opened Tane Vegan Izakaya in 2019.

  • A photo shows the Leahi roll available at Tane Vegan Izakaya in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo/Michael Breton Photography via Tane Vegan Izakaya)
  • A photo shows a bowl of spicy miso ramen available at Tane Vegan Izakaya in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo/Michael Breton Photography via Tane Vegan Izakaya)
  • A photo shows the Manilla Dune roll available at Tane Vegan Izakaya in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo/Michael Breton Photography via Tane Vegan Izakaya)
  • A photo shows a bowl of roasted brussels sprouts with agave mustard and wasabi aoli available at Tane Vegan Izakaya in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo/Michael Breton Photography via Tane Vegan Izakaya)

If you have never had vegan sushi, you really do not know what you are missing. You can check out Tane’s menu here.

“After I ate at Tane for the first time, I was hooked,” said Kimo Lauer, a Honolulu resident. “I didn’t quite know what to expect. But it made regular sushi seem very boring.”

Tane has been very successful. It has filled in the gap for those who are concerned about the overfishing that sushi cuisine supports and for those who simply do not eat meat.

Their creations are so inspired that it is very difficult to miss the fact that the sushi dishes do not have meat.

As a result, Lui opened a second Tane location in California in 2022 along with Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar & Izakaya. Both are flourishing.

This is great news for someone who was faced with rejection at the idea of creating a new way of enjoying the art of sushi.

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Tane Vegan Izakaya in Honolulu is located at 2065 South Beretania Street. They are open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.