HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Premium-grade ahi tuna sold out at two of Oahu's best-known fish markets my mid morning Tuesday, as New Year's revelers stocked up on sashimi.
More than 50 customers lined up outside Tamashiro Market, with a line stretched around the block, just before it opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Paul Dombrosky drove in from Kapolei and arrived at 4:30 a.m. to be the first in line because he wanted top-grade ahi.
"It's the taste supersedes the price. So that's what you go for," Dombrosky said.
The premium grade blue fin ahi was going for $36.95 a pound at Tamashiro's, the most expensive available that sold out by mid morning.
Jean Worthington of Aina Haina bought the last two pieces of the cheapest-available grade, at $10 a pound, for Tombo Ahi which she's using to make a Tahitian raw fish dish.
"To make a poisson cru, you need to have cheaper fish then you can make a big tray of it. But if you get expensive fish, you can only make so much," Worthington said.
Cyrus Tamashiro, president of Tamashiro Market, said, "There's a big supply. However, there's a very strong demand. Because of the strong demand, we have to pay more to get our ahi. And we really work hard to get what our customers want."
When a reporter asked Daniel Perrault of Kaneohe how the prices were this year, he answered, "In fact, was great. It's also great when my sister's buying!"
His sister Tinie Kekahuna explained the logistical challenges of shopping for raw fish.
"There was the line for the parking and then there was the line for the fish and then there was the line for the cashier, so we've been in here for an hour already, so we're ready to go back to Kaneohe," Kekahuna said.
Tamashiro Market had extra staff helping people find parking stalls in its tiny parking lot that has less than a dozen stalls. But Tamashiro staffers were also across the street at Kaumakapili Church, where nearly all of the dozens of church parking spaces were filled with sashimi-seeking customers.
Guy Tamashiro, Tamashiro Market vice president, said, "I think last year we had more fish. So we had more fish, better selection. But this year, I think we're a little bit more fortunate we have more fatty fish. Last year, was very, Christmas had fatty fish, New Years, not too many pieces. This year was not bad, we had some nice fish come in."
Across town at Tanioka's Seafood and Catering in Waipahu, customers snapped up more than 700 pounds of raw fish by around 10:30 a.m., when sashimi sold out there. Store owners said that happens every year.
"Yeah, hard to keep up. We only have so much space and we don't want to cut it too early to keep the freshness of the sashimi," said Justin Tanioka, president of Tanioka's.
The store was selling top-grade ahi for $35 a pound, about a dollar less than Tamashiro Market.
Tanioka's set up a special table for people to pick up pre-ordered party platters, filled with sashimi, sushi and poke. The store passed out water, cookies and other snacks to people as they waited in line.
Even though the sashimi ahi sold out, there was still plenty of poke and other favorites that people lined up to buy for New Year's celebrations.
"We're gonna get shoyu poke for sure, we're gonna get fried chicken, special request for a niece," said Michelle Denault, who's staying with family in Waipahu and lives in Hilo. "And mochi. And we're gonna sneak in a spam musubi, too."
"Is that for an early snack?" a reporter asked.
"Yeahhhhh," Denault said.
Tanioka family members said they're used to dealing with big crowds like these before other major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving and before major sporting events like the Super Bowl. But they they're busiest day of the year is also the last day of the year, New Year's Eve.