“My name is Ryan Houser and I’m a fish sommelier,” beams an affable Hawaiian with an insatiable passion for spearfishing and a local’s knowledge of the bounty to be caught in the pristinely clear water off Oahu’s west coast. The utterly unique role of fish sommelier was conceived by James Beard award-winning Chef Michael Mina, to connect guests of Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina with the absolute best catch of the day.
Mina’s Fish House, the island’s premiere line-to-table beachside dining experience, is the culmination of a dream for Chef Mina. The restaurant now celebrates its first anniversary on Oahu and Houser isn’t the first to fill the role. He was brought on by his lifelong friend and fisherman Jared Chang, who was hand-picked by the celebrity chef as the world’s first fish sommelier. Together, the local fish sommeliers offer guests a tableside education on Hawaiian fish and the signature whole fish preparations of Chef Mina and the restaurant’s Executive Chef Garrick Mendoza. “Whole fish is the heart and soul of the restaurant,” says Chef Mina.
Chef Mina quickly recognised Chang’s skill and passion when Mina’s Fish House first opened. He was intrigued by all Chang knew about fishing local waters and the infectious way he could communicate his passion – and his intrigue led to an idea. “The idea behind Mina’s Fish House is to offer multiple experiences that will continue to evolve,” shares Mina. “That’s the way it should be with fish. It’s about meeting the amazing people that are out catching the fish every day, really understanding where it’s coming from, and enjoying the best.” And so the role was born – the fish sommelier.
Exhibiting the same hard-earned knowledge and skill set of wine sommeliers, Chang and Houser use their extensive knowledge of seafood, and people skills to match the right fish with the right guests. The fish sommelier exists to make the Mina’s Fish House experience engaging and enriching for guests – inviting a deeper connection to Hawaii’s rich culture and spirit of aloha.
Arriving tableside to greet guests on arrival, Houser or Chang present the most exceptional whole fish options available each evening to make an introduction. “Pairing fish to a guest is similar to pairing wine,” Chang says of his role, which involves chatting with guests about their seafood preferences, and making suggestions based on texture, preparation and above all, taste.
One of the most satisfying elements of the fish sommelier role is expanding visitors’ culinary horizons to discover delicious fish beyond Hawaii’s well-known staples of mahi-mahi and the now globally renowned ahi-tuna poke. Guests learn that fish flavours can range from delicate and sweet to rich, meaty and full. Local choices include opakapaka, opah, onaga, swordfish and kampachi.
Once selected, the fish disappears to the kitchen where Chef Garrick Mendoza works his magic to delight guests with a perfectly chosen, perfectly cooked and perfectly flavoured dish – fermented black bean, ginger and scallion marinade is a house favourite. The fish is hand carved and plated by the fish sommelier himself, a job both Chang and Houser truly enjoy. Diners can get a taste of the dynamic duo by watching them in action in the ocean and on the restaurant floor.
Restaurant guests will find Houser and/or Chang ready to enhance their dining experience at Mina’s Fish House – seven days a week during dinner service. The experience at Mina’s Fish House reflects an ambiance of rustic and relaxed, open-air, oceanfront dining paired with delicious, sustainable, line-to-table ingredients and seamless, friendly, intuitive service.
Fish with the Somms: Guests of Four Seasons also have the option of fishing with the two sommeliers, including night fishing on Pokahu Point, just steps from the restaurant. Inquiries can be Mina’s Fish House or the Concierge Desk for fishing experiences ranging from a few hours to a full day.
About Mina’s Fish House
Mina’s Fish House re-imagines the Hawaiian fish house theme by combining the seafood bounty direct from pristinely clear Hawaiian waters. James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Mina brings a line-to-table philosophy to the thoughtful seafood-centric menu that bursts with premium ingredients sourced from local waters, farms and ranches.
Featuring a vibrant tiki-themed cocktail program and wines designed to elevate every dish, Mina’s Fish House offers guests a unique beachside dining experience. Aged with a warm patina throughout, the restaurant seamlessly connects the inside with the outside and gracefully plateaus from the interior bar and dining room space down multiple exterior decks, ending with beachside “feet in the sand” dining options. Rustic, island-inspired design elements anchor the space, creating an irresistibly warm ambiance for locals and travellers: from a large, custom bar and pool table to comfortably clustered “living rooms” in the interior, to the terraced, sun-bleached deck leading down to the beach.
Mina’s Fish House is open daily for a 3:00 to 5:00 pm happy hour, followed by dinner service. Reservations are available on OpenTable or by calling 808 679 3042.