I'm an absolute sucker for tiki torches and island masks and woven roofs of faux thatch. Milky crystal balls in nautical netting get me knock-kneed with joy. These, then, are the common symptoms of a peculiarly American disease. It's known familiarly as Jimmy Buffet Syndrome, and restaurateurs who understand how to exploit such pathological romanticism can laugh themselves all the way to the bank. There are a lot of us out there.

Ohana Japanese Polynesian Grill and Sushi Lounge in Belltown takes full advantage of certain sentimental Westerners' compound weakness for tropical kitsch and coconut milk. Located on the corner of First and Blanchard, this festive, nay, carnivalesque restaurant holds nothing back: the place is busy with every imaginable gewgaw and dangly-doo and set piece of the bamboo bamboozle. It's a gorgeous con, underwritten by good faith and abetted, thankfully, by a menu whose plates run the gamut from pretty good to damn amazing.

Ohana's menu is dominated by pupus, robata (grilled pupus, "traditionally eaten with beer or sake"), and an array of traditional and not-so-traditional sushi dishes. Any two or three of these plates make a sufficient meal. I went with Yosh's Pupu Platter ($22.95), the better to sample a wide variety of unfamiliar preparations while making a complete pig of myself. My companion chose the Medium Bento Box ($18.95), which includes a choice of chicken or beef teriyaki, salmon teriyaki, the uniquely delicious Ohana slaw, tsukemono (sharply pickled veggies), and ahi sashimi, among other things. It was from this potpourri of Polynesian delectables that we slowly but surely gorged ourselves.

But first I hit the sushi bar. The sumiso salad, prepared fresh, is a must--especially the octopus sumiso, both for its delicate vinegar sauce and the expert preparation of octopus, cut into substantial chunks and yet retaining a chewy tenderness. I also tried a piece of hamachi nigiri, in order to judge the general freshness of the stock: It wasn't the best cut of fish I'd had--the yellowtail was pulling apart along its grain--but it was tasty, and adequately fresh.

Surprisingly, though, it is in the careful preparation of not-fish meats that the chefs at Ohana truly excel. The swimmy stuff is good, yes, but the chicken and beef dishes are, no lie, totally divine. Never, ever in my 32-year-long life of carnivoration have I chewed, savored, chewed some more, and then, reluctantly but irresistibly, gulped down a better, more completely satisfying strip of beef teriyaki. Like candy!--an amazing symbiosis of texture and flavor that had me stealing hunks from my date's plate. The skewers of chicken yakitori, flame-broiled in a sweetish soy sauce, were also quite good. The offering of katsu in the bento box, lightly coated in Japanese panko bread crumbs, ranks among the finest fried chicken in the city--moist but not juicy, flaky yet neither too dry nor too greasy.

Furthermore, all of this stuff is dunkable in either a Thai coconut sauce, red curry, or ginger soy juice, all three quite delicious in their own way. And somewhere in there was a helping of pot-sticker-like dumplings, of which I scribbled down in my notebook: "perfect."

To finish up, we shared a Bananas Foster ($7.95), a big bowl of creamy coconut ice cream, sliced bananas, and vaporous rum sauce, torched right at our table by a waiter with a match. When the flame dies, you eat. The banana, under sizzling heat, converts into something indescribably sweet and thick.

The only problem with a place like Ohana (besides, of course, the cultish youthfulness of its interminably fabulous Seattle clientele) is that its overstimulating environment and noshish, snacky conceit can leave one feeling, well, sort of off. It's the culinary equivalent of reading a postmodern text: lots of flash but little, if any, narrative arc. This is one of the risks of basing dining on a device, though in this case it has nothing to do with the food itself. The food is great.

Ohana Japanese Polynesian Grill and Sushi Lounge

2207 First Ave, 956-9329.

Lunch Mon-Sat 11:30 am-3 pm; dinner 5 pm-midnight. $$.

Price Scale (per entrée)

$ = $10 and under; $$ = $10-$20; $$$ = $20 and up

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