Nadine Kam photos
Restaurant and Bar Ko has replaced Ninniku-ya in Kaimuki.
Ninniku-ya had a long run as Oahu's most famous garlic restaurant, but now it's gone, and in its place is Restaurant and Bar Ko, run by the mother-daughter team of Ritsuko Asahi and Keiko Inai.
It's a very feminine place, with an interior that looks very homey with its plush sofa and shelving that forms a partition for a semi-private room that seats up to eight. Outside on the patio, frilly pillows line tables with a mix of bench seating and chairs, and one table wraps around a tree the deck was built around.
They want to be good neighbors and a hangout for night owls, open until 2 a.m. daily. The menu is Japan Japanese, and to get the full impact, they're encouraging newbies to start with their prix fixe Asahi ($40 per person) and Ko ($55 per person) menus. There's a minimum two-person order for menu, but having been an early visitor, I was able to substitute one dish from the Asahi menu when ordering the Ko menu. Here's a look at what was on the table:
Appetizers, clockwise from top left, dashimaki tamago with ikura, simmered pumpkin with gobo, nikujaga, ika daikon, simmered spinach with shrimp, and fish nanbanzuke.
Sashimi of hamachi, salmon, ahi and scallops with amaebi. After eating the bottom half of the shrimp, the head is taken away and brought back on a platter, deep-fried. Super crisp, super light, full shrimp flavor. Yum!
Roast beef salad.
Box-pressed eel hakosushi was the sushi course.
Loved this lotus root manju, a satisfying glutinous bundle filled with thin-sliced hasu, edamame and sliced shrimp, and served in a silky crab broth. You could add the mild wasabi to the broth.
Changed up the menu a bit with the entree courses. We had ordered the Ko dinners ($55 prix fixe), but chose the sauteed shrimp and scallop off the Asahi menu ($40 prix fixe), and was totally happy with this dish, that also included two pieces of octopus and broccoli.
From the Ko menu, our other entree was the tender wagyu, grilled and topped with grated daikon, green onions and ikura.
The tempura course featured snapper and mountain potato wrapped in yuba.
The vinegared course was namasu of thin-sliced carrot and cucumber wrapped around surimi.
Although you usually get a choice of either salmon and ikura, or simmered pork belly kamameshi, staffers offered a small portion of both to sample. Even so, the small wasn't very small, and after sampling a few bites, I took the rest home to enjoy the next day. They were both delicious as leftovers.
As full as I was, I forgot all about it when dessert of vanilla ice cream and azuki beans on a floral clamshell-style wafer arrived. It was a lovely finale.