Archive for the ‘Asian’ Category

Maru Sushi presents preview of omakase meals to come

By
October 7th, 2016



This will be my last restaurant blog post on this site. Aloha and thank you for your support over the past seven years, keeping up through several URL changes. My weekly restaurant review column will continue to appear in Wednesday's Crave section in the Star-Advertiser.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Michelin Award-winning chef Takeshi Kawasaki is building a Hawaii branch of his Maru Sushi on Kalakaua Avenue, and offered a preview of his omakase dinners last week.

There’s no shortage of great sushi in Hawaii, and the omakase-only trend will continue with the opening of Michelin chef Takeshi Kawasaki’s Maru Sushi, tentatively set for late fall to early 2017 on Kalakaua Avenue, near Kapiolani Boulevard.

The Hokkaido-born chef worked at the renowned Sushi Zen in Susukino, Sapporo, for a decade before launching his own restaurant, Maru Sushi in 1987. His combination of premium ingredients and technique led him to earn a Michelin star in 2011. Recently retired, his son now helms Maru Sushi, but not content to stay idle, Kawasaki’s starting over in Hawaii.

Prior to the dinner, the chef was grating fresh wasabi for the meal, which doesn't burn the nostrils like the fake stuff.

A popup at the Waikiki Shopping Plaza last week gave a hint at what diners can expect when he opens his restaurant. Delicacies from the waters of Hokkaido included sweet urchin, baby abalone in eel sauce, and two of the earliest types of sushi seafood eaten in Japan, nakazumi (small kohada) and hamaguri (cherrystone clam).

Diners also got a history lesson with a selection of aji (horse mackerel) wrapped with nori and cut in half. Through a translator, Kawasaki explained that in ancient Edo, sushi was topped with a half side of fish, which made it longer than today’s made-for-the-mouth counterparts. To make the sushi bite size, chefs cut the sushi in half, which evolved into today’s practice of serving two pieces per order.

Here's the 18-course Maru Sushi pop-up omakase dinner presented last week. They estimate that the approximate cost once the restaurant opens will be about $150 to $160, but don't hold them to that.

1. Shirasu, or whitebait, in bonito dashi.

2. Baby abalone in eel sauce.

3. Chutoro with a splash of awamori.

4. Hyogo Awajishima aji was prepared in ancient Edo style, when a half side of fish topped sushi that was then cut in half to make it more manageable to eat. The practice of presenting sushi in two halves resulted in today's "tradition" of serving two pieces of sushi per order.

5. We were told vinegared shishamo must be eaten with sake to make it more palatable, but I thought it was delicious even without alcohol. I could eat a bucket of these.

6. Suzuki, or sea bass, nigiri.

7. Snapper in ponzu sauce with cucumber, lime and myoga, or Japanese ginger.

8. Nigiri of sayori flavored with konbu.

9. Garlic is typically not used in sushi bars because it has a smell that would linger on chefs' hands. To mimic the bouquet of garlic, ginger and green onion are minced and mixed together to bring out a fleeting hint of garlicky aroma. The mixture tops a piece of saba that is also blanketed with thin-sliced konbu. This was amazing.

10. Maguro akami of bluefin tuna typically offered in Japan, vs. bigeye tuna served in Hawaii.

11. According to Kawasaki, nigiri nakazumi (small kohada) was the earliest type of sushi eaten in Japan. In ancient times, he said fish was not eaten raw, but braised first.

12. Next up was hamaguri, also known as Orient or cherrystone clams, which Kawasaki said is the second oldest known sushi seafood eaten in Japan. After creating the sushi, he distributed the pieces to fit the mouth sizes of the eight diners assembled at the popup.

13. The deep red of the back of maguro was a little frightening, but like every other piece we had, delicious.

14. We are so accustomed to eating Santa Barbara uni at upscale sushi restaurants here, but it just can't beat the candy-like sweetness of Hokkaido uni.

15. I was eyeing the ikura all night, and it came up near meal's end, marinated in dashi and soy sauce.

16. Nigiri of aka ika, or red ika.

17. Maguro tekka maki.

18. The dinner ended with the chef's signature tamago.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

First course: Sushi Sho shines

By
October 4th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Chef Keiji Nakazawa takes center stage at Sushi Sho on the sixth floor at the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki.

Blame it on "Jiro Dreams of Sushi." The film captured the imagination of sushi afficionados everywhere, setting off many a dream about what the ultimate omakase might be like.

It might look a lot like that at Sushi Sho, where chef/owner Keiji Nakazawa holds court before 10 diners each evening, presenting course upon course of sushi and seafood selections, masterfully combining ancient Edo technique with today's farm-to-table philosophy, to deliver an exacting and progressive dinner experience.

There will be some who will balk at the $300 cost, who say no food could be worth that much. Sorry, but those who have never opened themselves up to such an experience, really have no basis for comparison.

Nakazawa is considered to be one of Tokyo’s most influential sushi chefs due to his mastery of ancient Edo sushi techniques, including the art of fermenting fish by covering it with layers of red vinegar sushi rice.

Skilled hands at work.

Chef Takuya Sato shows some of the day's selection of fish.

Because this is omakase, meaning "chef's choice" of selections, this experience is not for the finicky, squeamish diner. One must be ready to sample anything from basic maguro and salmon, to ankimo, or monkfish liver, and sweet morsels of raw lobster stirred with its tomalley (liver and pancreas).

Another thing that requires adjustment is resisting the urge to reach for a shoyu bottle. Luckily, none was near so none of us can embarrass ourselves with our Hawaii custom of dunking each morsel in the typical blend of soy sauce and wasabi. In Japanese culture, the sushi master is always right in creating a balance of flavors so one is assured that each morsel is perfect as presented.

The omakase changes daily, and when I visited, I had no idea what to expect or how many pieces of sushi the meal would entail. I would have been worried to know 30 pieces were coming, because normally I start getting full on local-style big blocks of rice by piece six. But there was a lightness to the Edo-style aged red vinegar rice, and nigiri were really made to be bite size, so it was completely doable.

The arrival of two kinds of omelet signaled the end was near, just as my tightening belt let me know I was just about done.

An experience like this leaves you with an appreciation for the moment and the beautiful memory that lingers long after the meal is over.

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Sushi Sho is on the lobby level of the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki, 383 Kalaimoku St. Seatings at 5 and 8 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Omakase only. Priced at $300 per person plus tax and gratuity. Call (808) 729-9717 between 2 and 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Reservations are secured with a credit card.

The following is the entire omakase when I visited:

1. The meal started with a pair of Miyagi and Kumamoto oysters from Washington, splashed with mild dashi and a hint of yuzu.

2. An arranged three-piece "poke" featuring onaga with essence of macadamia nuts and soy sauce, banana leaf-smoked salmon, and ahi with freshly grated wasabi.

3. Baby squid filled with a mixture of sushi rice and minced hearts of palm.

4. Giant clam with Sumida Farms watercress.

5. Shoyu-marinated opah nigiri.

6. Hapupu nigiri, a grouper known as hata in Japan.

7. Washington Kumamoto (smaller) and Shigoku oysters.

8. "Laulau" with taro leaf, salmon and opah skin, topped with vinegar jelly and served with asparagus sauce.

9. Ono nigiri with konbu

10. Baby red snapper dusted with vinegar-cured egg.

11. I wanted a lot more of this shiro (white) mirugai, the side of a giant clam with sesame oil, salt wasabi and Maui onion. So sweet! I thought the onion detracted from the sweetness, so pushed some of it aside.

12. Nigiri of rare white Alaskan salmon.

13. Lobster with tomalley.

14. Nigiri of fermented moi, aged for one week.

15. Chutoro nigiri.

16. Intermezzo of edamame purée with Molokai salt.

17. Grilled opah with fingerlime.

18. Santa Barbara uni sushi.

19. Roll sushi of sama with cucumber, onion and pickled ginger.

20. Aji, or horse mackerel, with green onion.

21. Botan ebi with calamansi.

22. Yellowtail nigiri.

23. Pickled hearts of palm with Maui onion mustard.

24. Chawanmushi with Kona abalone, American caviar and Santa Barbara uni was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. I could eat this every day. A comfort dish turned luxe.

25. Ohagi, sweet rice, with minced maguro and daikon.

26. Ankimo, or monkfish liver, and slice of hearts of palm over rice.

27. Two kinds of omelet, one with minced shrimp and poi, one made with seafood soup.

28. Two kinds of tekka maki, one of monkfish liver, avocado and dried pineapple, and one of kanpyo and aburage.

29. Ahi soup with grilled Tokyo negi.

30. Dessert of kazuki, arrowroot glass noodles on ice with kuromitsu.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.</em

Sabb Thai delivers authenticity

By
September 28th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

A Laotian specialty, nam khao tod ($12), or crispy rice salad, is on the menu at Sabb Thai. Mint, cilantro, fermented pork, scallions, fish sauce, peanuts are tossed with the rice, and plenty of lime juice gives the dish its distinctive sour note. It's served with lettuce leaves for wrapping.

Thai cuisine evolved over 30 years in Hawaii to suit our love of sweet, fatty, savory flavors, and downplay the sour aspects you’d find in Southeast Asia. Sabb Thai comes closest to the real deal.

The small mom-and-pop restaurant sits across from Palama Market near Don Quijote, in the space that formerly housed Tae Teppanyaki. A small roster of plate lunches accommodates local preferences for the simple charms of garlic chicken ($10), sautéed shrimp ($14), grilled steak ($13), and calamari ($14).

But the restaurant’s individuality shows in its a la carte menu. It’s owners are Thai and Laotian, so a handful of Lao dishes also make an appearance.

Here's a look at a few of the dishes:

Fish sauce, garlic and salt and pepper marinated ribs are delicious here.

Khao piak sen (currently $10), is a Lao chicken udon soup. Rice flour and tapioca noodles add starch to the chicken broth, giving it more body than its American counterpart. The soup also features cubes of boiled blood cakes as silky as almond pudding or soft tofu.

Rolled beef is a nod to former tenant Tae Teppanyaki, but it's very plain, geared toward those who like no-frills dining.

A basic Thai red curry is another dish for those who don't care to venture far from the tried-and-true. An ample amount of bamboo shoots made it stinkier than most.

Thai pork sausage usually contains a lot of pieces of fat, which tends not to sit well with Americans who grow up averse to visible fat. It is otherwise delicious, but my friends and I ended up with piles of fatty globs on the side of our plates.

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Sabb Thai is at 1666 Kalauokalani Way. Open 1 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Call 445-3882.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Yakiniku pops up in Liliha

By
September 21st, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Skirt steak, pork belly and beef tongue on the grill at Ono Sushi & Yakiniku.

The scenery on Liliha Street rarely changes, so I did a double-take two weeks ago when the Korean take-out shop, Ono Sushi & Yakiniku, started looking a little more like a sit-down restaurant and advertising all-you-can-eat yakiniku.

The site had been home to Mama’s Kitchen and Mama’s Korean BBQ, which first-time restaurant owners Victor and Stella Kim purchased two years ago.

The couple earns points for having the creativity to turn part of their take-out menu into a more elaborate experience in a bedroom community where there are few sitdown options.

Start with the eatery’s plate lunches, such as kalbi ($13.99), BBQ beef ($11.99), spicy pork ($11.99) and BBQ chicken ($11.99), and if you like those, you can opt for the experience of cooking these to-go items yourself at the table.

The all-you-can-eat yakiniku dinner starts with a round of all of the above, plus pork belly, inner and outer skirt steak and beef tongue, at a cost of $29.99 per person for a minimum of two people (it’s $24.99 for lunch), and $15.99 per child between the ages of 3 and 10.

After you finish the first round, you can order more of the meat you like. Basic buffet rules apply, especially, don't order more than you can finish on the spot.

The all-you-can-eat yakiniku special starts with a round of eight different kinds of meat.

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Ono Sushi & Yakiniku is at 1805 Liliha St. Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Call (808) 524-0024.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

The Kahala meets Asia streets

By
September 12th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Satay skewers sizzle on the grill during The Kahala's Asian Street Food event Friday.

Inspired by the bustling street and night markets of Asia, The Kahala hosted its first Asian Street Food event on Sept. 9.

Guests were welcome to visit stations set up on the beachfront lawn outside Plumeria Beach House for drinks and food selections like wok-fried garlic prawns, satay skewers, Indonesian corn fritters, and dim sum with Tsingtao and Taj Mahal beers, wines and more.

Woks and grills set up on the lawn brought some of the street sizzle to the venue, that is decidedly cleaner and much more serene than the markets of Singapore or Bangkok. This being The Kahala, diners also had the run of the restaurant for seating, so everyone could dine comfortably without the usual struggle to juggle drinks and plates as at other street-oriented events.

<p align="left">A selection of Indian beef curry and Thai chicken curry kept warm on the grill.

In between bites, diners could stop by calligraphy and a craft station, where I was able to make an origami box. With most people focused on eating however, little origami kits with instructions were offered for those who wanted to try their hand at making boxes, lucky stars and cranes at home.

It was a great relaxing evening, and though no decisions have been made over future pop-up dining events, I hope they will continue offering new themes and dishes, especially ones hard to find locally. (Hint: Being there gave me a craving for Singapore chili crab and prawn mi over the weekend so I finally made it from a box mix I had purchased there. But sadly, it wasn't the same as the real deal.)

Tibetan prayer flags fluttered between coconut trees, while tables were graced with Chinese lanterns.

Singapore noodles tossed in a wok on the lawn. The finished dish below:

asia-sing

Satay skewers and delicious Indonesian corn fritters.

Korean BBQ beef shortrib sliders.

It was hard for them to keep the pork hash tray full. These were made fresh with juicy diced pork.

Chinese chow funn.

People who needed to give their stomach a brief rest, could get a mini origami lesson from Casey—whose father, Alan Arita, went table to table performing magician's tricks—or visit a calligraphy station.

A make-and-take origami box and crane.

After the event, I had a craving for Singapore chili crab, and made it from a box mix I purchased when I was in Singapore, but I always prefer to have someone else do the cooking for me.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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