Archive for the ‘Food hero’ Category

First course: Sushi Sho shines

October 4th, 2016


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.

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.

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.</em

First Look: Eating House 1849

September 6th, 2016


Chef Roy Yamaguchi was tending to business at his newest Eating House 1849 early in the morning on Aug. 25, opening day of both the International Market Place and his restaurant at the market place's third-floor Grand Lanai.

Not wanting to miss any of the action on opening day, Aug. 25, of the International Market Place, media were among the first people on the property. And chef Roy Yamaguchi was another earlybird, hovering around his newest baby, Eating House 1849, which also opened that morning.

Yamaguchi has been on a roll this year, having opened Roy's Beach House Aug. 2 at Turtle Bay Resort, with two more Eating Houses set to open in Kapolei and Maui.

It's exciting to see him break from his original Roy's Asian fusion formula and explore new territory, even if what's new is inspired by the past. With Eating House 1849, Yamaguchi goes back to the roots of Hawaii's restaurant scene to pay homage to Peter Fernandez, who opened one of Hawaii’s first restaurants in the 19th century, and called it Eating House. Fernandez used ingredients available from local farmers, ranchers, foragers and fishermen, a practice our top chefs are trying to reclaim today, after decades of seeing our palates shaped and restaurants co-opted, by sellers of convenience.

The outdoor patio and bar.

The pork and shrimp gyoza with garlic aioli and spicy XO sauce were so good, we ended up ordering up a second serving because one per person just isn't enough.

Yamaguchi explained that the first food purveyors were likely the equivalent of today's bed and breakfasts, where people seeking room and board were fed simple meals. Entrepreneurs like Fernandez offered an alternative.

Of course, this being Roy, don't expect your great, great, great grandfather's chicken hekka or Porgtuguese bean soup. Though rooted in our plantation heritage and the chef's taste memories of his grandfather's cooking, dishes are thoroughly contemporary to suit today's more adventurous, sophisticated palate. Something like Eating House 1849's "Huli Huli" kim chee pork belly, with its combo of pork belly laced with go chu jang and miso aioli, and draped with kim chee would probably have made your ancestors' heads spin and their eyes pop out of their sockets. The audacity! The explosion of flavors! But for us descendants, it is oh so good.
Eating House 1849 by Roy Yamaguchi is on the third floor Grand Lana at International Market Place, Waikiki. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner. Call 924-1849.

Most people don't think of vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts as an adequate pupu, but these are fried with toasted pine nuts, Golden raisins and tossed with balsamic vinegar to become the appetizer of your dreams.

Hawaii's Portuguese heritage is celebrated with this dish of Manila clam and Hawaiian tako cataplana with housemade linguica. The mild tomato sauce left something to be desired, as did the sweet bread, though I get the connection. With more Italian restaurants out there, people just assume red sauce = garlic bread.

After doubling up on the gyoza, it was really tempting to do the same with "Huli Huli" pork belly. This dish with go chu jang, miso aioli, kim chee and green onions amounted to a party in the mouth, in a good way, without trashing the premises. Flavors were balanced and got on well together. So awesome!

Sometimes sequence is everything. After the pork belly, Lola's pork adobo lumpia seemed rather staid; served with a small green papaya salad and sambal tomato that wasn't particularly memorable.

Housemade corned beef reuben gets an assist from local Naked Cow Dairy Swiss cheese, Mul kim chi and the brightness of Thousand Island dressing.

It's not local without a loco moco, and the Hawaii Ranchers beef patty with Hawaiian mushroom gravy makes this one outstanding. So juicy!

Kiawe-smoked ribeye + chimichurri sauce. 'Nuff said.

Dessert of molten lava cake and vanilla bean ice cream will make you appreciate the evolution of restaurants since the days of the original Eating House.

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Short video: Inside Sun Noodle

August 31st, 2016

Here's a small peek inside the Sun Noodle factory in Honolulu, where the humble process of mixing flour, water, eggs and other ingredients to make noodles and dumpling wrappers feeds people hungry for ramen, saimin, gyoza, won tons, and more.

It coincides with my story in the paper today, about how a tiny one-man operation that started in 1981 has grown to become a kama'aina operation at the forefront of a global ramen revolution due to its philosophy of providing artisinal noodles to restaurants' specifications and push for creativity.

Some of that creativity starts with Sun Noodle's New Jersey-based Ramen Lab, that welcomes both consumers and restaurant professionals to learn more about ramen, and helps chefs develop recipes for their shops.

Moving beyond traditional Japanese ramen, they've supported regional incarnations ranging from New York-style Italian ramen, Texas brisket tsukemen in Austin, Texas, and gator ramen in Gainesville, Fla.

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Fanta-Sea Part II: Day trip

August 30th, 2016


We are so far-removed from the source of our food that seeing a living Pacific white shrimp was a thrill to those on The Royal Hawaiian Hotel's Fanta-Sea Table farm tour to Kualoa Ranch's Moli'i Fishpond. A few wanted to hold them in the air to get a good look at them.

The introduction of oysters to Kualoa Ranch's Moli'i Fishpond started in 2008 as an experiment in controlling the excessive growth of invasive algae to create a healthier environment for its food fish. They had already tried adding more herbivore fish, but these were too easily cannibalized by the pond's carnivorous barracuda, ulua and toau.

The oysters not only did their job, they flourished and presented the opportunity to become another sustainable source of food for our isolated islands. The ranch was cerfified to sell shellfish two-and-a-half years ago, and today, visitors to the property can buy Miyagis or Kumamotos on site, or if we're lucky, we can spot them on the menus of Oahu's farm-to-table restaurants.

During Part II of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel's "Fanta-Sea Table" event initiated by executive chef Colin Hazama, that took place Aug. 21, participants who a night earlier had enjoyed feasting on the oysters and other products from Kualoa Ranch and its fishponds, took a bus ride to the country to visit the source of the sumptuous meal prepared by Hazama at Azure restaurant, with the help of Azure sous chef Colin Sato.

Pacific white shrimp fished out of Kualoa Ranch's shrimp ponds.

Pacific white shrimp fished out of Kualoa Ranch's shrimp ponds.

Oysters are removed from their cages and given a "spa day," where their shells are cleaned of algae and barnacles to keep them attractive for market.

Fishpond ki 'ai (guardians) Kui'ipo McCarty and Ikaika Velez took us out on the 153-acre fishpond to visit the oyster cages, placed on the water's surface, where they do nothing but get fat quickly feeding on algae drawn to the surface by sunlight. The ranch doesn't interfere with this natural balance—in place for 800 to 1,000 years according to carbon dating—putting no other food or additives into the water.

Due to the plentiful algae, the oysters grow to market size for dining on the half shell in about nine months, whereas this would take a year to two in Washington and Oregon, which still supply most of the oysters we eat in our restaurants. The flavor of the Kualoa oysters is mild and clean, due to the ranch's process of letting the oysters fast in nutrient-free water and poop days before going to market. Velez said that prior to using this state-mandated practice, the oysters had a more fishy flavor reflecting the pond environment.

Ikaika Velez shows oyster cages that are tied to posts in the fishpond, allowing the oysters to feed and grow in the natural environment. The tumbling action of gentle waves helps smooth the oyster shells so they don't have the sharp, jagged edges of bottom growers.

It was amazing to see the work being done, and learn about the interrelationships between all the flora and fauna that comprise the pond ecosystem. As a fisherman and outdoorsman, Hazama has been a longtime proponent of maintaining the balance between man and nature, and events such as this are a reminder that all of our actions have an impact on the planet.

Over the two days, I learned more about the invasive species we consider trash fish, a self-fulfilling prophecy in which we refuse to eat them just because we are told they are rubbish fish and assume they taste bad or are somehow unclean. Toau is one of them, but the blacktail snapper from Tahiti is as moist and delicious as any snapper, and they are plentiful in the fishpond, where they wreak havoc on native populations. We could keep them in check by eating them, but there is no demand because most people paying restaurant dollars will opt for the familiar rather than take a chance on the unknown. Events like this raise awareness and lead us to commercial realities, like the fish being cast as rubbish by commercial fishermen who can't make money off of catching them.

Following the boat ride on the fishpond and tour of the shrimp facilities, we sat down for another wonderful lunch by the two Colins, this time with a "Down by the Kualoa Bayou" theme inspired by Louisiana cuisine. Here's a look at the day:

Fanta-Sea Table creator chef Colin Hazama, right, with, from left, his chef collaborator Colin Sato, 6th generation Kualoa Ranch co-owner David Morgan and Ku‘uipo McCarty, who runs the seafood program on the ranch.

A view of the fishpond, where fry enter from the ocean through sluice gates, get fat on algae, and are unable to escape back to the ocean.

The next Fanta-Sea Table events will take place Oct. 21 and 22; and Dec. 16 and 17. Following the weekend's dinner, people were signing up on the spot for the Oct. 21 dinner featuring Kahuku sea asparagus and Kona Cold lobsters. Hazama will team with chef Nathan Tasato to present a meal at Azure restaurant featuring chilled Kona mussels and clam brushchetta, Hawaii kampachi carpaccio, white bouillabaisse with tea-smoked Kualoa shrimp and Kona Cold shellfish, fricasee of Kona Cold lobster, Moroccan-spiced Niihau lamb loin and Kona Abalone brulée, and dessert of a local citrus bar.

The next-day excursion will be to Kahuku Sea Asparagus, followed by lunch. The cost is $150 or dinner; $180 with wine pairing; $250 for dinner (no wine) and farm tour; and $280 for dinner with wine pairing and tour.
For reservations for the next event, call the Starwood Waikiki Dining Desk at (808) 921-4600.

After hours in the sun on a boat and touring the shrimp ponds, we were happy to enjoy refreshments including this Kula strawberry and lavender lemonade. Those so inclined could add a splash of Pau Maui vodka.

Before lunch, Azure sous chef Colin Sato presented a demonstration on how to make a Kualoa shrimp salad with Ho Farms smoked tomato medley, charred Ewa sweet corn, and Wailea heart of palm remoulade.

Ku'uipo McCarty with a portrait of longtime Moli'i Fishpond caretaker, the late George Uyemura. You can learn more about this remarkable man at

Hazama also presented a demonstration on how to shuck an oyster. He's able to shuck 150 in 25 minutes. Don't try to break his record, at risk of injuring yourself.

Being on the water inspired the chefs to take their cue from Louisiana bayou fare, so one of the lunch dishes we enjoyed was Kualoa Ranch oyster po' boys with 'Nalo Farms herbs, yuzu kosho mustard aioli, and Maui onion fennel.

Sato also created an outstanding Jidori chicken gumbo with Ho Farms okra, housemade Portuguese sausage, grilled shishito peppers and optional crispy chicken cracklings.

Hazama's Forbidden Dirty Rice with blackened spice, lup cheong and Mari's Garden Tokyo Negi.

Jasmine rice dusted fried green tomatoes with charred Maui onion ranch and crispy pipikaula.

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Fanta-Sea Part I: Night at Azure

August 29th, 2016


An ice display showcased fish from Kualoa Ranch's Moli'i Fishpond that was featured during the latest Fanta-Sea Table collaboration dinner at Azure restaurant in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

While at the Sheraton Waikiki, chef Colin Hazama's reverence for the work that farmers do to sustain us, led to the start of his Table to Farm dinner series. Now, as executive chef of The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, he has introduced the combination dinner-farm tour concept via "Fanta-Sea," this time focusing on an epicurean journey by sea.

The most recent two-day event started with a chef’s dinner on Aug. 26 at Azure restaurant, followed by an Aug. 27 excursion to Kualoa Ranch's Moli'i Fishpond for a tour and gourmet lunch. Both meals were presented by Hazama and Azure sous chef Colin Sato.

At the heart of the meal was Kualoa's farm-fresh oysters, Pacific white shrimp, toau, and 100 percent grass-fed beef.

The toau was a revelation on two levels. First, the blacktail snapper is delicious. The reason we don't hear more about it is because it's an invasive species deemed a rubbish fish because it doesn't have commercial value as long as people don't know about it.

A pre-dinner small bite of verjus glazed Kualoa oyster with Wailua tomato water, pickled Kunia watermelon rind and serrano pepper. Pairing: Nicolas Feuillate Brut NV.

Another small bite of Kualoa shrimp.

It also provides a cautionary tale about nature's delicate balance and how man's shortsighted ideas for improving on nature can yield unexpected results and wreak havoc on a fragile environment.

The species was introduced from Tahiti in 1956, with the idea that the tasty, delicate white fish could become a cash crop. But it is a carnivorous night-feeding fish that fed on the fishpond's day-feeding herbivores, including more popular eating fish such as the mullet, whose populations have plummeted.

Old timers would say that we should not try to improve on nature, but we must accept and adjust to what the land and sea give us. At the moment, it seems to be telling us to eat more of what we consider to be rubbish fish such as toau and ta'ape. But it is a hard sell. Because of the cost of going out to eat, no one wants to take a chance on the unknown. So we continue to order the fish we recognize: ahi, onaga, opakapaka, opah.

Educational cuisine programs such as Fanta-Sea go a long way in introducing new ways to think about the food we eat and the impact of our choices.

First course of charred Kualoa Shrimp with Ho Farms Market radish, 'Nalo Farms mizuna puree, yuzu kosho, and Naked Cow Dairy brown butter dashi. Pairing: Henriot Blanc de Blanc NV.

A dish of Hot & Cold Oio (Hawaiian bone fish) included lomi oio tartare, pickled Kualoa ogo, Wailea Ag garlic-ulu chips, Mari’s Garden ginger-watercress puree, and a crispy shiso wrapped oio tempura with local red onion preserve, Kualoa papaya mustard and young coconut-avocado mousse. Pairing: Veuve Clicqout Rose NV.

Crispy Toau was served with Ewa corn pudding, Ho Farms summer ragout, seared Samoan crab dumpling, and Mari’s Garden negi pistou. Pairing: Bouchard Beaune de Chateau Blanc Chardonnay, 2013.

Kualoa Ranch Slow Cooked Ribeye with prickly ash, Pacific oyster and Hamakua mushroom stuffing, spiced Ho Farms butternut squash purée, Mari's Garden smoked melted Tokyo negi and marjoram-cognac essence. Pairing: Red Schooner Voyage Malbec 2013 by the Wagner Family.

Dessert by executive pastry chef Carolyn Portuondo was Wailea Ag Vanilla Kaffir Lime Semifreddo with a mac nut feuilltine crust, Kualoa Sunrise papaya and candied hibiscus reduction. Pairing: Pattrick Bottex Bugey Cerdon NV.

Next: Day 2 field trip!

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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