Archive for the ‘Japanese’ 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

Chibo moves to Beach Walk

By
August 15th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Negiyaki is one of my favorite dishes at Okonomiyaki Chibo.

Okonomiyaki Chibo has a new address, having moved out of Royal Hawaiian Center and onto Beach Walk Avenue, next to Bill's restaurant. The move into what was formerly Bill's downstairs cafe has meant downsizing from more than a hundred seats to fewer than 50, making it a lot cozier.

With the move, there's also been some menu changes, including making a few "hidden" menu options official, with a permanent spot so that everyone can enjoy them, not just those in the know. These dishes have a lot to do with comfort, such as okonomiyaki-style omelet of egg and slices of pork, and potatoes two ways (hash browned and sautéed) with bacon and onions.

They're still acclimating to the change, but for now, below is a sampling of a few dishes available.

———————
Okonomiyaki Chibo is at 280 Beach Walk Ave., Suite L-106. Open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. daily. Happy hour from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

This hidden menu combo of pork and egg is now on Chibo's menu for good.

This hidden menu combo of pork and egg is now on Chibo's menu for good.

Salads cut the guilt involved with eating out, and Chibo offers several options, including this tofu salad.

A Korean salad features a spicy dressing and sprinkling of sesame seeds over lettuce, beet strings, carrots, red cabbage, onions and fishcake.

A carpaccio trio of maguro, salmon and tako are part of a new tapas menu.

A carpaccio trio of maguro, salmon and tako are part of a new tapas menu.

Paper thin crispy gyoza is one of the specialties at Chibo. That little bit of sauce packs an intensely salty kick.

Grilled opakapaka is a welcome addition to the menu at Chibo.

Fluffy garlic fried rice and miso soup are staples for accompanying any dish.

Potato lovers will be drawn to this duo of hash browns and sautéed potatoes with bacon, though the bacon was rather flabby. Crisp mo' betta.

Well this is an interesting dish for teppan steak lovers with vegan friends. This is faux steak made with konnyaku, or potato gelatin, known for being high in fiber and low in calories. It looks like steak, but its bounce factor is recognizably konnyaku. It's $8 vs. $38 for Prime New York steak here.

A strawberry or pineapple slush is a refreshing treat on a hot day. There's ice cream on the bottom. It's $8.

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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.

Bozu's dozens of temptations

By
July 27th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Beef in a decadent (and telegenic) appetizer of mountain yam and sea urchin beef roll (currently $15.75 for three) at the newly open Bozu Japanese Restaurant at McCully Shopping Center was rather chewy, but if you're the type who swallows your sushi in one gulp, this should pose no problem. The leaf is shiso. The dab of green on top is wasabi.

Hoshi Katsu has stepped out of the kitchen of other Japanese restaurants around town, most notably Imanas Tei, to open Bozu Japanese Restaurant on the second floor at McCully Shopping Center, and there are a lot of foodies around town who are going to be happy that he did.

His izakaya is a joy, with many a jewel of a dish leaving me with a hunger to try what's next, and next. Portions are small, but mostly reasonable when shared. It's best to try it with at least three friends in tow so you can explore the range of hot-cold, seafood-meat, grill-saute, raw-cooked specialties.

Then there are the things that can't be shared, like chilled chawanmushi or crab miso soup. Get your own.

And, my best piece of advice is, keep your eyes open for what's going out to other tables. It's a little bit like "When Harry Met Sally." "I want what she's having," without the moaning. Chances are you'll see lots you want to try, even if you'd already filled your belly and it means booking your next reservation before walking out the door.

My full review is in the paper today. Here's a snapshot of dishes sampled:

TOP 3 DISHES

Chilled chawanmushi is a refreshing summer treat, with the flavors of the ocean, including bursts of salt from fresh ikura pearls. Currently $7.50 per glass, roughly about twice the size of a shot glass.

Slices of juicy, grilled black pork tontoro. You may need more than one of these $8 servings. Portions tend to be small here, which works for those who want to cover as much of the varied menu as possible.

Chicken liver mousse had us clamoring for more bread to scoop up every delicious bite.

LEAST FAVORITE

Tsukune, tare style, was tasty on the outside, but lacked flavor on the inside, though I appreciated the attempt to make it more interesting with a crunchy mince of lotus root inside.

A special of crab miso soup looked divine but the crab required too much hard work without enough of a payoff.

A crab mayo whitefish roll with avocado seemed promising but it was rather dry and fell

A crab mayo whitefish roll with avocado seemed promising but it was rather dry and fell apart. It was incongruously paired with tomato sauce.

THE REST

I have often mentioned how little I care for rice. What I do love are potatoes, and Bozu's tangy potato salad.

What's better than french fries? Fries sprinkled with garlic and housemade anchovy sauce. Not everyone will appreciate the fishiness, but I do. I wish someone here would make fish paste fried chicken the way it's done in Singapore. Yummers!

For others who don't care for rice, Bozu has a cucumber wrap, riceless "sushi" with a center of ahi, yellowtail, salmon, whitefish, cab and avocado. I loved the combination with crunch, but didn't photograph it. This is the house Bozu Roll with rice, and all of the above plus shrimp.

Chef/owner Hoshi Katsu at work, plating the masterpiece below. Sorry, I don't know what it was. A lot of things were going out to other tables after I ordered, on every occasion. Which is what I mean about wanting more every time you see a dish go by.

bozudisplay

Can anybody ever go wrong with hamachi kama?

A dish of fried chicken and eggplant is Bozu's nod to Chinese cuisine. The sauce was rather heavy and I liked the dish's crunchy zucchini best. It was unscathed by the sauce.

.

Someone once told me they missed aku poke. So I decided to see what I was missing and try the aku tataki. Now I know why ahi is the fish of choice. The texture is better.

Mirugai kushiyaki was one of about 20 daily seafood specials. This was $5.75 per skewer.

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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.

A peek at Japan Village Walk

By
June 2nd, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

 

Pork ramen is one of the specialties of Kobe-based Gashoken Ramen, among the 30 to 40 eateries that will be a part of Shirokiya's Japan Village Walk, slated to open June 25 on the ground level of Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing.

A handful of restaurants in the soon-to-open Japan Village Walk at Ala Moana Center, were testing the facilities and recipes June 1 and needed a few guinea pigs to dispatch the food. I was happy to do so while getting a sneak peek into Shirokiya's newest food concept.

Shirokiya's former Yataimura was just a warmup act for this colossal food court, set to house about 30 to 40 different food vendors.

The layout is clean and orderly, but will also be a grid-like maze of boxy take-out counters. It will be easy enough for adults to navigate, but parents will have to hold on to their children, who may get confused by the sameness of the setting—sort of like townies driving around Mililani or Kapolei.

God-san will offer a variety of yakisoba dishes, such as these bentos featuring omelet and shrimp, and omelet, bacon and fried egg.

 

So far so good as far as the equipment testing. Deep-fried croquettes and tonkatsu were turning out crisp and light. Ramen from Gashoken was perfection. But with many more vendors set to move in, JVW won't be open until June 25, when everyone is confident they'll be ready.

Vintage Cave Honolulu will be introducing Wagyu Plaza featuring six boutique restaurants; Seafood Plaza featuring eight bistros; and Vintage Cave Bakery. The original Vintage Cave remains at its current location in Ala Moana Center’s Diamond Head Wing.

 

Adding to the foodcentric venue, Vintage Cave Café, is set to open next to JVW in October. The Italian-inspired café will feature an array of seafood dishes, Milan style pasta, Napoli style pizza, Wagyu steak and more, in a room mimicking the look and feel of an Italian Cathedral, complete with dome ceiling, murals, and sculptures from Italy. The 9,000-square-foot venue will seat 150 and include four private rooms.

A sukiyaki bowl from Yakiniku Tamura.

 

A spicy poke and avocado bowl from Hale Mai.

 

Shinogu Sato and Yotaro Takenaka made the most of the tasting.

 

$1 beers will be among the draws.

 

Also from Gashoken, shrimp ramen with intense shrimp broth. Love it!

 

Gashoken's introductory menu.

 

Promising sweet treats to come, these faux fruit-filled and creme brulée crepes were on display at one of the vendor booths.

 

jvw rest

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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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