Archive for the ‘Sushi and Japanese’ Category

2011 is here, I just turned 27, and it’s been far, farrrr too long since I’ve contributed anything to this blog.  And while I can’t change how fast time seems to fly these days, I can make it a point to share my latest foodie adventures with all of you – and between the holidays and some major culinary indulgence recently, I have a whole lot to say.  I just finished putting together a list of my favorite Japanese restaurants on Oahu for a client (which of course led to me spending about an hour compiling a list of the rest of my current favorites…), and I thought I would start of my 2011 blog entries with it.  So here goes…If you’re in Hawaii you’ve got to give them all a try, if not, this list looks like the perfect reason to book a trip!

TOP SIX – Reservations are a must for these, and I highly recommend sitting at the sushi bar and asking the chef to serve you what they think is      best/fresh that day…you’ll never be disappointed!

  • Imanas Tei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/imanas-tei-restaurant-honolulu this website rates it as being quite pricey, but you can go and have a mid-range meal there easily.  The sashimi platter is the very best…the fish is very, very fresh.  I hear their nabe is also really good.  Amazing delicious and not too formal, this is the perfect go any night of the week kind of place.
  • Sushi Izakaya Gaku: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sushi-izakaya-gaku-honolulu My absolute number one favorite sushi place in all of Hawaii right now.  The fish is unbelievably fresh, their Izakaya dishes are to-die-for and the service and ambiance are wonderful.  The head chef of Imanas is the guy who owns/runs Gaku.  Very limited seating and very popular, so make sure to make reservations.  It is pricey, but worth every single penny, I promise!  Just make sure you give the seared O-toro and the Spicy Negihama Tartare.
  • Hakkei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/hakkei-honolulu Hakkei specializes in Oden which is a Japanese soup similar to Nabe or Shabu-Shabu.  Their focus is much less on sushi (we had some sashimi but that was the only raw fish dish to be seen) and more on warm, comfort type food.  Don’t be mislead though, they change their menu monthly to focus on season ingredients, and each and every dish is creative and exceptionally delicious.  They have three tasting menus or you can just order off the menu.  Very traditional from the food to the ambiance and the staff, I felt like I was back in Japan for a few hours!  Apparently they also serve lunch (check out their website).
  • Ideta: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ideta-restaurant-honolulu Incredibly fresh fish, very straightforward, traditional yet inventive, clean, focused and mouthwatering flavors.  Sit at the sushi bar for sure, the chef/owner is a true master.  This one is a bit off the beaten path and  bit pricey as well, but most definitely worth it!
  • Matsugen: http://www.yelp.com/biz/matsugen-honolulu If you love fresh Soba this is the place to go.  Make sure to try the duck broth with the soba and their fresh tofu as well.
  • Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tonkatsu-ginza-bairin-honolulu Right next door to Matsugen, this place serves Tonkatsu like nothing you’ve ever had before in your life.  Top-grade pork (when you call to make a reservation you can actually reserve the pork as they only have so much and tend to run out as the night goes on), only the freshest ingredients flown in from Japan and an old man whose life has been dedicated to perfecting this dish makes for an unforgettable meal.
Low-Mid Range Favorites
  • Phuket Thai:http://www.yelp.com/biz/phuket-thai-restaurant-honolulu very, very good thai food!
  • Hale Vietnam: One of my very favorite Vietnamese restaurants…you must try the Imperial Rolls if you go! http://www.yelp.com/biz/hale-vietnam-restaurant-honolulu Reservations are accepted here.
  • Covenant Books & Cafe:http://covenantbooksandcoffee.com/ Hawaii really lacks good soup & sandwich places, but Covenant really makes up for it in every way possible.  Nestled in a Christian bookstore, their sandwiches are amazing, and they make a different soup every day that makes you want to melt (they have a soup calendar on their website!).  They also serve an incredible breakfast.  I live for their croissant french toast with flambeed bananas….closed on Sunday.
  • Cafe Kaila:http://www.yelp.com/biz/cafe-kaila-honolulu Cafe type food, really yummy breakfast and lunch place.  Crazy on Sat/Sunday mornings, but always worth the wait.
  • Bogart’s Cafe:http://www.yelp.com/biz/bogarts-cafe-honolulu Very similar to Cafe Kaila
  • Diamond Head Grill:http://www.diamondheadmarket.com/ When I don’t feel like cooking or sitting down at a restaurant, but I want take-out that is healthy and always top-notch, I go to Diamond Head Grill.  They have prepared food available in the market to take home and heat up, or you can order from the grill outside.  Their ahi salad at the grill and their desserts in the market are my favorites.  If you like scones, they have the most insanely good blueberry and sometimes banana scones unlike anything you’ve ever had before.
  • Olive Tree:http://www.yelp.com/biz/olive-tree-cafe-honolulu BYOB, this is the hands-down the best Greek restaurant on the island.  Fat Greek which is down the hill from your house is good as well, but Olive Tree really kicks it up a notch.  VERY busy all the time, so either get there early, order take-out, or be prepared to wait.  There is a wine shop right next door for your convenience 🙂
  • Little Village:http://www.littlevillagehawaii.com/ I know we have a China Town teeming with Chinese food places, but trust me when I say that Little Village is the very best.
  • Mocha Java:http://www.yelp.com/biz/mocha-java-cafe-honolulu Located at Ward Center, this is a wonderful healthy place to go for breakfast and lunch.
  • Himalayan Kitchen:http://www.yelp.com/biz/himalayan-kitchen-honolulu Love this place!  BYOB also (go to Tammura’s down the street for great wine and beer!) We eat here all the time – great ambiance (lots of outdoor seating) and delicious food.
  • Waioli Tea Room:http://www.yelp.com/biz/waioli-tea-room-honolulu If you want to get out of the city and escape into the jungle, this is the place to go.  They serve a great lunch all week, but it is for their breakfast brunch on Saturday and Sunday that I hold out for.  Eating here always makes me feel like I’m on Kauai 🙂
  • Formaggio: http://www.yelp.com/biz/formaggio-honolulu Great french/Italian food and awesome wine list.  Perfect place to go during the week for a quick but great meal and some really yummy wine.
  • JJ Dolan’s:http://www.yelp.com/biz/jj-dolans-honolulu Simple but delicious pizza and beer place located Downtown.
  • V Lounge:http://www.yelp.com/biz/v-lounge-honolulu More artisan style pizza place that is definitely worth a try.
  • KCC Farmers Market: Saturdays from 7:30-11:30 a.m. at Kapiolani Community College…..best Farmers Market on the island, the produce, food, flowers, and everything else there makes it my favorite place to be every single week.
  • Tango:http://www.tangocafehawaii.com/ More in the mid-high range, this place serves excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Tokkuri-Tei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tokkuri-tei-honolulu another hole in the wall Japanese place, the food here is amazing.  It’s small and very popular, so you might have to wait if you go on a popular night, but it’s well worth it. (Since I wrote this I think they’ve expanded to a larger location, but I hear it’s still packed!)
  • Tsukenaya: http://www.yelp.com/biz/tsukuneya-robata-grill-honolulu this is different than any Japanese food you are used to and its wonderful!  The style of cooking originates from Nagoya in Japan so the focus is less on sushi and more on the robata or bbq style of cooking.
  • Maguro-Ya: http://www.yelp.com/biz/maguro-ya-honolulu Go here for the sushi.  Very traditional and straightforward, I’ve never been disappointed here.  If you like green tea and azuki beans for dessert, theirs is a must-try!
  • Kochi: http://www.yelp.com/biz/kochi-restaurant-and-lounge-honolulu If you are looking for a good place for happy hour and sushi rolls, this is the place to go.  It’s on King St. and I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem.
A bit pricy but VERY worth it:
  • Alan Wongs:http://www.yelp.com/biz/alan-wongs-restaurant-honolulu very pricey (appetizer, food, dessert and alcohol aprox. $100 a head) but SO SO SO worth it.  Alan Wong is one of Hawaii’s very best chefs and I promise that you will not be dissapointed.  If you go to one restaurant while you are in Hawaii, this must be it!  Make sure to make reservations WAY in advance.  Style of food is very pacific rim, fresh and local.
  • Hoku’s at the Kahala Hotel:http://www.yelp.com/biz/hokus-honolulu this is another amazing one, and the location is just beautiful.  It is about a 15-20 minute cab ride from your hotel.  If you go, I recommend going early to have drinks first, and then to dinner…the hotel is breathtaking. Style of food is very pacific rim, fresh and local.
  • Town: Farm-to-table, the ingredients are always fresh, and local and organic whenever possible.  One of my all-time favorites for sure.  http://www.yelp.com/biz/town-honolulu#hrid:kEZQplvbjxjkTEBjAT_4mA/src:search/query:town%20restaurant
  • 12th Ave. Grill:http://www.yelp.com/biz/12th-avenue-grill-honolulu#hrid:_887lbqstrayqaZ6BZSeIA/src:search/query:12th%20ave%20grill fantastic food, totally hole in the wall restaurant.  Right near Hale Vietnam and Town.  Food genre is “New American.”
  • Chef Mavro:http://www.yelp.com/biz/chef-mavro-honolulu One word: unbelievable.  Different than anything you’ll find here in Hawaii, Chef Mavro’s french restaurant is worth the indulgence (both financially and in calories).
  • BLT Steak:http://www.yelp.com/biz/blt-steak-honolulu I’ve heard mixed reviews, but my experience there was fantastic.  I think it’s the best steakhouse on the island personally.
  • Royal Hawaiian Hotel: http://www.royal-hawaiian.com/ just renovated, the Royal is one of Hawaii’s landmark hotels and one of the most beautiful.  Great restaurants but quite pricey – at the very least go for a Mai Tai at their beach front bar because they make the meanest Mai Tai’s you’ve ever had!
  • Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel: http://www.moana-surfrider.com/ another of the landmark hotels in Waikiki – their ocean front veranda is beautiful and a great place for breakfast, tea, or drinks at sunset.  I hear the restaurants are good as well, but on the pricier side for sure.

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Tomoko's somen noodles are a mix of plain and plum flavored...I don't think you can find the plum ones in the U.S...another good excuse to go back to Japan!

My aunt Tomoko is an amazing cook.  When we were in Japan this past January, I stayed with her and my Uncle and cousins for a few days and was treated to one amazing home cooked meal after another.  The other day I was delighted to find an email from her with a recipe for somen which, although it is traditionally a popular summer lunch, is a great quick/easy/healthy meal year-round.


  • 1 package somen noodles (cook as much as you want/need depending on how many people are eating)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • Cucumber
  • Ham
  • Tsuyu No Moto (Japanese seasoning soy sauce found in the Asian section of your grocery store)
  • Finely fresh grated ginger


Mix the eggs, sugar, salt, starch and water.  Cook an egg omelet and slice thinly.  Slice ham and cucumber thinly as well and put on a serving plate.  Boil the somen noodles as indicated on the package and prepare the soup according to the instructions on the Tsuyu No Moto.

Enjoy by taking some of the noodles, toppings and a bit of fresh ginger and dipping it in the soup.

Here in Hawaii people also enjoy topping somen with char siu (usually pork in a chinses bbq sauce), kamaboko (fish cake), and green onion, and often layer first the noodles, then veggies, and then dress the entire thing as a salad.  Either way it’s delicious!  Thank you for sharing Tomoko!

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Shibi (baby yellow fin tuna), grapefruit, pickled fennel and a whole bunch of other yummy goodness

Saturday, as Lesley and I lazed around wondering what to do with ourselves, I flipped through the latest Twitter posts on my phone for some inspiration and came across a photo from @edstown of that night’s dinner menu at Town which looked incredible.  Lesley had never been there before and I’ve been craving it for months so we decided to splurge a bit and make it a date night – problem solved.

Beet, Arugula, Orange, Chickpea and Ricotta salad

Good thing we made reservations because it was packed when we arrived.  I love everything about this restaurant; the aesthetic of it makes you feel like you are at your friends house for dinner, the food is all farm-to-table (New American type dishes), the staff is great, and everything I’ve ever eaten there has been to-die-for delicious.  And that night was no exception.  We shared a bottle of white Italian wine, bread (I would kill for their bread recipe)/olive oil/butter/olives, a beet/orange/arugula/ricotta salad, shibi(baby yellow fin tuna)/pickled fennel/grapefruit appetizer, fresh ono with fresh veggies and a meyer lemon berry butter sauce, hand cut pasta with eggplant and prosciutto, and finally buttermilk panna cotta drizzled in honey.  If that doesn’t make your mouth water I don’t know what will.

So ono!

Great for lunch as well, I will have to make it a point to not let so much time go by before I find myself back there.  The game plan for next time however is to share an entree so that we can share the apple banana/chocolate panini for dessert….heaven in between two slices of bread I imagine.  Also on the list of things to try is their Wine Down Wednesday event where they have a special menu with wine pairings….For reviews, phone numbers etc. go HERE.

The hand-cut pasta was silky, flavorful and not overly heavy. The leftovers the next day were amazing!

"Milk & Honey" Buttermilk panna cotta drizzled in local honey....perfectly light and refreshing after a big meal!

Cheers to good food and even better company!

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Lei ChicAccording to Japanese tradition, today, March 3rd, is Girl’s Day (Hina Matsuri).  In practice since the Edo Period (17th-19th century), the holiday is meant to bring good luck to daughters for their future happiness and is celebrated by displaying dolls in the likeness of the Emperor and Empress during the festival time.

Being Japanese but also growing up in Hawaii with the huge Japanese influence, we have always celebrated Girl’s Day with treats and gifts.  One of the traditional goodies is mochi, a starchy, smooshy, hard to describe but very, very delicious thing, and I thought I would share this super easy recipe I just got in my email from Lei Chic.  I love the red azuki bean paste they tell you to use, but if you don’t like it or can’t find it the mochi will be super tasty without it.

I may not have time for any mochi making today, but I do know that first thing tomorrow morning I am taking down the dolls I have up in my room as my Aunt Kay instructed me to do….cause apparently leaving them up after Girl’s Day leads to REAL bad luck such as not ever getting married. So yeah, maybe those babies’ll be coming down tonight…

Microwave Mochi

2 cups mochiko (rice flour)
¾ cup sugar
2 cups water
1 can tsubushian (sweetened red azuki bean paste)

Mix the mochiko, sugar, and water with a drop of red food coloring in a microwaveable bowl. Cover. Microwave on HIGH for 9 minutes. Spread potato starch on plastic cutting board. Divide mochi into 18 pieces. Flatten each piece and fill it with ½ teaspoon of tsubushian. Pinch the edges together around the end to seal. Shape into patties and dust with potato starch.

Recipe excerpted with permission from ” Girl s Day in Hawai’i with Yuki-chan,” by Tokie Ikeda Ching (Mutual Publishing). To purchase or for more info, click here.

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My mom is in town for a conference and she specifically requested that we go to a new favorite Japanese restaurant of hers, Imanas Tei, for dinner last night.  I discovered this place a year or so ago and I’ve been a regular patron ever since.  Always packed to the brim with Japanese people (I always gauge how good a restaurant is based on how many local people are there), the food is very traditional Japanese – clean, simple, fresh, delicious – and served Izakaya style (a lot of small dishes similar to tapas).  Our favorites include the mixed sashimi platter, agedashi eggplant (bonito flakes on the side please), fried tofu in miso sauce, miso soup (soooo good here) and the unagi and avocado roll – almost all of which we indulged in last night.

Everything is served in the most beautiful Japanese pottery

Being quite into our blog herself, my mom said “we have to take pictures!”  We were sitting at the sushi bar and had a fun time watching the chefs prepare and plate everything…the Japanese always make things look so beautiful!  Imanas Tei is located on King St. – next time you are in Honolulu make sure you stop by.  Reservations are a must or else you will find yourself waiting in a looonnnggg line! Also, the yelp.com review says that Imanas is on the pricey side, but our entire meal last night was a  mere $20 – it all depends on what your order, and I actually find it to be very affordable most times.

Thanks for dinner mommy!

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Recently my Uncle David (Zoe’s dad) recommended that a friend of his e-mail me and ask for restaurant suggestions here in Honolulu as he was coming for a conference/vacation.  They were staying in Waikiki and wanted a list of places that varied in genre and price, and that were also a relatively close cab ride away from Waikiki.  Below is the list I sent him, along with the e-mail response I just got from him, giving me feedback about his experience.  By all means these aren’t the only restaurants in Honolulu worth going to, but they are some of my favorites, and because they are all typed up so nicely with links and all, I thought I would share.  Sheldon is now headed to London and looking for good restaurant recommendations there.  Sadly, I have yet to go, but if you have been there and have any ideas for him please share them with us and I will forward them on to him!

Low-Mid Range Outside of Waikiki

In Waikiki

  • Yard House: http://www.yelp.com/biz/yard-house-honolulu great food and large selection of beer – gets pretty crowded though and quite loud so be prepared for that.
  • Shore Bird: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-shore-bird-restaurant-and-beach-bar-honolulu on the water very near to your hotel – good place for breakfast.
  • Dukes Waikiki/Hula Grill: http://www.yelp.com/biz/dukes-waikiki-honolulu-2Dukes is downstairs and Hula Grill is upstairs. Both are on the water and are great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a drink and appetizers at the bar.  Plus is that every single day from 4-6 they have live music which is really nice.  If you are there on a Sunday, definitely go for the music as it is Henry Kapono who plays – one of Hawaii’s most popular musicians.  Great place for pacific rim fresh fish style dishes.
  • Sansei: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sansei-seafood-restaurant-and-sushi-bar-honolulu if you don’t want to leave Waikiki this is a good place for sushi – but if you are looking for REALLY good Japanese food, go to one of the others I recommended above.
  • Royal Hawaiian Hotel: http://www.royal-hawaiian.com/just renovated, the Royal is one of Hawaii’s landmark hotels and one of the most beautiful.  Great restaurants but quite pricey – at the very least go for a Mai Tai at their beach front bar because they make the meanest Mai Tai’s you’ve ever had!
  • Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel: http://www.moana-surfrider.com/another of the landmark hotels in Waikiki – their ocena front veranda is beautiful and a great place for breakfast, tea, or drinks at sunset.  I hear the restaurants are good as well, but on the pricier side for sure.


Nice Restaurants outside of Waikiki (pricier but VERY worth it)

  • Alan Wongs: http://www.yelp.com/biz/alan-wongs-restaurant-honoluluvery pricey (appetizer, food, dessert and alcohol aprox. $100 a head) but SO SO SO worth it.  Alan Wong is one of Hawaii’s very best chefs and I promise that you will not be dissapointed.  If you go to one restaurant while you are in Hawaii, this must be it!  Make sure to make reservations WAY in advance.  Style of food is very pacific rim, fresh and local.
  • Hoku’s at the Kahala Hotel: http://www.yelp.com/biz/hokus-honolulu this is another amazing one, and the location is just beautiful.  It is about a 15-20 minute cab ride from your hotel.  If you go, I recommend going early to have drinks first, and then to dinner…the hotel is breathtaking. Style of food is very pacific rim, fresh and local.


Sheldon’s Feedback:

I am back from Hawaii and want you to know that your suggestions added to my wonderful time. I ate with friends at Phuket Thai (nice, basic food, quite relaxing, also recommended by cab driver); Town (wonderful meal, great service, had mongchon, manila clams, etc.); 12th avenue grill (small, but not a whole in wall, great food, had small plates). Great to get away from Waikiki. Worth the cab ride.

Some friends went to Alan Wongs and other went to Hoku. At Hoku, they split a $120 entrée, a bit too pricey for me. Raves about both places.
Going to London in 3 weeks. Anything to recommend there?
Again, thanks so much for your ideas. Wishing you all the best.

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Most people who have grown up in Hawaii are sushi lovers, myself included. I could eat sushieveryday! I love it all- nigiri, rolls, cooked, raw, miso soup, edamame, you name it!  I was incredibly surprised when moving to Colorado to find so many sushi restaurant and even more surprised to see how good they all are too!  Sushi Hai is by far my favorite out of all of the sushi places I have tried in Colorado. Located in the Highlands Neighborhood in Denver, it is always busy and has a crowd, so be prepared to wait. There is a huge bar area where you can have drinks, listen to a DJ play music, or even play pool. At Sushi Hai, we have always found the staff to be friendly and happy to answer questions and give suggestions. One time, while dining here, the owner sent over a large bottle of sake to my boyfriend and I and brought it to our table himself, introduced himself, and told us he was happy to see two people having so much fun at his restaurant. If that wasn’t a way to get us to keep coming back, I don’t know what would!


In my opinion, the best rolls here are the crunchy (shrimp tempura with avocado, aioli, and tempura bits), the Hai Roller (white fish, avocado, and a spicy seasoning on top), and the Hamapan (white fish again with cilantro on top). We have been known to order 6+ rolls here and eat them all! Also, don’t miss the purple haze sake- this is a great complement to your sushi.

To visit Sushi Hai’s web site and view their sushi and cocktail lists, or to make a reservation online, click here.

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