Critic’s Choice: Betty Shimabukuro

Oct. 10, 2010 | 2 Comments

Betty Shimabukuro is a managing editor at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and writes the weekly recipe column “By Request.”

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2008Chef Hiroshi Fukui shows two of his dishes, slow-cooked salmon and slow-cooked beef.

Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas

Fusion food can be a mess, or it can be magical — the way chef Hiroshi Fukui does it. His food is sophisticated, artful and startlingly original. Delicious, too, but that goes without saying.

Fukui describes his menu as Euro-Japanese. If you can’t quite wrap your brain around that, it means traditional Japanese cuisine melded with fine European techniques. Opah (moonfish) served with musubi and an ogo-miso brown butter. Fresh island fish, served carpaccio-style with truffled ponzu sauce.

The restaurant is overseen by master sommelier Chuck Furuya, who works the room and offers often unusual wine pairings designed to be an extension of the food (he also tells very bad jokes once you get to know him).

Hiroshi’s is my hands-down favorite place to take any visitor, and my top recommendation to anyone for a special occasion meal. For a real indulgence, catch one of Fukui’s 10-course Contemporary Kaiseki dinners. In these he plays with new ideas wrapped around seasonal ingredients. That, and wine, too.

Recommended: Sizzlin’ Hamachi Carpaccio, Red Wine Steamed Veal Cheek, Crispy Skin Moi (with Mrs. Cheng’s tofu).

Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas, Restaurant Row, 500 Ala Moana Blvd.; 533-4476; Dinner. $$$

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2008A Big Island abalone dish from Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas.

Sugar Rush by Frances

When I made this selection, pastry artisan Frances Pons had a little storefront bakery in Kalihi where she crafted minipastries that were quite to die for. She’s since had to close the shop to deal with an illness in the family, but hopes to open again in Kaimuki early next year.

In the meantime, Sugar Rush still does catering — wacky, crooked cakes as well as artful arrays of miniatures. Parisian macaroons and cheesecake lollipops are other favorites. Can’t wait til she’s back.

Sugar Rush by Frances, 949-4948; e-mail; Special orders only. $$

Tanioka’s Seafoods & Catering

Got a mainland friend coming to visit? Someone of the raw-fish-eating, show-me-where-the-locals-eat persuasion? Take ’em to Tanioka’s — a cultural experience as much as a place to pick up takeout.

Stand in the Disneyland-style, wrap-around line and point out your picks the way the veterans do, choosing from dozens of poke, musubis and fried okazuya-type items. Everything’s delish, but don’t miss the fried chicken — crisp boneless thighs that don’t taste greasy even if you eat them the next day.

Tanioka’s Seafood & Catering, 94-903 Farrington Hwy.; 671-3779; Takeout only. $

Souvaly Thai Cuisine

On the west side of Oahu we don’t have a deep selection of nice sit-down restaurants where you can take a family, a date or a business associate for a good, affordable meal. This makes Souvaly Thai special. That and the truly tasty Thai specialties that make the trip worth it even if you don’t live near Pearl City.

They do a great job here with Pad Thai and all the basics, but I make it a practice to always order something uncommon. Try the Mus sa Mun Curry, Chef’s Crispy Curry, Golden Pepper Quail or any of the fish specialties.

Souvaly Thai Cuisine, 803 Kamehameha Hwy., Pearl City; 455-5888; Lunch, dinner. $$