Food La La: Yuzu opens at the Ala Moana Hotel

Nov. 4, 2011 | 6 Comments

BY LINDSEY MURAOKA / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Last night I attended the grand opening party of YuZu, located on the ground floor at the Ala Moana Hotel. Owned by chef Isamu Kubota, YuZu specializes in healthy, yet tasty, Japanese appetizers, sushi, and udon. I would describe the place as a creative and contemporary izakaya.

The interior is bright and citrus-like while the furniture is cozy and eclectic.

YuZu sunscreen party favors.

If you don’t know what yuzu is, it’s a small citrus fruit from Asia. The taste is tangy and tart so it’s usually mixed with honey and makes for some yummy drinks!

The bar area.

This drink is a Roppongi Gimlet. It had midori, gin, aloe, and of course, yuzu. It was refreshing and easy to drink.

The party was sponsored by Absolut Vodka, so there was a lot of that pouring everywhere as well as bottles of champagne and wine.

I wish this was real.

First to come out of the kitchen were these pretty looking lotus sushi and what I thought was uni sushi, but turned out to be carrot puree! It had a similar texture to real uni but smoother and without the brininess.  Also, all the sushi were made with yuzu vinegar rice and can be ordered with brown or white rice.

Up close of the carrot uni.

Mushroom sushi and tomato sushi that looked like maguro! The mushroom sushi was okay, since it is only mushroom and rice. But, I enjoyed the tomato sushi. The texture actually resembled maguro and was fun to eat.

There were regular sushi as well, with actual fish. They were made temari style (shaped into a ball). This type of sushi is usually served at special occasions. I really liked the hamachi with jalepeno and yuzu sauce! Spicy!

There were two different flavors of yakitori: teriyaki and yuzu pepper. Both of them were flavorful, crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside.

Here was my favorite dish of the night, lotus root pizza! The crunchy texture of the sliced lotus root goes great with all the melted cheese. It’s so simple yet so amazingly delicious. Chef Isamu also serves this dish at his other restaurant Kaiwa, located in Waikiki.

First time trying Yuzu-it sauce! It had a tangy and spicy flavor and went perfectly on top of the lotus pizza.

Chef Isamu also owned the former Hale Macrobiotic restaurant where these crispy and delicious fries, made with organic Yukon potatoes were one of the popular items, so he decided to bring it back! The two sauces are made with dill ketchup and veggie mayo.

YuZu serves three kinds of udon noodles: thin round (hoso), thick round (futo), and wide flat (gokufuto). The noodles are made fresh daily.

This is udon with beef sukiyaki and spicy sauce. The spicy sauce had lots of flavor! The udon was cooked al dente and had a nice chewy texture.

Better view of the udon.

The artwork and signs on the walls were cool and fun.

Don’t worry Travis Okimoto, the clowns won’t eat you!

YuZu will open to the public on Monday, Nov. 7, with a special menu to accommodate guests of APEC, and then on Tuesday, Nov. 15, they will begin their full menu. They will be open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily for lunch and from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. daily for dinner, with additional happy hour specials to be announced. Most menu items are under $10.00!
Lindsey Muraoka blogs about food and drink for the Pulse. Contact her on Twitter or via email at

  • colin800

    Nice pics and great review Lala!

    • Lindsey Muraoka

      Thank you Colin!

  • Jason M. Nishimura

    Great review!  Glad the cam is working! ;)

    • Lindsey Muraoka

      Thanks Jason! Yes! Now I don’t have to buy a new one… and can buy a Macbook Pro instead =P

  • Travis K. Okimoto

    Lol! HOw did you know I was deathly afraid of clowns!?!

    • Lindsey Muraoka

      I don’t think I’ve met anyone who actually likes clowns.. haha!