Rave Reviews: Nadine Kam
—Honolulu Star-Advertiser “Weekly Eater” restaurant reviewer.
There always seems to be a party going on at HASR Bistro, reflecting owner Terry Kakazu’s passion for wine, food, music and fun.
Executive chef Rodney Uyehara is the engine that makes the social fetes, fundraisers, wine dinners and some of Kakazu’s wackiest ideas possible, while reliably putting lunch and dinner on the table for downtown traditionalists.
It’s a nice place for a business lunch, with dishes on the heavy side and more typical of dinner menus, such as Wisconsin veal osso buco and sublime cioppino. But it’s more doable if you consider noshing on soup, salad and shareable small plates such as ahi tartare, snappy shrimp spring rolls or the chef’s signature roasted eggplant and ricotta souffle.
This restaurant is definitely not for dieters, and you’ll find the dinner menu laden with extravagant entrees such as Crabby Salmon, an Atlantic fillet stuffed with crab and served over stewed lentils with a citrus beurre blanc; or a seafood roast that never skimps on shellfish, in a delicious chili, saffron and tomato cream broth.
If you get off work early, graze on tapas such as Mongolian baby back ribs, spiced ahi nachos, ahi tartare and warm spinach salad during happy hour from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays.
$$$ 31 N. Pauahi St.; 533-4277; www.hasrbistro.com. Lunch, dinner.
Isamu and Motoko “Moco” Kubota have a knack for making the healthful delicious, and Sushi YuZu’s opening at Ko Olina is a wonderful addition to the west side dining scene. It’s my pick for opening of the year due to its combination of great food, progressive ideas and reasonable prices.
Sushi YuZu’s cuisine is as fresh and vibrant as the citrus fruit that inspired the varied menu, with something for everyone, whether it’s sushi, grilled meat and seafood or a sampling of vegan fare. Some little healthful changes you might not even notice include swapping regular wheat-filled shoyu for gluten-free tamari, and fatty egg-based mayo for plant-based Vegenaise that’s mixed into seafood dynamite and sauces.
The restaurant’s signature dish is Moco’s lotus root pizza comprising crisp slices of hasu, their pukas oozing with five kinds of melted cheese. It’s one way to go gluten-free, and you don’t even miss the traditional pizza crust.
Other highlights: crisp-skinned organic red potatoes tossed with truffle oil and Hawaiian sea salt; grilled squid with sea salt, pepper and the kick of shichimi pepper; yuzu-perfumed somen; Australian Wagyu drizzled with yuzu sauce; and Hawaii- and Japanese-style omakase platters.
$$ Ko Olina Resort, 92-1047 Olani St. Suite 1-101; 678-1155; www.yuzuhawaii.com. Dinner.
Steak never gets old, but when it comes to this table standard, pros and amateurs alike seem to think theirs is best.
Restaurateur Peter Kim was among them, and he set out to prove it, building his latest creation based on what he likes to see in a steakhouse. It was a daring move to fill 8,150 square feet with hungry diners, but he aimed for the sky and brought life back into the long-empty 36th floor of the Ala Moana Hotel, which was once home to Aaron’s and Nicholas Nickolas. The result is a place to dress up for, where you can enjoy sweeping mountain-to-ocean views of Honolulu while noshing on tender, wet-aged, 24-ounce prime porterhouse and 22-ounce prime bone-in rib eye, and some fabulous sides. Among them: sweet creamed corn and silky lobster mac and cheese. (See my pick for Food We Love, Page 45.)
The seafood part of the equation starts with the Signature Seafood Tower stacked with Maine lobster tail and two claws, jumbo shrimp, sliced scallops and oysters on the half-shell. Or go for a la carte selections ranging from oysters on the half-shell to seared New England scallops. New dishes are always in the works.
The bar tends to fill up early, with the pau hana crowd spilling in for drinks and bar pupu such as a steak salad, ahi tartare and lettuce steak wraps available at 50 percent off.
For those who want to continue their liquid meal, there’s lobster bisque. Finish with “The Shake,” an adult milkshake of Absolut vanilla, Kahlua, Godiva chocolate liqueur and vanilla ice cream, topped with chopped macadamia nuts and cinnamon. Yum!
$$$$ Ala Moana Hotel, 36th floor; 949-3636; signatureprimesteak.com. Dinner.