Chef Fukui brings his artistry to Restaurant Row
By Helen Wu
Advertiser Restaurant Critic
Fukui was the executive chef at L'Uraku. Last year, he left L'Uraku and joined the Sansei Group to open Hiroshi's Eurasion Tapas in Restaurant Row. Hiroshi's is now building a clientele of enchanted small-plate enthusiasts after taking over the location once occupied by Sansei Seafood Restaurant before its move to Waikiki.
In spite of its name, Hiroshi's does not serve Spanish tapas. Instead, the restaurant delivers refined fusion cuisine with an emphasis on aesthetics.
Fukui was trained in the zen-inspired art of kaiseki, a traditional Japanese formal dinner with dishes consisting of seasonal ingredients served consecutively in seven to 10 courses. He plays Japanese influences and techniques off Western ones, creating a modernized kaiseki approach. His method for blending food cultures is to extract the best elements of each and then refashion them together as indicated by his foie gras sushi ($7.95) and seared sea scallops with bacon-takana ragout, tobiko and kabayaki-butter sauce ($9.95).
Although "Eurasion" describes the food here, a more fitting attribute of this cuisine is that it is simply pure Hiroshi.
Starting out again under his own name is a creative impetus for any chef, and also a big risk but a risk that's worth taking when the chef finds an appreciative audience.
White plates are the canvas for Fukui's work. His food exhibits controlled balance in color, texture and taste. A lemon-yellow citrus-chili vinaigrette provided a deliciously bright backdrop for translucent-thin slices of kanpachi (greater amberjack) sashimi ($7.95). The dish was further embellished with nori (seaweed), pickled wasabi and shaved Parmesan, all of which highlighted the fish.
At Hiroshi's, everything on the plate has a purpose. He abandons thoughtless distractions, such as inedible garnishes that have nothing to do with the intrinsic quality of a dish. An otherwise ordinary salad of baby spinach greens ($6.75) somehow became one of the most distinctive salads my dining companion and I have ever eaten. Dressed in a mustard-sesame vinaigrette, it was topped with soft crumbled eggs, pickled tsukemono, crunchy bacon bits and sweet Hau'ula tomato. These elements, combined in just the right proportions, managed to create a memorable dish for us out of the unspectacular.
Fukui's ability to integrate ingredients and styles into imaginative, sophisticated food clearly demonstrates innovative culinary artistry. He allows each of the elements to accentuate the other. His classic dish of misoyaki butterfish ($15.95) exemplifies careful restraint. Too many tiny cubes of tangy lemon-ume plum jelly might have ruined the plate, but he pushes flavors to the brink and no more.
Fukui is a genius with delicate fish preparations. His kitchen has an uncanny knack for cooking fish perfectly one minute more or less and the seafood would be either over- or underdone. Amazingly, the kitchen is also adept at showcasing tender meat dishes characterized by lusciously smooth, rich sauces. Red-wine-braised veal cheeks ($15.95) practically fell apart at the touch of my fork. Surprising bursts of peppercorn from Frankie's Nursery livened up what was already an excellent pan-roasted filet mignon in a foie gras-ponzu sauce ($21.95).
I must rave about desserts. The sweets are just as inventive in their assemblage of flavors. Cloud-like meringue in Very Very Berry ($6.75) is wispy light. Both cr¶mes brõlÚe ($6.50) the green-tea version and the haupia-lemongrass are dense and creamy with subtle scents. Chocolate Ooze Cake ($6.75) with vanilla-bean ice cream and chocolate sauce splendidly matched a glass of LaTour Vieille Banyuls "Vendange" ($7.50), one of two dessert wines offered. Die-hard chocolate fanatics will delight in Chocolate Chocolate, a flourless chocolate cake served with chocolate sorbet ($6.95).
My sole complaint about Hiroshi's is that Fukui's talent deserves a dining-room gallery better suited for his work. This unoriginal environment seems an odd match for the elegance of his dishes. The nondescript space is decorated in tranquil aquamarine tones but does nothing to reflect Hiroshi's own style. Music is an afterthought that is mercifully drowned out as more patrons arrive.
It is only a matter of time before Hiroshi's becomes crowded with locals who begin to realize what a treat Hiroshi's is with its creative, moderately priced menu (dishes range from $5.95 to $21.95) and master sommelier Chuck Furuya's exceptional wine list. Quick and efficient service provided by courteous wait staff and general manager Cheryle Gomez is an added bonus.
With virtually all the right components in place, it will be exciting to see what else Fukui can achieve at Hiroshi's.
Reach Helen Wu at firstname.lastname@example.org.