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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 1, 2008

Revisiting great Greek, classic katsu

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Chef Java Shiroma and sous chef Tetsuro Sakai prepare a meal in the open kitchen at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin Waikiki, which specializes in classic tonkatsu.

Advertiser library photos

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sauteed sea bream with pine nut, grape and shallot butter served with a salad of watercress frisee and caramelized starfruit. The dish was prepared by chef Scott Nelson at the Brass-erie Du Vin.

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As we do periodically, we look back this week at restaurants recently reviewed:


Rating: Four forks out of five (Very good)

At last: Good, honest, inexpensive Mediterranean food and — coming soon — easy drive-time takeout with a call-ahead service to be offered in the next few months. The new Kaimuki eatery The Fat Greek serves exceptionally tender and juicy gyros pita sandwiches, puffy flatbreads stuffed with chunks of lamb and beef and drizzled with tzaziki yogurt sauce.

If you like a little heat (OK, a lot of heat) be sure to ask for a free order of the flavorful house sauce — addictive. Also recommended: mussels appetizer, souvlaki, baklava and the periodic moussaka special.

3040 Wai'alae Ave. (at St. Louis Drive), 734-0404; eat in or take out, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; most entrees $7-$12; limited parking, pay parking across the street.



Rating: Four forks out of five (Very good)

Because were just weren't getting enough deep-fat fried foods in our diet (ha!), we had to check out two highly recommended temples of tonkatsu: Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin Waikiki and Café Imperial Tonkatsu House.

Ton (pig) katsu (cutlet) is breaded and deep-fried pork loin, but the term also covers a standard menu of assorted "cousins," such as katsu chicken, katsu curry, even katsu hamburger (and most such restaurants also offer donburi rice bowls, curry, noodles and sometimes the Japanese favorite croquettes as well).

Classic tonkatsu is tricky: The pork must emerge tender enough to cut with a chopstick, the breading should crunch but never sag, the accompanying sauce should provide a fruity-spicy foil to the fatty richness of the meat. Both restaurants — Bairin the more formal, expensive and classy of the two — proved masters of the art.

Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin Waikiki, 255 Beach Walk; lunch and dinner, closed Mondays; full meal sets $20-$30 at dinner; classic Japanese graciousness of surroundings and service, try the ginger pork loin if you don't want tonkatsu. Café Imperial Tonkatsu House, Imperial Plaza, 725 Kapi'olani Blvd., 593-2626; lunch and dinner daily; generous portions, reasonable prices.



Rating: Three forks out of five (Good)

Each Monday evening, Brasserie Du Vin's chef Scott Nelson and sommelier Jason "Cass" Castle give a dinner party — or so it feels to the fortunate 14 guests who join them for a wine-paired dinner that changes with the seasons, the wines Castle teases from his suppliers and the intriguing ingredients Nelson discovers in the markets.

Throughout dinner, Castle visits the table and talks about the wines in a chatty, no-attitude way. You can't say you've tasted Nelson's food until you've experienced one of these events; and he gives full portions, not just samplings, during the three-course meals.

Raisin d'Etre Monday Night Wine Dinners, Brasserie Du Vin, 1115 Bethel St.; 545-1115; 6:15 p.m. Mondays; reservations required, $69 for three courses; to get on the e-mail alert list, write to miki@brasserieduvin.com.

— LG


When he was considering a new concept for the old Dixie Grill location, restaurateur Ed Wary, who fondly recalled his aunt and uncle's garage eatery in New Mexico, spent some time just north of the border and came back with the recipes and ideas for a casual New Mex restaurant, Tio's Garage & Taco Station.

Though it's not breaking much new culinary ground, it's an enjoyable place to spend a Saturday afternoon watching sports TV, noshing taquitos, experiencing the richness of slow-braised adovado with posole (hominy) on the side or filling up on stacked enchiladas with spicy tinga beef.

Tio's Garage & Taco Station, 404 Ward Ave., 596-8359; lunch and dinner daily (except dinner only Sundays); most entrees $9-$12; full bar, late-night music, children's menu.



Among the few remaining company cafeterias is one operated by Kaneshiro brothers (Howard and Roy) at the Board of Water Supply on Beretania; you'd never know it was there on the fourth floor unless someone told you about the 'ono cheap breakfasts and lunches available weekdays.

No frills (or AC), but friendly fellow eaters, white rice, a good potato-and-spaghetti salad, mom-style hamburgers, $3 loco mocos and a meaty oxtail soup that is a crowd-pleaser. "It reminds us of home," one regular explained.

BWS Cafeteria, 630 S. Beretania St., fourth floor; 748-5977; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays; free parking in back; most entrees under $6.

— LS


Dean's Drive-Inn, like most Isle spots with the drive-in moniker, isn't a drive-in; parking in the little strip mall is the only drawback to eating a weekday lunch here, and there's no drive-through window or car service.

But it is owned by a Dean — Dean Mishima, former chef at Liberty House — and the place is as advertised, "Local Boy, Local Food." Grilled 'ahi belly, 'ahi cakes and teriyaki steak are the kind that elicit involuntary murmurs of approval at the table: "Oh!" and "Mmmmm!" and "Wow!"

The desserts taste like those auntie-kine secret recipes you hope will be bequeathed to you someday. One of the best plate lunch places on the island.

Dean's Drive-Inn, Adon Plaza, 45-773 Kamehameha Highway, 247-1300; lunch and dinner Sundays-Thursdays, lunch only Fridays, closed Saturdays; takeout and catering; most plates $5-$8.


Key: WAA/Wanda A. Adams, Advertiser food editor. LG/Lesa Griffith, former deputy features editor and now freelance food writer. LS/Lisa Sekiya, Advertiser promotions writer and cheap-eats specialist.


Chefs and managers from D.K. Kodama's Sansei group spent several days last week preparing for the opening of the newest and largest member of that restaurant 'ohana, Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar at Queens' MarketPlace, Waikoloa Beach Resort. The restaurant will seat more than 200 and includes a 28-seat private dining room. The concept marries Sansei's contemporary sushi and seafood with d.k Steak House-style dry-aged prime beef steaks. They'll highlight Big Island produce, including Kurt and Pam Hirabara's greens and mushrooms from the Hamakua plant of Bob and Janice Stanga. The restaurant opens this month.

The latest opening at Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center has great genealogy: It's Doraku Sushi, and the owner is Kevin Aoki, son of Rocky Aoki, inventor of the Benihana concept. They specialize in pan-Asian fine dining, sushi and sake. A peek a couple of weeks ago, before they opened, revealed a sophisticated interior of warm wood and stone. The first Doraku, in Miami, opened five years ago and quickly became an ultra-hip destination. The restaurant boasts a sake sommelier, Adrian Najara, whose list includes many brews not found elsewhere in the U.S. The 160-seat restaurant is open now.

Mia Gaines-Alt, the cowboy hat-wearing, barbecueloving, straight-talking chef/restaurateur from Season 2 of "Top Chef," is wearing a white toque again — at Hotel Molokai, which celebrated its grand reopening last week. Gaines-Alt, then owner of Feed the People in Oakdale, Calif., an upscale barbecue, eliminated herself from the Bravo reality show in a shocker of a move. But she did get to travel to Hawai'i for the season-ending show, which so impressed her that she took a job here. Her playground is the newly expanded Hula Shores restaurant at the hotel on Kamiloloa Beach.

— Wanda A. Adams