Hawaii eats section Sake bar a stroke of atmospheric genius
by Martha Cheng
Special to Metromix
POKING AROUND FOR THE BEST POKE
From tailgate parties to baby lu'au to fine dining restaurants, we love our poke. There is no lack of options on the island — so where to start? We scoured the island for the best fresh raw fish, and here are our top five poke picks.
1. ONO SEAFOOD
This shop, dwarfed by Shell gas station and a tall blue apartment building on Kapahulu Avenue, is our favorite. The shoyu poke ($14/pound) is made with fatty and flavorful 'ahi, accented with a slight crunch of flaky salt. Fish, onions, shoyu. It's amazing how three ingredients (give or take a few) can be so delicious.
Ono Seafood, 747 Kapahulu Ave., 732-4806
2. TAMURA'S FINE WINES & LIQUORS
Excellent 'ahi shoyu poke, even better 'ahi wasabi poke and give the 'ahi jalapeno poke a try sometime (all 'ahi poke $12.99/pound). A one-stop shop for the perfect pau hana: poke and beer.
Tamura's Fine Wines & Liquors, 1216 10th Ave., 735-7100
3. TAMASHIRO MARKET
A favorite market for seafood aficionados, Tamashiro Market offers one of the largest selections of fish, a characteristic that extends to its large poke counter. Tamashiro is unique in that it offers poke at varying fish grades. The 'ahi onion poke ($14.95) uses a higher grade of fish, translating to firm, red cubes, while the 'ahi shoyu poke ($8.95) uses a lower grade and is sinewy. Both, however, are still fresh-tasting and well-seasoned with salt and sesame seeds for nuttiness.
Tamashiro Market, 802 N. King St., 841-8047
4. MONARCH SEAFOODS
The poke ($11.95/pound) at Monarch Seafoods is the most sugi-free we've had. The shoyu 'ahi poke is just that: shoyu and nothing else in the seasoning. No sesame oil, no chili flakes, just shoyu, which we like.
Monarch Seafoods, 515 Kalihi St., 841-7877
5. WHOLE FOODS
In the beauty pageant of supermarkets, Whole Foods wins, and its poke counter is no exception. The seasoning for the 'ahi poke inamona ($14.99/pound) reflects a deft, restrained hand. Not too salty, with a touch of heat and a little extra texture from the ground kukui nuts. We like the firmness and generous-sized chunks of fish, but the cuts are a little sinewy.
Whole Foods, Kahala Mall, 4211 Wai'alae Ave., 738-0820
Colin Hazama, chef de cuisine at the Kauai Grill at the St. Regis Princeville, is in the running to receive the prestigious James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year. Hazama, who is an Alan Wong protege, is one of 26 semifinalists vying for the prize. The finalists will be announced March 22. Hazama was the chef at RumFire in the Sheraton Waikiki before leaving last year to work at the Kauai Grill.
Apartment3 restaurant (Century Center, 1750 Kalakaua Ave., 955-9300) has reinstated its popular extra-long Tuesday happy hour. The restaurant offers cocktails, martinis and an extensive pupu menu, including its signature thin-crust artisan pizza, all for $5. Draft beers go for $4, and the happy hour goes all night — from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. The restaurant is also now offering late-night drink specials every Friday night. All draft beers — Stella Artois, Bass, Guinness, Kona Longboard, Blue Moon, Rogue Dead Man Ale, Boddington's and Newcastle — are $3 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
In honor of its 38th year in the Islands, Kobe Japanese Steakhouse (1841 Ala Moana Blvd., 941-4444) is giving kama'aina a 20 percent discount off food, excluding sushi, beverages and the early-bird specials. Entree options include: steak paired with a choice of fish ($28.95), scallops ($34.95) or lobster ($45.95); teriyaki chicken ($18.95) and a vegetarian plate ($14.95).
Wes Zane, owner of Formaggio, has struck again, this time with a sake-focused restaurant that takes the concept of wine and food pairing and applies it to sake. The restaurant — located on Kapahulu Avenue in the old home of Wasabi & Nadaman — was specifically designed to create food that fits the unique properties of sake. The menu is made up of small tapas-like dishes, including original concoctions like pork ribs with a li hing sake glaze, Korean pork belly tacos and 'ahi sashimi with wasabi-sake beurre blanc. The restaurant, which opened two weeks ago, carries eight kinds of sake and even provides diners with a short primer on sake.
1006 Kapahulu Ave.
Hours: 5:30 p.m.-midnight Tuesdays-Thursdays and Sundays, 5:30 p.m.-2 a.m.
Fridays and Saturdays, closed Mondays
HOLY HASH BALLS!
We're no strangers to tempura. We can get everything battered and fried, Japanese-style, from shrimp to hearts of palm. But when we came across Sekiya's Restaurant and Delicatessen (2746 Kaimuki Ave., 732-1656) hash tempura, we knew we'd struck deep-fried gold. The golf ball-sized spheres of corned beef hash are dredged in tempura batter and then fried. Not exactly your traditional treatment of hash or tempura, but who cares?