Island-Style Iron Chef

While basking in the sweetest hammock in paradise on the Private Sunset Beach pool deck at the Waikiki Edition, I couldn’t help feel redolent of the glorious meal behind me.  The mele of flavors of each expertly formed mouthful of chef’s omakase menu: the sushi rice that was practiced for years to be cooked just so, the ittiest bit of wasabi peeking beneath the translucent and beckoning cut of the fresh aquatic fare (they say a sushi chef-in-training develops their skills for ten years before even touching fish for a customer), while the tips that Chef murmur to us for translation echo in the back of my mind.

We have just eaten at MORIMOTO WAIKIKI, the newest edition of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s namesake ‘ohana of restaurants.  Though the din of the dinner crowd has been muted by the song of palm trees in moonlight, the taste of champagne still sits on my sated taste buds intermingled with thoughts of yellowfin tuna melting on my happily over-stimulated tongue.

“Chef says, ‘Use your fingers’,” our attentive sous sushi chef translates, “that’s how it’s done in Japan… and fish side down into the shoyu.”  Wait… I get to eat in a très chic restaurant and use my Filipino chopsticks?  This is quickly becoming an epically delightful experience as I practice my fish-flipping skills.

Chef also tells us that we would be more than happy with the $75 chef’s combination as opposed to the $110 Omakase menu.  A revelation!  He would rather we have the perfect amount of food than leave food uneaten –or have us wanting.  This refreshing and humble view of cuisine left me feeling satisfied and valued as a customer.  Clearly, this restaurant required further exploration…

As the mid-day sun sat low in the sky, I meet Ryan, in a much quieter version of MORIMOTO WAIKIKI between lunch and dinner service hours (3pm-5:30pm) to talk about the restaurant.  She charmed me with the story of Morimoto falling in love with a Big Island yuzu orchard and recounted his excitement as he said, “I will take all your yuzu!”  Talk about supporting local farmers!

Yuzu is an intriguingly flavored citrus crossbreed of grapefruit and Mandarin orange which is mainly used for it’s rind in Japanese cuisine and as a freshly squeezed special ingredient at their bar. Takeo, our well-versed bartender, took us on a liquid tour.

If you are in the mood for something ladylike and light to sip elegantly on the deck overlooking the harbor, try the enchantingly balanced white lily ($10) made with shochu, a spirit in the same family as sake but distilled like a liquor, calpico and yuzu juice garnished with the fun-to-pronounce yamamomo or Japanese mountain pear; this cocktail is the slow sipping option for the island sophisticate.  Want to play tourist?  The refreshingly flavorful pina haupia ($10) is Chef’s version of the piña colada made with freshly muddled pineapple, skyy infusions pineapple vodka, calahua coconut, and fresh lime sour; it is a markedly lighter version of the ever-popular beverage made without cream so you don’t feel heavy after drinking just one, yet still achieving the “Hawaiian vacation” feel.  The kicker of the tastings was the pear yuzu gimlet ($12) — yuzu citrus, muddled serrano chili or jalapeño, fresh lime sour, absolut pears vodka and topped with fresh yuzu zest.  This refreshing twist on the gimlet was an everlasting gobstopper  in a glass.  The first taste that hits the tongue crescendo-ing layer by invigorating layer before reaching the spicy finish.   As a bonus, Morimoto’s taste sensations can be taken poolside at The EDITION’s first floor Sunrise pool deck.

As the baby of the Japanese fusion restaurants in Waikiki, Morimoto has a lot to offer, from an outdoor deck overlooking Ala Moana boat Harbor (where Gilligan’s tiny ship left on its infamous 3 hour tour.)  Taking cues from nature, the restaurant features tropical details like coconuts in their first stages of sprouting and delicate glass-encased reef, suspended in mid-air.

Morimoto Waikiki

Open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Service.  Reservations Recommended.

(808) 943-5900

1775 Ala Moana Blvd Honolulu, HI 96815

(Notethe stairway up to the restaurant and valet parking is on Hobron Lane)

For more information visit: http://www.morimotowaikiki.com/

UPDATE  Nov. 18, 2010:  Morimoto Waikiki is a participant in the 3rd Annual Hawaii Restaurant Week which runs through November 21, 2010.  Check out their special menus as well as other excellent restaurants here.

Katherine Hsia

Known affectionately as "the wandering concierge," Katherine segued a hospitality career in fabulous New York City into a life pursuing her passions of writing, adventure and travel on the spectacular island of O'ahu. She is a freelance writer for publications such as Honolulu Magazine, Hawai'i Parent, Freesurf, and more, while working on her Hawaiian comic and non-fiction book. She enjoys seeing life for its whimsical beauty, great meals with good friends, her love affair with travel, and being overstimulated by new experiences. Want to get in touch with Kat? Add her on facebook or send her a message on her website, http://www.katherinehsia.com, where she's been known to get her blog on.

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