Archive for October, 2010

Morimoto’s grand opening

October 22nd, 2010
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Nadine Kam photos
Chef Masaharu Morimoto, left, with chef Alan Wong at the grand opening celebration of Morimoto Waikiki at the Waikiki Edition on Oct. 17.

Adding to the busy weekend of Oct. 15 to 17, was the Sunday grand opening celebration of Morimoto Waikiki in the Waikiki Edition. Having hung out on the deck for the Waikiki Edition’s Friday night festivities, I just stayed close to the restaurant, although the size of the crowd meant the entire Sunrise Pool deck was at guests’ disposal.

Many of those who entered through the deck didn’t know the real delicacies—sushi, oysters, cocktail shrimp, crab claws and bagna cauda— were being served in the restaurant, so it took them a while to filter in.

I never know what to expect at these events, so because the restaurant started out fairly empty, I somehow thought it would stay that way and didn’t bother with getting much food. Boy, was I sorry later when the sushi line turned thick and impenetrable. I did pick up about six pieces late in the evening, after much of the crowd had dissipated. It was awesome. No doubt one of the other attractions of the sushi bar was that the man of the hour, chef Masaharu Morimoto, was right there on the line, shaping the nigiri sushi. Many a photo was taken.

If I knew there’d be long lines, I would have eaten more oysters early. They were perfect and firm, not slimy as more often the case locally.

Lines for sushi were constant, and many guests didn’t know exactly were they started or where to stand. Morimoto himself was making sushi on the spot for much of the night.

Umm, bagna cauda. Few people stopped for veggies, but I was happy to get greens dipped in the Piedmont-style dip of garlic, anchovies and olive oil.

Actor Kal Penn, left, formerly Obama’s Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement, was at the opening, along with Molly Watanabe and Chris Lee.

Seating was available on the restaurant’s outside deck, but you had to be able to take the heat of the firepots.

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Matsutake season begins with Marukai’s ‘Gochiso’

October 15th, 2010
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Nadine Kam photos

Matsutake was presented in all its fragrant glory, along with Hamakua mushrooms en papillote in the second course of Marukai’s Gochiso dinner at ZenShu Oct. 13.

Marukai Wholesale Mart welcomed the first matsutake of the season Oct. 13 with a one-time bistro dinner, “Gochiso,” created with the help of ZenShu chef-owner Wilson Chan and the Japan Prestige Sake Association.

The mushrooms are highly prized because they cannot be farmed, instead growing symbiotically at the roots of a limited number of tree species. In Japan, where matsutake can sell for $100 per piece, it is associated with the red pine tree. Because of that relationship, the mushrooms are imbued with a spicy piney flavor that comes through with the most simple preparation. Therefore, the best course for the mushroom was the second, when it was simply baked en papillote.

Marukai Corp. executive vice president Richard Matsu, right, with ZenShu’s Wilson Chan.

In other dishes, Chan varied the preparations so we were treated to contrasting chilled and warm sensations. And the mushrooms were served both raw, as in the first salad course of ahi sashimi with a shaved matsutake summer roll salad, and cooked. “Gochiso” means “delicious food” in the Japanese language, a cut above the usual “oishi.”

The mushrooms Marukai provided for the dinner came from Oregon, and they are currently priced at Marukai Wholesale Mart at $47 per pound. Marukai Corp.’s vice president of operations Roy Ishihara explained that too have them shipped in from Japan would be cost prohibitive.

The entire dinner was a delicious and rare treat, for a mushroom generally available only from October through year’s end if we’re lucky. By the time we got to dessert, though, I couldn’t taste the matsutake in the creme brulee, but neither could the gentlemen from First Hawaiian Bank around me.

The funny thing was, I had parked at the FHB down the street because I knew we could park there for The Ranch House. Because they worked at FHB, I asked if my car would be towed, and they said they’d parked there too, so if my car was towed, so would theirs. So they assured me it was OK. Parking is nevertheless always a concern where parking is so limited, and crossing the street, dangerous.

Marukai Corp.’s vice president of operations Roy Ishihara shows the third sake selection for the evening, full-bodied Taiheizan Kimoto Junmai. With the first salad and sashimi course we sampled the smooth, sweet Ichinokura Himezen sake, then came the medium dry Shirataki Jozen Mizunogotoshi Junmai Ginjo. I liked the fruity Harushika Junmai Daiginjo, which I thought went really well with the Kona Cold Maine lobster tail.

The second course was this rich , creamy cold kabocha and matsutake vichyssoise topped with a matsutake chip and matsutake creme fraiche.

The fourth course was a braised boneless shortrib with matsutake bourguignon, Kahuku corn-bacon ragout, and whipped Okinawan potatoes.

Matsu shows the fifth course of grilled matsutake and Kona Cold Maine lobster tail with unagi nage and yaki matsutake musubi, that’s also shown below, topped with slivers of nori.

Dessert was a matsutake creme brulee and sake balsamic-soaked strawberries.