Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Good Eats: Hiroshi's Eurasian Tapas

This is one of the best restaurants in Honolulu.  This restaurant ranks among the elite and is in the same class as Chef Mavro's and Alan Wong's.  You might say at this level, the difference between elite and excellent is your personal preference.  If you prefer delicious food using local ingredients with a playful fusion/tapas twist, Hiroshi's Eurasian Tapas is the place to go.  The food here combines flavors from Italy, France, and, of course, Hawaii.  The menu is seasonal, so everything is fresh and changes from month to month.  Even the wine list changes from week-to-week to match the dishes.

Also, the tapas-style portions allow you to sample a little bit of everything.  Local politicians and business people eat here regularly and you might recognize some of the local movers and shakers when you dine.  Service here is very good and the wait staff is attentive without being intrusive.

An avid fisherman, Chef Fukui grew up in Japan and moved to Maui with his father at age 12.  Cooking ran in the family, as his father was a cook at the Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Hotels.  Chef Fukui eventually started in the cooking industry, though as a humble dishwasher.  While dishwashing, he watched the chef create dishes and became inspired to create dishes himself.  He worked in several distinguished restaurants, earning awards along the way for his inventiveness, taste, and style.  You can see his inspirations in the dishes he creates.  

The restaurant's sommelier, Chuck Furuya, is the first of two master sommeliers in Hawaii.  Also, he is only the tenth person in the United States to pass the Master Sommeliers Exam.  The Exam is an arduous course consisting of a blind taste testing, a written exam, and a practical service exam.  Very few are chosen by the Selection Committee to take the exam.  Selection is rigorous and based on the applicant's preparedness, merit, and letters of recommendation.  Pairing wine with Asian food is challenging due to the light and subtle flavors, but Sommelier Furuya has done an excellent job.   


View Larger Map of Hiroshi's located at 500 Ala Moana Blvd
Hiroshi's is located in Restaurant Row at 500 Ala Moana Boulevard which is past Ala Moana and Ward Center.  There is street and underground parking.  Hiroshi's is only open for dinner.  Hours are every night from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm.  Reservations are recommended (phone: 808-533-4476) or you can take a chance, just walk in and sit at the bar.  Check their website for specials events, they do Kona Crab nights or Local Special nights using only regional ingredients.  Also, Happy is from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.  This is very important, because all food items on the menu are half off!  I don't know how long this will last because you can't get food this good for that price for long.

For starters, you get crispy rice crackers with a tasty sesame, nori aoili.  This is simple, but surprisingly addictive.  Don't eat too much, you'll get full before trying the other dishes.

Good to start off with a salad.  Try the Hau'ula Tomato Salad.  It's a Hau'ula tomato, peeled and cut into segments on an ume shiso vinaigrette.  The tomato is meant to be pressed or dusted with Hawaiian salt (the red crystals in the middle saucer), and on the left Nalo Farms greens with creamy Nalo honey herb dressing.  I wasn't sure that the tomato would go well with the salt, but it does.  The greens and dressing are light and refreshing.  Below that is the Panko-Crusted Ahi wrapped in nori (seaweed) with braised celery, konbu and shiso resting on a kimchee lemongrass sauce.  It's hard to describe the panko-crusted ahi, but I think it is upscale version of ahi sushi.  Oh, and the sauce is excellent.  

Moving on to something heavier.  Definitely recommend the contemporary sushi.   On the left is the salmon.  On the right is the hamachi.  Traditionally, sushi is served raw, but here the fish was cooked and served warm.  The salmon was very tasty and the sauce was great.  

One thing you must try is the Seared Sea Scallops.  The Seared Sea Scallops are on top of a bacon-tomato takana ragout with kabayaki butter sauce and tobiko.  The sauce under the sea scallops is excellent and you'll be spooning it up after eating the scallops.  

One dish I really enjoyed was the Sous vide of Opakapaka.  Opakapaka is a local snapper highly regarded for it's smooth texture and clean, sweet flavor.  The meat of the fish is on the softer side, so if you like tender fish, this dish is for you.  Sous vide (french for under vacuum) is a method of cooking food in air-tight plastic bags in a hot water bath.  You won't get a sear or char as with an open flame, but you will get food that is moist and flavorful.  The fish rests on a cauliflower puree, with wilted tatsoi, bacon tomato vinaigrette, crispy bacon, fresh basil, and Hawaii salt.  

We also tried the pan roasted Opah or moonfish.  Opah is a more of a steak fish, so the meat is firmer, almost like tuna.  That dish came with Hau'ula tomato concasse, baby bok choi, ume musubi and ogo-miso ginger brown butter.  That ginger brown butter sauce was amazing.  So amazing, I forgot to take a picture.  Maybe next time.  


Another menu item that caught my eye was the Bacon Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp.  Not sure if it was apple wood smoked bacon or the ginger-scallion and sweet miso that gave the dish its sweet and tangy flavor, but it was tasty.  I must say that I was very impressed by the sauces throughout the meal.


Now on to the heartier dishes, the meat dishes.  Here is the New York Strip steak.  The steak had a good sear and went well with the light soy sauce, but the one thing that stood out was the potatoes au gratin.  It was excellent.  The potatoes were very smooth, creamy, warm, cooked evenly and cooked well.  I could eat a whole bowl of that.

One of the specialties is the Red Wine steamed Veal Cheek.  Think of deconstructed pot roast.  Deconstructed dishes are taking the same (or similar) ingredients, change their look or form, and put them together in a different way.  The look is different, but the taste is the same.  On top of the veal is a cilantro-pesto crust that adds a nice flavor.  The cheek rests on a bed of mashed potatoes in a pool of Asian succotash.  A very warm and hearty dish, this is comfort food taken to the next level.  

And a real crowd pleaser, the Braised Short Ribs Milanese.  There is a sunny side quail egg on top with shaved parmesan cheese, truffle oil, Waialua asparagus, mashed potatoes, and seasonal vegetables.  The meat was tender and juicy, the truffle oil added a nice flavor to the sauce and the dish.  Be careful of the tomato, it is dusted with crushed red peppers so it might be a spicy surprise.  In Eu-jeania's opinion, this is one of the best dishes on the menu.  

As for dessert, try the vanilla bean panna cotta with mango sorbet.  After a big meal, a light and refreshing dessert is just what you need.  I'd also recommend the Symphony of Sorbets which has a small scoop of all the sorbets on the menu.  There was more I wanted to try both on the dinner and dessert menu, but I was too full.  I'd definitely recommend going to Hiroshi's at least once when you visit.  

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