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Sunday, September 13, 2015

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A $300 JAPANESE MEAL IN HONOLULU?


15 Craigside last night went to Teppanyaki Ginza Onodera (name change from TG Sumikawa), a relatively new Japanese restaurant located across the street from Washington Middle School near Zippy's.  At one time there were only two really expensive restaurants in town:
  • Vintage Cave ($300 for each of two menus):  where truffle shavings can cost you $50, and the wine is extra, but consider the 18 Picassos on the wall.  There are now two new chefs, and contrary to some rumors that they closed, the establishment went through an upgrade, but continued to serve.
  • Sushi Ginza Onodera ($160-$250 per person omakase, which means at the discretion of the chef):  the local Star-Advertiser headlined--Sushi Heaven Awaits Those Willing to Pay.  They are also in Hong Kong, Paris and, of course, Tokyo:

Now, this sister property of Onodera, makes it three super-expensive centers of gastronomy in the state.  Here we are at Teppanyaki Ginza Onodera, with just two doors away, a typical scene of Honolulu half a century ago:


There is something about the interior that is worthy of description.  First the grill:


The decor has an air of royal dignity and is calming:


Even the restroom is noteworthy:


John showing this piece of art, which happens to be his plate, and, even the toothpicks are cool:


Unlike the manic atmosphere of Benihana and other teppanyaki eateries, there is here an uncommonly relaxing ambience.  The ventilation system was very efficient and noiseless, while the teppanyaki-ing and service were impeccable.  The acoustics were such that those on the other end of the grill from me could actually understand the conversation, if I spoke loud enough.  Here are the Executive Chef, Keijiro Yamane, and Manager/Wine Director Man Bong Ching:


Bong, in particular, had all the answers and supervised like a conductor.  Let me start with the ingredients, beginning with the foie gras and Ossetra caviar (this tiny can, according to Bong, costs $154 retail):


That's a skinned wasabi root above, and, you can't really tell, but those must have been the world's largest asparaguses and okras.  Again, though, note the art-like quality of the plate.  Each was different.

There are four menus with no tipping and no added tax:  $160, $200, $250 and $300:
  • $160:  How can you go wrong with:
    •  beginnings of sautéed Hokkaido scallops risotto with saffron cream sauce and steamed Hokkaido king crab
    • medley of stick salad  with sesame dressing and grilled assorted vegetables
    • main entre of Iwate (meaning real Japanese wagyu from Iwate) beef sirloin, served with garlic rice, miso soup and tsukemono
    • dessert
    • Kona coffee or tea
  • $200:  ADDS an amusement, plus angel hair pasta, foie gras creme brûlée, vicchyssoise, and either Kona abalone with escargot butter sauce or New Zealand scampi
  • $250:  DELETES the Iwate beef, but provides a choice of either A5 Kobe beef sirloin or Japanese Blue-Fin Tuna Ootoro (fattiest).
  • $300:  The above selection was definitely enhanced and also came with 3 ounces each of five wines from R. Field, which is what I ordered, so here was my meal:
There was an amusement of blue fin tuna and sea urchin gonads, also known as uni:


Just a spoonful, but enough.  Can I mention the plate again?   Then, blini with cream cheese and Russian Ossetra Caviar:


The champagne was Taittinger Reims brut NV.

With a glass of 2009 Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc came some raw sea beam (red snapper sashimi), kombu (seaweed) and cheese appetizer:


Next, with glasses of 2009 Bouchard Pere & Fils1er cru Chardonnay and 2012 Emeritus Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, I had a stick salad and sautéed duck foie gras with Italian summer black truffle sauce:


That's a french fried gobo (burdock) laying horizontal.

The showcase A5 Kobe sirloin with grilled assorted vegetables came with a 2012 Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:


See that pink square to the right?  It is a Himalayan sodium chloride dish.  You swirl your piece of steak into it to gain an essence of saltiness.   At the end, they wash it out, place it in a plastic bag and give to you as a gift.  Then, anytime you have steak, you re-use it.  Williams-Sonoma sells this for $40.

About this famous wagyu beef portion, I was mildly disappointed for two reasons.  The cut was sirloin (I would have preferred rib eye) and came from Kobe (Matsuzaka and Omi beef are higher rated).  The top rated in Japan can sell for up to $250/pound.  Well, I will be spending ten days there beginning Wednesday, and, perhaps, I will indulge in the very best.  I should add that all the wines were excellent and well-matched.  

The last course was a Hokkaido Sea Urchin fried rice, miso soup and tsukemono:


Only Al and I got this set, for it specially came with the $300 course.  I'm getting really picky here, but I missed out on all that fat that got cut off the beef and went into the garlic rice enjoyed by the other six.    One other bit of constructive advice I can provide is to replace two of the wines with contrasting junmai daiginjo sakes.

The dessert was fresh lilikoi and orange pana cotta (Italian cooked cream) and coffee completed what was the BEST MEAL I HAVE EVER HAD IN HAWAII:


I would not be surprised if everyone else in the room rated this dinner as their best ever.  Aside from my minor fussiness, this was a nearly perfect experience that lasted more than 2.5 hours.  I will be in Tokyo and Hong Kong, where there exist two more of these establishments.  Maybe.

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