Posts Tagged ‘cucumber’

Osake to Me! Honolulu’s Newest Hotspot for Meets and Eats: Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge

October 1, 2006

[Editor’s Note: Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge closed its doors in April, 2007]

OK, so I lied.

We were supposed to still be in Kauai right about now, eating more of the mouth-watering treats that the Garden Isle had to offer. Instead, here we are, back on Oahu, consuming treats of a different kind: Sake and Sushi. But trust… whether you’re a Japanese fusion food fan or a nightlife neophyte, this’ll definitely be worth your while.

Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge sign outside
Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge sign outside

My initial exposure to Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge was actually at a work function. I got invited to the Oxygen Network’s VIP Launch Party, which was hosted here at one of today’s swankiest hotspots. I couldn’t stay long that night, but during that time, I quickly sensed a sexy, ultra cool, loungy vibe goin’ on that I just had to get more of.

Living room style lounge areas with pool tables in the background
Living room style lounge areas with pool tables in the background

Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge (formerly known as KOI) opened their doors in January of 2006, taking the place and space of the old Blue Tropix Nightclub (remember ‘dem wild monkeys in the news?). Recollecting what this once desolate space on Kapiolani Boulevard used to look like and seeing what they’ve done to it today, one would never think that it was the same place. It was almost as if Ty and his jolly gang came to town to work their magic for an episode of Extreme Home Makeover. And in speaking with Osake’s General Manager Grant Yonehiro, this was done intentionally.

“We wanted to enlighten the atmosphere and create a sort of Japanese elegance,” said Yonehiro.

An elegance that led all the way down to the details of the Koi filter system, which was intentionally made audible to create a soothing ambience while enjoying your meal.

Osake’s is the brainchild of a group of young and ambitious 20-30-somethings: Justin Henson, Keoni Chan, Shane Tsubaki and Brian Hasegawa, who “oh-by-the-way” already own and operate the hip and successful sports bar above called Skybox Sports Lounge. No matter how old you are or where you are in your professional life, you gotta admire and respect these young entrepreneurs for having the vision and seeing it through. Mad props guys… Mad props!

But um, back to lecture at hand…

So why this, why now? What can one expect to find when coming down for dining pleasures? Grant is glad you asked.

“We offer something different. A gourmet sushi experience in a lively, lounge atmosphere. Why sit in traffic?”

(! – Osake offers a unique, happy hour on handrolls from 5-8PM every night, except Tuesdays when they are closed. You can order these select sushi handrolls during this time: spicy tuna, California roll, tuna salad, shrimp, and veggie for just a buck. Hmm… Yummy $1 handrolls or battling through stressful rush hour traffic? What do you think?)

17 handrolls for two people? Don't hate!
17 handrolls for two people? Don’t hate! 🙂

During this interview session, I was also fortunate enough to chat with Osake’s Master Sushi Chef Norlan Horita (of Sushi Supreme fame), who proceeded to present dish after delectable dish.

First up was a special, not-yet-on-the-menu sushi sampler, which is to be consumed in a specific sequence. Since it is not yet on Osake’s menu, I’ll have bruddah Norlan explain the dish in his own words:

“From left to right we have a maguro nigiri, a traditional sushi item with a little twist. It features thinly sliced myoga and a drizzle of unagi glaze. Next we have another traditional menu item, salmon or ‘sake’ nigiri, that has been given even more of a twist. I have given the salmon nigiri a generous amount of O-sake’s (soon to be) world famous soy vinaigrette, and then piled on some katsuo bushi. Next is what I like to call my ‘sweet snapper surprise.’ I took a simple shiromi nigiri, gave it a squeeze of lime, a slice of jalapeno, piled high with chiffonade of fresh chiso, and finished off with a colorful topping of citrus tobiko. Last but not least, we have our ahi tataki nigiri with our world famous firecracker sauce. In this dish, the conversion from left to right is a transition from old to new, and also from mild to spicy. On the left we have a very traditional nigiri with traditional toppings and sauce. As the dish progresses to the right, it evolves with more new wave sauces and dressings and increases in spice.”

Left to right: Maguro Nigiri with a drizzle of unagi glaze; Sake (salmon) Nigiri with O-sake's soy vinaigrette, topped with katsuo bushi; Sweet Snapper Surprise with a squeeze of lime, a slice of jalapeno, piled high with chiffonade of fresh chiso, and finished off with a colorful topping of citrus tobiko; and Ahi Tataki Nigiri with firecracker sauce
Left to right: Maguro Nigiri with a drizzle of unagi glaze; “Sake” (salmon) Nigiri with O-sake’s soy vinaigrette, topped with katsuo bushi; “Sweet Snapper Surprise” with a squeeze of lime, a slice of jalapeno, piled high with chiffonade of fresh chiso, and finished off with a colorful topping of citrus tobiko; and Ahi Tataki Nigiri with firecracker sauce.

They were all lusciously lip-smacking, but if I had to pick my favorites, I’d go with the oshake (salmon) and ahi tataki nigiris.

One of their more popular items (and self-proclaimed prized dish) on the menu is the Filet Mignon Beef Sashimi with Soy Vinaigrette. It’s not actually raw, just cut sashimi style. This is one you gotta try!

Filet Mignon Beef Sashimi with Garlic & Soy Vinaigrette, $16 - This is the prized dish of Osake. Quickly seared with herbs and spices, then cut sashimi style. Drizzled with their famous soy vinaigrette and garlic. Served with organic greens
Filet Mignon Beef Sashimi with Garlic & Soy Vinaigrette, $16 – This is the prized dish of Osake. Quickly seared with herbs and spices, then cut sashimi style. Drizzled with their famous soy vinaigrette and garlic. Served with organic greens.

Another popular dish is their Portabella and Fire Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadilla with Feta and Mozzarella (and choice of meat). CPK ain’t got nothin’ on ’em!

Portabella and Fire Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadilla with Feta and Mozzarella - Served with their spicy hoisin vinaigrette and organic greens. This crowd pleaser is available with your choice of any one item: Original ($8), Chicken ($10), Pork ($10), Steak ($12), Shrimp ($12)
Portabella and Fire Roasted Red Bell Pepper Quesadilla with Feta and Mozzarella – Served with their spicy hoisin vinaigrette and organic greens. This crowd pleaser is available with your choice of any one item: Original ($8), Chicken ($10), Pork ($10), Steak ($12), Shrimp ($12).

Next we have the Sweet and Spicy Szechwan Chicken. If you’re worried about spiciness, no worries, I can’t handle spicy food for beans, but this one I could handle. Chance um!

And yes, that is an empty space in the bottom left corner. Chef Norlan couldn’t wait to dig in before I took the photo! That should tell you how good this dish is! *grin*

Sweet and Spicy Szechwan Chicken, $10 - An adaptation of a northern Chinese dish. In this recipe, they stir-fry bell peppers, carrots, and onions with their own Szechwan glaze
Sweet and Spicy Szechwan Chicken, $10 – An adaptation of a northern Chinese dish. In this recipe, they stir-fry bell peppers, carrots, and onions with their own Szechwan glaze.

On a previous trip to Osake’s, I ordered their famous Dynamite Chicken. Here’s a snap of the dish and associated caption/description. Yeah gang, it IS as good as it looks!

O-sake's Famous Dynamite Chicken, $10 - An ancient secret recipe passed down through many generations. Tastefully redesigned to appease the modern palette. Instantly addicting!
O-sake’s Famous Dynamite Chicken, $10 – An ancient secret recipe passed down through many generations. Tastefully redesigned to appease the modern palette. Instantly addicting!

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I didn’t even get a chance to try this next dish: the Ahi Tartare Martini. I was so intent on getting the interview and all the photos right, that it slipped my mind. According to the menu, it is Chef Norlan’s all star pick, so I guess we’re just going to have to make a return visit and give it a whirl!

Ahi Tartare Tataki Martini, $10 - Chef Norlan's all star pick, a must try! Ponzu lime ceviche jous, myogo, tobiko and chiso. Served in a martini glass
Ahi Tartare Tataki Martini, $10 – Chef Norlan’s all star pick, a must try! Ponzu lime ceviche jous, myogo, tobiko and chiso. Served in a martini glass.

Lastly, we had the “Bomb”-ucha Roll. You don’t really get a good appreciation of the engineering that goes into creating this bridge-like masterpiece at first glance, but when you realize what it is and what it contains, you’re floored. Mystified? OK, I’ll animate it for you to show you what lurks inside: crispy shrimp tempura, unagi, crab, kaiwara and cucumber!

The Bomb-ucha (Bumbucha) Roll, $16 - Crispy shrimp tempura, unagi, crab, kaiware, and cucumber with 3 special sauces
The “Bomb”-ucha (Bumbucha) Roll, $16 – Crispy shrimp tempura, unagi, crab, kaiware, and cucumber with 3 special sauces.

(! – They recently started offering teishoku, or set menu items, so if you’ve been here before and missed it, go on back.)

Convinced yet my pretties?

Well, if the food above isn’t enough to get your mouth watering, how about the prospect of tasting one of 34 different brands of sake (and counting) they carry. It’s their namesake after all.

“We have customers in the know who buy bottles and bottles at a time from us,” proclaims Yonehiro.

Even if you’re a sake beginner, you’ll find a warm home here, as well as in your tummy.

“We make it a point to train and educate our staff with all of our sake products, so if you have any questions or just want to try, come on down and see us,” says Yonehiro.

If you’re more of a beer fan, Osake carries all of the imports you expect to find, and even a rarely seen Japanese import beer called Echigo. Kanpai!

If you’re throwing a special get-together or just want to ack PIMP for one night, Osake’s even has a VIP room that is available for rent.

A bit of a night owl are we? Well, bring your dancing shoes to dinner because we haven’t even mentioned the “it” hotspot that this quaint restaurant metamorphosizes into when the clock strikes 10PM.

That’s right, every night from 10PM-2AM, Osake’s goes from chic eatery to bumpin’ hotspot in a flash. Friday nights – promoted by local radio station Hot 93.9 – is their busiest night, bringing in 1,000+ of Hawaii’s most modish peeps. Saturday nights are just as hot. Wednesday nights offer live music from 7-10PM and is also known as martini night.

No matter what craving it is you may have, Osake Sushi Bar & Lounge is sure to satisfy. Good eats, a wide assortment of refreshing beverages, live music, scratching your dancing itch, people watching, whatever. Osake is where you’ll find it. Support your local businesses and go check um out won’tcha?

Aren’t you glad we flew back from Kauai for this?

Master Sushi Chef Norlan Horita (left) and General Manager Grant Yonehiro welcome you to the sushi bar at Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge
Master Sushi Chef Norlan Horita (left) and General Manager Grant Yonehiro welcome you to the sushi bar at Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge

Osake Sushi Bar & Lounge
1700 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 956-1600
Wednesday through Monday from 5-10PM for dinner and 10PM-2AM for after hours. Closed on Tuesdays.

Kau Kau Kauai

September 1, 2006

Part I | Part II | Part III

OK, so you guys aren’t big on exercise… I get it.

My attempt to foray from my usual food-related columns to an “outdoorsy”-type last month garnered five measly comments all month (four in the last half of the month). It got just as much action as one of my nerdy, computer related pieces before I transitioned to the grindz.

Well, it’s either that, or you are madly in love with me and all of my columns and are just more vocal about the ones with the eats. Yeah, I like that excuse… I think we’ll use it!

OK, you little democratic peeps, you have spoken. Starting this month (and continuing for at least another month or two), I will be covering some of your favorite eateries from our Garden Isle… Kauai.

For one reason or another, I’ve been making many, many trips to the island of Kauai in recent history. Whether it be for business, a wedding at the spectacular Princeville or just for the sheer heck of it, your boy has been racking up the mean mileage. But whatever the occasion, I made sure to equip myself with the trusty camera to capture the moments in time and food for y’all.

To make the most of your day, I would suggest booking an early AM flight to Lihue (if you’re a resident of Kauai, just meet us at the airport and we’ll go get breakfast together). Since we’ll be arriving early, it’ll be perfect timing to pick up our car and head north towards the nearby, and local favorite Tip Top Motel & Cafe.

Tip Top Motel & Cafe Sign
Tip Top Motel & Cafe Sign

Paraphrasing a bit from their pamphlet, here’s a little history on the gem that has been serving the people of Kauai for more than 85 years:

Tip Top originally started as a Cafe & Bakery in November of 1916 by Denjiro Ota, and soon starting baking and delivering fresh bread island wide. In 1925, Denjiro’s creative son Mitchell the took over the business where he introduced pastries, pies and other baked goods that were to become the mainstay of the business. One is the famous pancake recipe which is still used today and another is the Macadamia Nut cookie which was the first Macnut cookie made in Hawaii.

In 1965, Mitchell moved the business a half mile to its present location and built a restaurant, bakery, 34 room motel and a bar. In 1989, Mitchell passed away at the age of 85, leaving the business in the hands of his 30 year old grandson Jonathan, the 4th generation of Otas to run the business.

Tip Top is known for their famous banana/macadamia pancakes, Macadamia nut cookies, and their best seller, the Oxtail soup, but since we’re here for breakfast, let’s get eatin’!

(! – As always, get here early or come during semi-off-peak hours as it’s always crowded, though I’ve been here twice and there was no wait on both occasions…)

Tip Top Cafe morning crowd
Tip Top Cafe morning crowd

Rather than the traditional hand over the shoulder technique, the wait help at Tip Top cutely rolls your order to you on a tray on wheels type contraption.

Meal on wheels
Meal on wheels

On this occasion, we skipped the popular banana/macadamia pancakes and went straight for the hefty items, scrambled eggs, corn beef hash & hash brown, and Loco Moco.

Corn beef hash and eggs with hash brown
Corn beef hash and eggs with hash brown

Loco Moco
Loco Moco

Yum! Another successful morning at Tip Top. Next stop… Waimea Brewing Company.

Tip Top Motel & Cafe
3173 Akahi Street
Lihue, HI 96766 (map)
(808) 245-2333
Open 6:30am-10pm Daily
tiptop@aloha.net

Now that we’ve got the most important meal of the day in our tummies, we should be energized to do something that involves exercise. What do you say? Yeah, I know, not your cup of tea, but c’mon, we’re on vacation! We’re supposed to be doing activities galore. OK, ok, what if I promise more good eats afterwards? I knew I’d getcha with that! 🙂

So let’s head west and do the touristy thing by checking out the Waimea Canyon Lookout.

Waimea Canyon Lookout sign
Waimea Canyon Lookout sign

Since this is a column on food, I’m not going to get too deep into describing the canyon (you can Google it and find all the info you need), but we do have time to kill until lunch, so let’s just pretend you’re with me on this virtual tour of sorts a-ight? 😉

Waimea Canyon lookout
Waimea Canyon lookout

Whew! What a drive huh? And how about that view? I bet you’re hungry for lunch now huh? Well, I’ve got just the place for you! Let’s hit the “World’s Westernmost Brewpub”, the Waimea Brewing Company Restaurant.

Waimea Brewing Company sign
Waimea Brewing Company sign

The Waimea Brewing Company is the self-proclaimed, westernmost pub in the world. To get here, you would drive down that exhausting, winding Waimea Canyon Road, and, instead of turning left to head back towards town, you’d actually take a right (at the West Kauai Technology & Visitor Center). Waimea Brewing Co. will be on your left.

Now I’m not condoning mid-day alcohol consumption by any means, but if you’re a beer connoisseur, you’d enjoy the home-brewed beers at this place, especially after being out in the sun for the past few hours.

Beer at Waimea Brewing Co.

The menu is quite extensive, ranging from pupus like Mango-stout BBQ Ribs and flash fried calamari rings, to entrees like “Jawaiian” Chicken and Coconut Prawns, to burgers to desserts. And this does not include their large drink menu too. On this occasion, I figured the best thing to go with my booze was their “Hawaiian Burger”, a 1/2 pound Angus burger with a thick slice of fresh pineapple & teriyaki sauce served on an onion bun.

The Hawaiian Burger, a 1/2 pound Angus burger with a thick slice of fresh pineapple & teriyaki sauce served on an onion bun
The Hawaiian Burger, a 1/2 pound Angus burger with a thick slice of fresh pineapple & teriyaki sauce served on an onion bun.

Waimea Brewing Company
9400 Kaumuali`i Highway
Waimea, Kauai HI, 96796 (map)
(808) 338-9733
Sunday- Thursday – 11am to 9pm
Friday – Saturday – 11am to 11pm
info@waimeabrewing.com

With our big ol’ bellies, let’s head back to town and see what else we can stuff our faces with. In my July column on Shave Ice, I mentioned Jo Jo’s Clubhouse, a popular Shave Ice hut along Kaumuali`i Highway. Since it’s on our way back, why not eh?

Jo Jo's Clubhouse
Jo Jo’s Clubhouse

Jo Jo’s Clubhouse
Mile Marker 23, Kaumualii Highway (Hwy. 50)
Waimea, Hawaii 96796 (map)
(808) 635-7615

Other notable, but highly touristy stops on the way back are the Kauai Kookie Kompany (1-3529 Kaumuali`i Highway, Hanapepe, Kauai, HI. 96716. Open M-F from 8am-4pm, and Sat and Sun from 9am-4pm. Call 1-800-361-1126 for more info), Kauai Coffee Company (Just past Eleele, on Kaumuali`i Highway, as you head toward Poipu. Open seven days a week from 9am-5pm. Call (808) 335-0813 for more info) and the Kauai Chocolate Company (Port Allen Marina Center – 4341 Waialo Road, Eleele, HI 96705. Call (808) 335-0448 for more info).

OK, so we’ve got some time to kill before dinner. What do you feel like doing? Hit Poipu Beach for some fun in the sun? Do a little shopping in Old Koloa Town? How about we split up and meet back in Kapa`a at around 6PM? Cool? Cool!

*some time later…*

OK gang. Welcome back! Did you have a good time? What’s say we hit up this joint called Lemongrass Grill Seafood & Sushi Bar?

Lemongrass Grill Seafood & Sushi Bar

Lemongrass Grill Seafood & Sushi Bar is a fairly newer establishment in the quaint little town of Kapa`a. The usual hotspot for sushi here is local favorite Kintaro’s, but to be quite honest, I liked the sushi from Lemongrass a lot better (sorry Kintaro fans!).

Editor’s Note: It was recently reported that Lemongrass Grill no longer serves sushi. I called them and they confirmed this. If anyone knows why, please use the Comment Field below to discuss.

With a menu that hinted towards influences from Japan (sushi) and Italy (pasta), the main theme (including restaurant design) was definitely Thai.

On this occasion, we started with the Asian Marinated Chicken Satay for our appetizer, and threw in a couple of sushi handrolls – the Volcano Roll (masago & katsuo bushi on a California roll with a special spicy sauce) and the Spider Roll (deep fried soft shell crab with cucumber) – for good measure.

Note: apologies for the color clarity on these photos, but the lighting at Lemongrass was not all that bright.

Asian Marinated Chicken Satay - served with green papaya salad, crispy fried noodle and spicy peanut sauce for $7.50
Asian Marinated Chicken Satay – served with green papaya salad, crispy fried noodle and spicy peanut sauce for $7.50

Volcano Roll - masago & katsuo bushi on a California roll with a special spicy sauce for $6.75
Volcano Roll – masago & katsuo bushi on a California roll with a special spicy sauce for $6.75

Spider Roll - deep fried soft shell crab with cucumber for $11.50
Spider Roll – deep fried soft shell crab with cucumber for $11.50

We then moved on to our main dishes of Guava Glazed BBQ Ribs and Sauteed Shrimp with Penne Pasta.

Guava Glazed BBQ Ribs - Baby back ribs cooked just right, basted with our guava BBQ sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob for $17.50
Guava Glazed BBQ Ribs – Baby back ribs cooked just right, basted with our guava BBQ sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob for $17.50

Sauteed Shrimp with Penne Pasta - A garlic white wine broth garnished with capers and tomatoes for $21
Sauteed Shrimp with Penne Pasta – A garlic white wine broth garnished with capers and tomatoes for $21

Lemongrass Grill Seafood & Sushi Bar
4-885 Kuhio Highway
Kapa`a, Kauai, HI 96746 (map)
Tel: (808) 821-2888 or (808) 822-2288
Fax: (808) 822-1221

As mentioned before, an alternative in close proximity to Lemongrass is the local favorite Kintaro Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar (4-370 Kuhio Highway). Another somewhat new establishment is Wahooo (not misspelled) Seafood Grill & Bar, but I did not have a good experience there (rude host, costly and questionable food).

So we’ve gone an entire day with breakfast in Lihue, lunch and a sweet snack out in Waimea, and dinner in Kapa`a, and are almost ready to head back to our crib (hotel or otherwise) for some shut eye. Before we hit the hay though, let’s go for a little nightcap at a local hangout called the Lizard Lounge Bar & Grill in the Waipouli Town Center in Kapa`a.

Lizard Lounge Bar & Grill

With dart boards, video games, pool tables and a full bar, hanging out for hours at the Lizard Lounge is not hard to do. They’re open nightly until 2am. Go check um out!

Lizard Lounge Bar & Grill
Waipouli Town Center
4-771 Kuhio Highway
Kapa`a, Kauai, HI 96746 (map)
Tel: (808) 821-2205
Email: lizardlounge@kauai.com

OK, now we’re really ready for some shut eye. Let’s get our rest so we can start early tomorrow morning (a.k.a. next month’s column) for more eating adventures in Kauai.

No worries gang… I haven’t forgotten about the local favorites like Hamura’s Saimin, Brick Oven Pizza, Ono’s Family Restaurant, and much more! We’ll see each other “bright and early” to cover those and many more in Kau Kau Kauai Part 2.

Part I | Part II | Part III