Posts Tagged ‘Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi’

Fave Friday – Hawaii Chefs

January 29, 2010

I know, I know, there are not many to choose from, in terms of really well-known chefs from Hawaii. Let’s see, off the top of my head, we got the big dogs like Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, Sam Choy, Russell Siu, Chai Chaowasaree, Chef Mavro (George Mavrothalassitis), etc., and some of the lesser known, but equally impressive, like Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi, Collin Nishida and Onjin Kim (anybody know what happened to her btw?).

In the comment area below, list your favorite Hawaii Chef(s) and why. Whether it be their cooking ability, ono-ness of their restaurant, their personality, or all of the above. I have a few for various reasons:

  • Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi: He’s the co-owner of Tokkuri-Tei, my all-time favorite restaurant, hands-down. He’s down to earth and has a hilarious sense of humor. Santa always makes me crack up without even saying a word.
  • Chuck Furuya: Yeah, he’s not really a chef, but close enough. He runs Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar in Restaurant Row, and, oh by the way, is one of only two Master Sommeliers in the state of Hawaii. He’s genuine and friendly and has a knack for taking the intimidation out of wine. Back in college when I worked at KHET Hawaii Public Television, we filmed a segment with him for one of our shows. During setup, he yells to this little student grunt (me) across the room and says “Eh, I know you! I played ball with you in Hawaii Kai the other weekend! Remember me?” Stunned, I was like “Huh!?” Then I realized he was talking to me and was able to muster up this glorious response: “Me? Oh yeah!” We continued to shoot segments with him and he would always take the time to make conversation with all of us about anything and everything. Recently, I saw him with his son at Cafe Laufer and he still recognized me and shook my hand. What an awesome guy!
  • Sam Choy: just seems really friendly and welcoming. Plus, he loves him some poke. My kinda guy!
  • Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong: though insanely intimidating, these two guys seem warm hearted in person and continue to stay true to their roots, choosing to buy local whenever possible. My “claim to fame” for Roy Yamaguchi was that I gave him a ride to and from Roy’s Hawaii Kai – in my little Civic hatchback – before and after a shoot in our KHET studios (I lived in Hawaii Kai at the time and it was looked at as a better, more economical idea than sending a production van out to Hawaii Kai to pick him up). My “claim to fame” for Alan Wong was actually a few days ago when I interviewed him for Part II of my “Poke Paradise” series for, set to be published on February 1st. 8) Here’s a little sneak peek for y’all! Let me know what you think!

An Interview with Alan Wong

Talk to me!
* Post your favorite Hawaii chefs below and why.
* Thoughts on the above interview?
* Excited about the new iPad?
* Excited about the Olympics?

Have a happy VH07V Friday and weekend y’all! See you on the flipside! 🙂

Tokkuri Tei – The Izaka-ya to Die-ya For

May 1, 2008
Tokkuri Tei – The Izaka-ya to Die-ya For | Tokkuri Tei – Revisited

Our company recently completed a weight-loss competition, in which we – depending on how serious you were – stripped ourselves of the bare essentials. For some, these “essentials” included cake, pork chops, deep fried foods, or a combination of the three. For me, it was sushi!

Twenty one “out-of-thin-air” pounds and many, luscious, raw fish dreams later, my stomach was ready to eat itself, but I maintained and did what my momma told me: I finished what I started. So when it was time to treat myself to my “first meal” of sorts, the first (and only!) place that came to mind was Tokkuri Tei, a small, izaka-ya type Japanese restaurant off Kapahulu Avenue.

Tokkuri Tei Sign
Tokkuri Tei Sign

Tokkuri Tei is, by far, my favorite “treat yourself” place to eat. With the most authentic tasting food and most realistic feeling izaka-ya vibe, it is as close to Japan that you can get without the hefty airfare.

I’ve mentioned the word izaka-ya a few times now, including in my title. Some of you are probably scratching your head asking yourself “what the heck is that buffoon referring to?” Loosely translated, the term izaka-ya in Japanese is a sake store/shop. In Japan, the term usually refers to a bar/pub that, in addition to sake (and other alcoholic drinks), serves up food, and good food at that. It’s always a popular pau hana stop for the hard working Japanese population because it’s casual and cheap, and sometimes carries unique, adventurous dishes you don’t often see anywhere else.

Teriyaki Cream Tofu - $7.50: Tofu got a French Twist
Teriyaki Cream Tofu – $7.50: “Tofu got a French Twist”

Tokkuri Tei is no different. They’ve been serving up some of the most innovative, imaginative and irresistible dishes since opening their doors at their initial location on Sheridan Street in 1989. Like their izaka-ya counterparts in Japan, when they were at this location, only a select number of us “in-the-know” knew of this relative hole-in-the-wall hot spot. Since moving to their more spacious Kapahulu location in 2000, the word has gotten out.

Tokkuri Tei’s humble beginnings started when Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi, former manager of a Japanese restaurant named Shiruhachi, and Kazu “Kaz” Mitake, former sushi chef for Yanagi Sushi met and started a lunch wagon in Campbell Industrial Park in 1987. (Editor’s note: “Santa” explains that his nickname has nothing to do with Santa Claus. It is a Japanese name that means three times fatter than the others.)

“We were always talking about opening an izakaya type restaurant,” said Miyoshi. “In 1989, we got an investor from Japan and started Tokkuri tei. Originally we tried to name this restaurant ‘Izakaya Non’ literally ‘drinking’, since our corporation name is N.O.N. enterprises, too, but Izakaya Nonbei was open just before us. Kaz’s wife came up with this name “Tokkuri tei”. The logo represents the top view of the sake bottle in ‘masu’ (traditional square sake container).”

Too bad “Scrumptilicious” was already taken because that’s what the food here is. OK, so there’s nowhere actually named “Scrumptilicious,” but ya get the point.

Ika Yaki - $7.50: Squid pancake taste like pumpkin pie (not quite)
Ika Yaki – $7.50: “Squid pancake taste like pumpkin pie (not quite)”

It’s easy making a “drinking” place with decent tasting food, but Tokkuri Tei has taken things to another level. Part, or I should say most of the reason for their success in the kitchen is the strength of both Kaz and Santa’s culinary background.

“Kaz is a very experienced chef. He is in (the) line of cooking for 30 years and also understands (the) importance of customers’ feedback,” says Santa. “He started working at Zippy’s, Furusato, Marushin, Torigin, Ohortsuku, then Yanagi. I was working for a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo before I came here as a (restaurant) manager. But we had trouble with our chef, so I had to start cooking to maintain the restaurant. Several friends taught me how to cook including Kaz. After I left the restaurant, I worked for Kengo’s for a year as a sashimi cutter. I dealt with 400 pounds of ahi every day. Then I worked for Shogun for little while. Then we started the lunch wagon.”

Santa has won awards in the Aloha Shoyu cooking contests, placed multiple times in Sam Choy’s Poke Contest (1st in 2000, 2nd in 2001), and was a top ten finalist for Tabasco’s cooking contests. At the Kapolei Uncorked event last year, he, alongside of Alan Wong, D.K. Kodama, and other top chefs, was a featured “Culinary Star.” The restaurant was featured in the New York Times, Elle Décor, Travel & Leisure and Sunset Magazine and is one of Oahu’s 100 Best Restaurants as named by the Honolulu Advertiser’s readers.

But don’t take my word for it. Feast your eyes on the shots below of the more popular dishes served here.

Ahi Tar-Tare Poke - $15: 1997 Sam Choy's Poke Contest Winner
Ahi Tar-Tare Poke – $15: 1997 Sam Choy’s Poke Contest Winner

There's a Spider in Da Poke - $16: 2000 Sam Choy's Poke Contest Winner
There’s a Spider in Da Poke – $16: 2000 Sam Choy’s Poke Contest Winner

Stuffed Portobello - $9.50: Portobello stuffed with sticky rice - yes it's half eaten!
Stuffed Portobello – $9.50: Portobello stuffed with sticky rice – yes it’s half eaten!

If you’re a butter fan, try something from their Bata Itame section on the menu. My favorite is the Tako! Imo! (Octopus! Potato!) choice.

Tako! Imo! - $6.50: Potato & Octopus
Tako! Imo! – $6.50: Potato & Octopus

One of the more amusing things you’ll notice about the menu is the descriptions of the dishes. It’s one thing that many of the dish titles are Japanese, but when you see things descriptions like “You Do Who! What?” (Yu Dofu), “I can’t explain. Can you?” (Kanpyo Roll), “It tastes better than worm” (Caterpillar Roll) or my personal favorite “You’ll never know till you try.” (Anago Yanagawa), it doesn’t help much.

Funny, vague dish descriptions
Funny, vague dish descriptions

Thankfully, you can go omakase (“leave it up to them”) if they like you and they’re not too busy. This is when you tell them what kinds of ingredients you like, and they’ll concoct dishes based around those interests. You can rest assured though that whatever comes out of their kitchen, omakase or not, will be top notch!

So what’s next for Hawaii’s best Izaka-ya? Believe it or not, they are planning to publish a cook book. You can be sure that I’ll be the first in line to pick up that puppy. After all, I’ve got 21 sushi-filled pounds to put back!

Tokkuri Tei
611 Kapahulu Ave, Suite 102
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 739-2800
Mon-Fri 10:30am-2pm
Mon-Fri 5:30pm-12am
Tokkuri Tei – The Izaka-ya to Die-ya For | Tokkuri Tei – Revisited