Magazine article Sunset

Honolulu's New Wave

Magazine article Sunset

Honolulu's New Wave

Article excerpt

TRAVEL

Traditional Japanese cuisine gets a Hawaiian-style flavor infusion

The big umbrellas hanging from the ceiling of L'Uraku come in a riotous rainbow of colors, an unusual design flourish for a fine Japanese restaurant-even here in Honolulu. But chef Hiroshi Fukui reckons the bright decor is an apt reflection of his souped-up fare, which massages Tokyo and Paris onto the same plate. Witness his showstopping seared sea scallop topped with kabayaki beurre blanc sauce and a Japanese takana bacon ragout.

L'Uraku is in the vanguard of Hawaii restaurants taking traditionbound Japanese cuisine in new directions. Influences ranging from increased availability of locally grown ingredients to the wild creativity seen on the Japanese television show Iron Chef have sparked the renaissance.

Hawaii is a natural for this new-style fusion cuisine because local chefs grew up with nori, agedashi, and other ingredients that remain exotic to many mainland chefs. And while menus may be experimental, they are still essentially Japanese. The restaurants below are serving up a unique mesclun of Japanese sensibilities, Hawaii ingredients, and international savoir faire with dishes that you won't find anywhere else in the world.

Three downtown restaurants Imanas Tei. This modern izakaya (a place to stay and drink) is located near the University of Hawaii. Patrons often wait a half hour to get a table. The sleek interior sports bamboo curtains, blond woods, and a long communal table. Some of chef-owner Keisuke Asai's food is traditional, but it also includes many nouveau efforts such as delicious clams cooked in white wine, garlic, and butter. …

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