New restaurant: YuZu
Photos by Martha Cheng
Temari sampler. From left to right, top to bottom: salmon with ikura and wasabi mayo, unagi, hamachi with yuzu, snapper with shiso and ume, tuna with shoyu, shrimp with kochujang.
I worry about YuZu. It’s the latest project of the husband-and-wife chef team behind Kaiwa and now-closed Hale Macrobiotic, which was a mostly vegetarian upscale restaurant. Yuzu is a delicious place, but it’s tucked away (really tucked away) into a corner of Ala Moana Hotel. It’s completely invisible from the street and hidden even from Ala Moana Hotel guests. But if you’re determined enough to seek it out, you’ll be rewarded with cut-to-order fresh udon, thick and chewy, and YuZu’s unique temari sushi, best described as sushi balls. The menu is currently somewhat limited, but there’s still enough to delight. There’s the lotus root pizza ($8.95), cheese griddled with crunchy lotus root, oozing through the root’s rotary telephone-like holes. The temari sampler ($10.95) is a platter of adorable round sushi—easier to eat than nigiri—that includes salmon topped with wasabi mayo and ikura, snapper with shiso and ume, shrimp with kochujang and hamachi with yuzu. No shoyu needed here. Veggie sushi ($3.95 for two pieces) are remarkable stand-ins for their fishy counterparts: carrot is pureed to look and feel like uni in the mouth and a peeled tomato could be twins with ahi in appearances and texture.
Udon with kakiage (shrimp and gobo fritter). This one's good, but the sukiyaki beef udon is even better.
As far as the fresh udon, the spicy sukiyaki beef ($9.95) was a clear favorite—a solid, comforting bowl of noodles providing balance to the whimsical sushi at YuZu.
Inside Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Dr., 943-1155, yuzuhawaii.com