If you’re looking for a place to eat in Honolulu, Oahu, that serves incredibly fresh Hawaiian ingredients with a Japanese twist, try Morimoto Waikiki. Yes, this is the famous Chef Masaharu Morimoto of television’s “Iron Chef” fame. The celebrity chef has a number of restaurants around the world, all featuring similar menus. We chose Morimoto Waikiki, which is located just steps away from the Waikiki Marina on the second floor of the Modern Hotel, because of the restaurant’s farm fresh reputation. We were pleasantly surprised to find it’s a tasty, healthy, and quite affordable choice for lunch.
We sat on the cool, covered deck overlooking the marina. The lunch menu is elegant and includes hot and cold appetizers like Morimoto style poke (the famous Hawaiian raw tuna salad), soups and noodles, salads, rice bowls, sushi by the piece, as well as several lunch “sets,” combos of sushi and/or tempura with miso soup, rice, and mixed salad ($22).
We started our meal with a couple of appetizers, including the Spicy Alaskan King crab with tobajan aioli, tobiko (flying fish roe), and micro cilantro. It featured big chunks of sweet crab in the shell (the top of the shell removed for easy access) with the tobiko adding crunch and brininess and the hot aioli lending sweet heat. The crab dish came with house made fries that were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and served with sweet-hot aioli that made them absolutely addictive.
We also ordered six pork gyoza (pot stickers) that came in a chunky tomato sauce with bacon cream foam. The dish was covered with a potato starch tuile that formed the most amazing transparent bubble over the shallow serving bowl and created an impressive presentation. The pork filling in the pot stickers was interesting and complex. The bacon foam added a subtle smoky pork flavor with the Chinese chili and tomato sauce lifting the dish to a whole new level. Both appetizers were big. In fact, you could order a few appetizers and easily make a meal of them.
Next came our sushi/sashimi lunch set, four pieces of sushi and eight pieces of sashimi. It included big eye tuna, saba or mackerel, Tai, King salmon, yellow tail. It was so fresh, it simply melted in our mouths. It was served with a cup of flavorful miso, white rice, and a citrusy salad of local greens, tomatoes and cucumbers.
We also split an order of shrimp and vegetable tempura and it was the best we’d ever eaten—the shrimp was super fresh, sweet, and lightly crispy; the tempered purple yam and peppers were both tasty and beautiful.
The restaurant’s website states, “Morimoto Waikiki is committed to working together with its partners in the community.” Executive Sous Chef Andy Reagan told us that means buying plenty of fresh vegetables like micro-greens from farms like Fresh Island Edibles and local range free chickens. He buys the freshest fish daily, including many Hawaiian species, from Honolulu’s famous daily fish auction. “Fish that was caught yesterday is on our menu today,” he told us with a smile.
Real Bottom Line: There’s a reason chef Masaharu Morimoto is lauded as an Iron Chef. He’s a truly inspired craftsman. Lunch at Morimoto Waikiki is an adventure for the taste buds. The food, Hawaiian ingredients with a Japanese twist, is light and fresh and won’t disappoint. While lunch is terrific, next time we’re looking to experience Morimoto Waikiki’s dinner options. We’re certain they’ll be even more exciting. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor; Photography Anne Weaver, RFT Editor