Tuesday, August 16, 2011

$10 Tapas at Nobu Waikiki

$10 Tapas at Nobu Waikiki

Oh, oh, oh. Tonkatsu bites made with braised pork belly. Only $10 at Nobu Lounge, one of the great deals on a 26-item pupu menu.

John Heckathorn

Such a deal.

A friend and I dropped by the lounge at Nobu Waikiki for a drink. And ended up spending nearly four hours eating.

The lounge is a pleasant enough environment, with beautiful, subtle textures on the wall, and bar. It's a cross between Tokyo and New York.

The drinks, everyone probably knows by now, are handcrafted, first quality, exceptional. You can order anything here and it's made right, or the bartenders can ask you what you like and come up with a cocktail to suit. 

But did I mention the food?

The lounge has a 26-item pupu menu, all priced $10 and under. It's even a better deal than that, since you can choose any three items plus a dessert for $32. 

That's right: four Nobu courses, with nice local touches from chef Robin Lee, for $32.

We started eating and could barely get ourselves to quit. Some highlights:

• Rock shrimp (left) in a crunchy, yet not overbearing tempura batter, ready to dip in a spicy, housemade aioli that's far better than the usual "Dynamite Sauce" served up by local sushi bars.

• Nobu's Miso Black Cod (which is essentially the world's best butterfish) in fresh lettuce cups.

Crispy Duck Harumaki, which are spring rolls stuffed with duck and spring onions, to dip in a spicy miso sauce.

• Shrimp Tobanyaki, local head-on prawns cooked in a ceramic dish with a butter-shoyu-garlic-citrus sauce so great we ordered a side of rice and poured the extra sauce over it. "This so good, you could throw away the shrimp and just eat the sauce," said my friend.

• Tonkatsu Bits. This is one of Robin Lee's recent innovations, local food kicked up a notch: braised pork belly, deep-fried in a crispy batter, topped with a cucumber-yogurt mix, on a tamarind reduction.

• Finally—break out the exclamation points!!!—Gyoza stuffed with Foie Gras and Wagyu Beef, each set atop kabocha puree and drizzled with kabayaki (right). 

These come three to a $10 order, and rather than have the two of us fight over the third, we just got two orders. You might go to Nobu just for these; get your own order, don't share.

You wouldn't think after all that, we'd order dessert. But then we read the dessert menu. "Goat cheese muffin tops with black pepper ice cream?!" said my friend. "Who thinks of these things?"

Nobu's young local pastry chef Rachel Murai, that's who. She slices the tops off her goat cheese cakes and toasts them, then serves them with a black pepper ice cream which preserves the buzzy bite of the pepper through the freezing process, no mean trick. 

The dessert is perfectly balanced: the cake both sweet and tangy, the ice cream both sweet and savory, the plate dotted with lemon curd and a few fresh berries. "OMG," said my friend. "It actually tastes great."

We ended up with 10 courses (I skipped a few here, but all were good). It was, in fact, an extraordinary bargain dinner, casual, a whole array of tastes, not to mention a serious array of cocktails.

There are some happy hour drink specials, Monday through Thursday, 5 to 7 p.m. However, every hour is happy hour for the pupu menu:  You can order anything at these prices any night from 5 p.m. to midnight.

Nobu Waikiki, Waikiki Parc Hotel, 2233 Helumoa Road, 237-6999, noburestaurants.com

Posted on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 in Permalink

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From five-star restaurants to hidden holes-in-the-wall, Biting Commentary will let you know what’s hot and what’s not. Find out the latest restaurant news—who’s opening, who’s closing, which chef is moving on, where the great special dinners are. Discover the best menu items, fabulous wines, stunning cocktails, hand-crafted beers. Be the first to hear about upcoming food events and festivals.

Food editor Martha Cheng graduated from Wellesley College with degrees in Computer Science and English. She's a former line cook, food truck owner, Peace Corps volunteer and Google techie. Follow her on Twitter @marthacheng.


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