First Look: Gochi Grill in Downtown
Gourmet meatloaf, tuna melt with ‘ahi and the kind of presentation you’d expect from a fine-dining chef.
Clockwise from top: Kalbi with lemongrass chimichurri, fresh tuna melt, Gochi Lunch Set and seared meatloaf plate lunches.
Anyone who’s worked in Downtown knows the lunch dilemma: There are so many great places to eat—The Pig & The Lady, J.J. Dolan’s, Encore Saloon, Fête, Square Barrels, Artizen by MW, the list goes on—but you somehow run out of places to go.
We ate pizza yesterday. I don’t feel like ramen. We went there last week for an office birthday.
Yeah, we feel you.
So whenever a new lunch spot opens in Downtown or Chinatown—and there have been several this year so far—we get super excited.
I was particularly curious about one that opened this month in the space vacated by The Baker & Butcher in the Remington College food court on Bishop Street. It’s called Gochi Grill and it’s helmed by chef-owner John Iha, whom I met back when he was the executive chef at Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas. He was one of those underrated chefs, a guy you didn’t hear much about but who could whip up perfectly executed and plated dishes as good as any fine-dining chef around. But he’s humble and quiet, preferring to put his head down and work instead of clamoring for the spotlight.
And that’s still true about him. Despite running his own takeout restaurant in Downtown, he still ducks from attention, pointing to his crew as the real stars. That’s just how he is.
Iha had been looking to open a small takeout spot in Downtown and this 900-square-foot space was perfect. “I fell in love with it immediately,” says Iha, 41. “I loved the location, size and community here. Our neighbors are wonderful.”
Who not open in a bigger space? “I wanted something small and simple,” he explains. “I realize I have a tendency to complicate things, especially when it comes to food.”
Iha saw that no one was really doing elevated plate lunches, so he created a menu that paired classic local comfort dishes with something a little extra: fresh tuna melt with local ʻahi mixed with a lemon-nori aioli and kizami (chopped) wasabi ($10.50); seared slow-roasted meatloaf with a truffle-mushroom gravy, wilted kale and a tasty potato-and-bacon croquette ($10.50); and kalbi using boneless short ribs topped with a lemongrass chimichurri and choi sum ($11.50). He also included a “corned beef” pork belly with charred cabbage, mustard sauce and simmered veggies ($10.50)—a favorite of master sommelier Chuck Furuya, with whom he worked at Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas.
From left: Sean Uyehara, Brent Kawano and owner John Iha.
If you want to try a little bit of everything, opt for the Gochi Lunch Set. At $13.50, it’s a deal, with grilled chicken teriyaki, yuzu-miso salmon, Okuhara fried saimin, tofu salad and sushi.
Gochi Grill also serves two desserts at $5 each: a Jameson-infused bread pudding with banana, peanut butter and chocolate, topped with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and slivers of basil; and a creamy blueberry-infused Italian panna cotta with fresh berries and whipped cream.
Jameson-infused bread pudding (above) and blueberry-infused panna cotta.
About the name, it’s a play on the Japanese phrase, “Gochisousama,” which means, “Thank you for the delicious meal.”
Memorize it. You’ll want to use it next time you’re here.
1111 Bishop St., Suite 112, (808) 585-8558, gochigrillhonolulu.com