First Look: Kikue, a New Soba-Focused Restaurant Opens in Kaimukī
Find an extensive sake collection and modern soba bowls.
Photos: Martha Cheng
“Soba gaki has the texture of pa‘i‘ai,” says our server, when we ask him to explain the menu. Kikue in Honolulu is probably the only place anywhere you’d hear a line like that. The new restaurant in Kaimukī (in the former Kona Kai space) soft-opened a few weeks ago, and it specializes in soba, which is made in-house. But while the soba gaki ($8), served with wasabi and shoyu (and which does indeed have the texture of pa‘i‘ai) is a traditional preparation made with soba flour, most of Kikue’s soba bowls lean modern. The cold uni soba ($18) is topped with uni foam and caviar and surrounded by a dashi jelly, and there’s a truffle soba ($18), too.
Ching says the owner, who is from Japan, is an “IT guy” and intrigued by gadgets, so he bought a soba machine that makes juwari soba—100% buckwheat noodles, a rarity when most soba is a mix of wheat flour and buckwheat. (And yes, this means Kikue’s soba is gluten-free, since buckwheat isn’t actually wheat.) The result is a firmer bite, especially in Kikue’s cold noodle preparations—in the hot preparations, it was a bit softer than I like it.
The sake collection at Kikue, though, is the real highlight. There are more than 20 different sake by the glass and bottles ranging from a Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo ($15) to Dewazakura Yukimanman Daiginjo ($222). Manager Bong Ching, who used to work at Teppanyaki Ginza Onodera and built its extensive wine list, hopes to grow Kikue’s offerings from its current 40 to at least 80 different sake.
"Three battleships" from the tasting menu—negitoro, ikura, negi hamachi sushi
Kikue also offers a tasting menu ($80) of 11 dishes, progressing from a cold chawanmushi with uni and caviar to torched slices of wagyu beef and ending with your choice of uni, truffle or pork belly soba. All in all, though, I’d rather stick to the soba and explore Kikue’s sake menu, which offers plenty of room for discovery and delight.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday open from 5:30 to 9:30, Friday open until 10 p.m., closed Wednesdays. 3579 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 376-8576
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