An outgrowth of a smaller restaurant on Makaloa Street, Kaiwa is one of the few culinary successes on the new Waikiki, Beach Walk. It’s a little Japanese jewel box of a place. The main dining room has a tiled wall, down which runs a shimmering cascade of water. The zashiki room is a version of a tatami room, with white carpet instead of tatami mats, white tables, little white pillows with just enough back support to make sitting through a whole meal with your feet in a well comfortable. The room’s set off from the restaurant by a beaded curtain, except the beads are actually bright fiber optics. The food’s as stunning as the décor. In my view, the best strategy is to start trying small plates at random, all the unexpected little pupu.

For instance, the renkon cheese yaki. This dish is more or less a grilled cheese sandwich, with lotus root instead of bread. The crunch of lotus root against the warm, flowing, oozy protein punch of melted cheese makes this an experience perfect for drinking Dewazakura Oka, that most congenial of sakes...

ARCHIVED:  Read John Heckathorn's entire review in our "Itadakimasu, Five Times," November 2007 issue.