We try three—oops, make that two-and-a-half—new hotspots at the Trump International.
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According to the menu, the trio of donburi was supposed to be tuna, ika and ebi, not hamachi. First, we hadn’t noticed, and, two, we would have gladly traded hamachi for shrimp any day. Still, to deliver on the menu’s promise, she handed us a fourth rice bowl, this time with pieces of cold, firm shrimp, cooked in some Japanese culinary miracle that whispered along the edges of flavor.
Wow. If we hadn’t ordered entrées, I would have finished all the rice and gone on to dessert. But I held back. One of us had ordered misoyaki butterfish, the other two, in the spirit of exploration, had ordered pasta.
Don’t make the same mistake. If you find yourself at In-Yo, confine yourself to Japanese food. The spaghetti carbonara, a white mound on a white plate, was acceptable, the standard pancetta, onion, Parmesan, with a touch of cream in the sauce. But at $22 a plate? In-Yo just doesn’t compete with the Japanese-Italian restaurants in its neighborhood, Arancino and Taormina.
I came to that conclusion even before I tasted my gnocchi in its rather too-sweet tomato cream sauce. Gnocchi are supposed to be petite pillows of potato and pasta flour, little light things that offer just enough resistance to the bite to tease you, then melt away into nothing.
These were round and ridged, fat as gnocchi go, and unpalatable in texture. “Perhaps,” said one of my companions, happily consuming her butterfish, golden and glistening, “perhaps the kitchen thought it was making mochi.”
I ate a few bites and stopped, wishing I still had the rice from the donburi.
Undeterred, we pressed on to dessert. The kaffir lime sorbet was reasonably refreshing, though hardly more subtle than a regular lime sorbet. The cheesecake was Japanese cheesecake, lighter than American, three decorative small slices, more cakey than cheesy. The bread pudding was the opposite, a tall, baked cylinder, perhaps overbaked, dense, almost unchewable. I’ve had tenderer muffins.
The price of dinner for three? Two hundred and fifty dollars with tip, a pair of cocktails, some ice tea. Both you and I have had better meals for less, the donburi and clams notwithstanding. I can see that if you were staying in the hotel and tired, just going downstairs for dinner would have its attractions. But otherwise?
John Heckathorn has been writing award-winning restaurant reviews for HONOLULU Magazine since 1984.