Heiho House Pop-ups Offer a Taste of an Upcoming Kaimukī Izakaya
Square Barrels’ owners preview inventive drinks and dishes in a series of tasting-menu dinners.
Big Island kampachi crudO.
Photos: Sarah Burchard
We began with a fizzy green-juice-esque gin cocktail infused with citrus and amaranth to mirror a Big Island kampachi crudo daintily dressed with chrysanthemum-vinegar compressed fennel, pickled coriander berries that popped in your mouth, spicy cilantro blossoms, and molasses-y drops of maroon char siu puree resting in a refreshing pool of fresh amaranth juice. Though Heiho House bills itself as an izakaya, suffice it to say that these are not your typical izakaya drinks and dishes.
Square Barrels frontman Thomas Ray and co-owner Hideo Simon welcomed guests to last week’s pop-up preview of Heiho House, Ray and Simon’s upcoming izakaya in the former Ichiriki Kaimukī space. While the pop-up serves a tasting menu, the upcoming restaurant will be more izakaya style, with small plates a la carte and omakase dinners select nights of the week. Joseph Arakawa, beverage director of Heiho and Square Barrels, and executive chef Aaron Lopez, formerly of Mid-Late Summer and PAI Honolulu, created the pop-up’s five-course tasting menu with drink pairings ($135 including tax and tip).
SOY-MILK-POACHED KAUA‘I PRAWN.
Our second course, soy-milk-poached Kaua‘i prawns glazed in sticky watermelon juice before being kissed by the grill, arrived next. The crunchy shards of spiced chicken skin laid over top punctuated the dish. I am hoping that Heiho House will sell these skins as a bar snack. A combination of Yanagita barley shochu and a high-quality fresh yuzu sake served up like a martini cut the richness of the dish, while the sumac and peppery ground-and-dried-shrimp rim echoed the spirit of its edible counterpart.
“What we are actually going for is more of a little dance,” Arakawa says about his approach to pairings. “We want them to kind of play with each other a little bit, without stepping on anyone’s toes.”
SEE ALSO: Takeout Tip of the Day: Square Barrels
To salute local craft beer, Arakawa selected Lanikai Brewing Co.’s signature wild-yeast-fermented saison. Its fuschia hibiscus undertones matched the color of the sliced mountain apples in Lopez’s pork course. Pickling the seasonal pearlike fruit with mustard seeds and rose water mimicked the salty tartness of an umeboshi and reinvigorated the classic pairing of pork chops and applesauce.
For the fourth course, Lopez gradually transitioned us to dessert via a nourishing ginseng soup to help settle the belly. Ricotta dumplings and a soy-cured egg yolk thickened the broth, while slippery wood-ear mushrooms gave me something crunchy to chew on. The wino in me rejoiced when I was handed a big, meaty glass of 2016 E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage syrah to complement the earthiness of the dish and to reinforce Arakawa’s nontraditional approach to pairings.
Although originally a savory chef, spending 10 years in Los Angeles kitchens such as Redbird and Orsa & Winston, Lopez’s dessert course stemmed from his experience owning an ice-cream company and making pastries for PAI. Firm chunks of citrusy, pulverized perilla-seed cake topped a lagoon of sesame-leaf ice cream with sugary bits that tasted like Cap’n Crunch cereal, capturing my attention with each bite. A bright-orange goji-berry mousse reminiscent of Silly String was whimsically squiggled on top. If the portion had been five times the size, I still would have licked up every last drop.
Equally matched in wow factor was the last cocktail of the night—a clarified milk punch with four-year barrel-aged Koloa rum, corn and barley tea, lemon and goji berries. The clarified milk-punch technique extracts a pleasant milk flavor and creaminess while leaving behind a clear drink.
“Any time I use a spirit or beer or anything and I’m serving it,” Arakawa says, “I always try to keep in mind that this is something someone put their entire life toward, and, if you’re not doing that justice, what are you really doing?”
Joseph Arakawa, beverage director of Heiho and Square Barrels.
Lopez takes the same approach. Before designing this menu, he spent an entire day hanging out with farmers from Bear Claw Farm, Da Farm and Ahiki Acres to discuss ideas on how they could work together. Many of the ingredients for the dinner came from these farms.
Simon, who has been busy remodeling the former Ichiriki space on 11th Street near Wai‘alae while Ray runs daily operations at Square Barrels, is getting back to his roots with this project. Heiho House will honor the izakaya that his mom once owned back in Japan.
The next pop-ups will take place on July 12 and 13 at Square Barrels. Heiho House’s tentative opening date is Aug. 1, though all dates are subject to change. Follow @heiho_house on Instagram for the latest updates.