Hiroshi's Contemporary Kaiseki

Photos by Martha Cheng

From left to right, top to bottom: Kona crab gaejang style; trigger fish carpaccio; Molokai shrimp cocktail with a shrimp chip; uku "sandwich"; awaawa fish cake stuffed shiitake mushrooms; Kona kampachi on noodles in a caper red wine vinegar soy butter sauce; mekajiki with foie gras, honshimeji mushrooms, potatoes; ahi chazuke; Shimazu Store shave ice.

Hiroshi's kaiseki dinner last night was a beautiful meal, a memory underscored as I line up photos of the dishes. Kaiseki, similar to omakase, or a chef's tasting, was traditionally a formal emperor's meal. Courses reflect the seasons, textures and different cooking methods, principles that any fine-dining restaurant worth its salt should consider anyways. Hiroshi plays a little loose with the rules so there isn't the traditional grilled dish, fried dish, etc., so last night's dinner was more a chef's menu highlighting seafood and fish he had caught last week. Which is fine by me: I loved the trigger fish carpaccio, meaty and firm with flavors of young ginger, shiso, and chili pepper water dancing across the tongue; uku sashimi sandwiching shrimp, cucumber and rice noodles and dotted with thick and sweet moromi miso. Is it too lowbrow to say my favorite dish was the humble ahi chazuke? But this was elevated with a house dried ahi on rice and bathed in an amazingly smoky, complex dashi. Chef Hiroshi Fukui's quarterly kaiseki dinners are so well known among oenophiles that sommeliers such as Randy Ching from Halekulani volunteer their time to serve and talk about (and taste!) the wines poured that night.

Dinner finished off with Shimazu Store shave ice; Fukui had invited the Shimazu staff, shave ice machines and all, to prepare Melona-reminiscent shave ice, basically so he could prop up his compressed watermelon on a pedestal of fluffy ice and ice cream. A refreshing, if not particularly inspired end to dinner, especially in light of the preceding eight courses.

Hiroshi's kaiseki dinners are only four times a year; the next one will be early February, before Valentine's Day.

Restaurant Row, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., 533-4476, hiroshihawaii.com