Midsummer Natto’s Dream

How do you tell the story of a 10-course natto dinner on July 10, Natto Day? It’s epic, almost, the stuff of legend, practically — I mean, I was there, and I still can’t believe I ate 10 natto dishes.

It started out simply: A group of natto lovers on Facebook was looking for a way to celebrate their beloved fermented stinky soybean. But the dinner we came up with unleashed two latent forces. First, the city’s under-the-radar appetite for natto, which became clear when people who didn’t know each other started signing up in groups of two, three, four, even solo, until we had pushed past our original limit of 28 and forced our host restaurant, Tokkuri Tei, to its Natto Day max of 32. And practically everyone who came knew others who wanted to be there but had heard about it too late.

Second were the creative forces of Tokkuri Tei’s Hideaki “Santa” Miyoshi and Ryuji Murayama. Hearing our request for a special dinner, the chefs spent the next two weeks creating a menu the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

Naughty Natto Roll. Slimy a la Escargots. Stinky Burger. And the infamous natto ice cream. Here’s what went down: the good, the odd and all the gloriously stinky slime.

Warning: If you don’t like natto, don’t look.

Midsummer Natto’s Dream

Picture 1 of 25

Tokkuri Tei on Kapahulu, 6 p.m. last night. The scene is set for the most epic natto experience in anyone’s memory: 10 courses, culminating in ice cream topped with natto and Jack Daniels sauce.

I ask a server if Tokkuri Tei’s ever done a natto dinner before. She looks at me as if I’ve just waved the bean under her nose. “Oh no,” she says.