Me So Ono for Miso!

Columns Ono, You Know

October 29, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I’ve recently set a goal to better my health and well-being. And on a mission to get there, I’m trying my best to work out in a way that I enjoy, and embrace foods that are nutritious and delicious.

While spending some time doing research on healthy foods, I stumbled across a statement made by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which pleasantly surprised me, while in fact awakening my appetite — miso soup consumption is linked with up to a 50 percent reduced risk of breast cancer, while also aiding in the prevention and treatment of heart disease, hypertension and more.

Now, I’m not sure if these studies are totally accurate, but one thing I can guarantee is that my taste buds adore miso — it’s an absolute must-have! Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley and/or soy beans, with salt and the fungus known as kojikin. Combining these ingredients results in a thick paste used for sauces and spreads, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup.

This week, without further ado, me, myself and I went on a miso marathon at a few premier Ono, You Know, establishments known for their miso creations.

Stage Restaurant

  • The editor adores Stage's "Wafu Style" Beef Carpaccio.
  • Stage's "Wafu Style" Beef Carpaccio ($12)
  • Stage's Misoyaki Butterfish ($27, photo courtesy of Stage)
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Located on the second floor of Honolulu Design Center, Stage Restaurant offers a chic and modern atmosphere that is pleasing to the senses, as it’s embellished in stylish hues, statement lighting, vivid artwork, and a wide array of eclectic furnishings from across the globe.

Executive chef Ron de Guzman raises the bar as he showcases exquisite culinary fusion, specializing in contemporary Asian-American cuisine. Chef de Guzman and the rest of his kitchen staff truly emphasize the importance of utilizing locally grown fresh ingredients.

Upon my most recent visit to Stage, I met with sous chef Tim Petersen, who presented me with Stage Restaurant’s top miso creations, including the ever-famous “Wafu Style” Beef Carpaccio ($12) and Misoyaki Butterfish ($27).

The succulent beef carpaccio is served as an appetizer during dinner hours and features the most tender New York strip loin adorned with crystals of salt, daikon oroshi, chives, negi oil and a flavorful Misoyaki drizzle, topped with crispy garlic chips. According to Petersen, some diners are skeptical of carpaccio at first, however, he says, it’s nice to step out of your culinary comfort zone every once in a while and treat your palate to something new.

“Because our style of cooking has a great Asian influence to it, the miso is the most pronounced flavor of this dish,” he explains. “We use a red miso that has a much stronger flavor than white miso — and the drizzle also consists of sesame and other secret ingredients.”

Lastly, to enhance the dish, a spicy ponzu sauce is served tableside for your dining pleasure.

When it comes to selecting a main course, the miso lover in me goes straight for the Misoyaki Butterfish ($27). Believe me, there’s no second-guessing this dish, as it’s a signature item at Stage Restaurant. The fish itself is melt-in-your-mouth delicious, dressed in a savory Misoyaki sauce and paired ever so perfectly with sake-braised spinach, Kahuku corn, green onion coulis, a soy reduction and crispy garlic chips that distinctly add to the texture and flavor of this magnificent entree.

Also taking center stage here is an impressive wine list with more than 500 labels to choose from.

Stage Restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and Monday through Saturday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. for dinner. Closed Sundays.

Stage Restaurant
Honolulu Design Center
1250 Kapiolani Blvd.
237.5429
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Hanaki Restaurant

  • Spicy soup and miso soup with a variety of thing to put in. Price varies. NWphoto
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With the fall season upon us, it’s safe to say that I’ve completely fallen for Hanaki’s onolicious shabu shabu delights.

Hanaki Restaurant first opened its doors in Manoa Marketplace in 1996, and initially known for its all-you-can-eat buffet, Hanaki embarked in a new direction last April, presenting its customers with the best in shabu shabu and tasty Japanese cuisine.

So go ahead, take hold of the chop-sticks and the ladle, and dare to be your own shabu shabu chef — impress your dining party with your talented cooking skills. What I like best about the shabu shabu concept is that it allows you to personalize your cuisine to whatever your heart desires.

“Shabu Shabu is very interactive. Instead of ordering a set plate with all different combinations, you can actually go and choose the different types of ingredients you want to include in your meal,” says general manager Mark Mitsuyoshi.

So, if you’re craving meat, seafood or all things veggies, the ultimate choice is yours. Prices will vary based on the selected soup base and ingredients, however, ingredients such as vegetables and meats range from $2.50 to $4.50 each.

What is my shabu shabu choice of the moment, you ask? Well, that’s easy! Misoyaki Butterfish, udon and tons of vegetables swimming in a savory miso soup base, of course!

Hanaki offers a wide selection of soup bases ($5 each) perfect for your shabu shabu meal, be it Konbu (light, seaweed-based udon soup), Hanaki (light, shiso-based with onion flavor), Miso (medium, traditional Japanese soybean paste), Sukiyaki (medium, shoyu and sugar), Spicy (heavy, beef-based special spicy recipe) or Curry (heavy, creamy curry flavored with milk). The establishment also offers a special Healthy Herb Soup as well with a refreshing blend of goji berries, dried dates, ginseng and special herbs.

“The miso shabu shabu soup base is actually one of our best-sellers, especially with the kids,” Mitsuyoshi states. “It (miso soup base) goes great with so many choices from our fridge, such as the prime rib, fish, clams, Chinese cabbage, sponge tofu and more.”

In my specific melting pot of flavors, the Misoyaki Butterfish ($5.50) is divine, as is the piping hot miso soup and fresh vegetables — including my favorites of mushrooms, spinach and bamboo shoots. Undoubtedly, I think we have a miso explosion on our hands, catapulting us to shabu shabu heaven!

Finally, to complement any shabu shabu meal is a scrumptious side order of grilled Misoyaki Butterfish ($4.50) that is worth sampling.

“The side order of our Misoyaki Butterfish is just as popular as our Shrimp Tempura!” Mistuyoshi exclaims.

Hanaki Restaurant
Manoa Marketplace
2752 Woodlawn Drive
988.9551
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Hinone Mizunone

  • Hinone Mizunone's Miso Butterfish Teishoku ($14.75)
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The constant flow of traffic bustling in and out of Hinone Mizunone on any given day has become routine for operations manager Eiki Tamaki and his staff, and for good reason. It only takes one bite of remarkable entrees such as udon, Japanese curry, Teishoku lunches and the tasty miso butterfish to have you hooked on this family-friendly eatery on South King Street.

I speak from experience! Everything here is delicious, but if you’re a die-hard miso fan, you must sink your teeth into the Miso Butterfish Teishoku ($14.75), served with rice, miso soup, tsukemono and two side orders of your choice.

“We marinate our butterfish in a miso sauce for a day and a half,” Tamaki explains, adding that the sauce is made with a combination of white and red miso, otherwise known as awase. “The miso really soaks into the fish and it gives off a sweeter flavor. Miso also helps to preserve the fish, too.”

“There’s a high demand for butter-fish, so we have a very limited supply — first come, first served,” he adds with a smile.

Of course, Miso Butterfish also is available as a side order for $11.75 for those with smaller appetites.

Now, if you haven’t noticed, a teishoku order isn’t complete without a bowl of hot awase miso soup to go with it. Just the soup alone has me drooling — so therefore, even if I’m not dining on a teishoku lunch, I can order a bowl of soup by itself for only $1.50 — you can’t beat that!

“Our miso soup is very unique. It’s very filling and comes with won bok cabbage, bean sprouts, tofu and seaweed,” Tamaki says. “It really just depends on the ingredients that we have available.”

Although miso soup tends to be a bit on the salty side, miso, when paired with the fish, results in a sweeter taste.

“Locals tend to prefer to have their fish with a hint of sweetness, and the miso is able to make that happen,” he states.

Everything miso is so, so, so good at Hinone Mizunone, and don’t forget to request a bowl of the restaurant’s ever-popular rice, cooked flawlessly in an old-fashioned pot, while you’re at it!

Hinone Mizunone
1345 S. King St.
942.4848
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