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As we celebrate the special women in our lives on Mother’s Day, here’s another one to pay tribute to: YuZu owner Isamu Kubota’s mom. Her down-home healthy cooking influenced Kubota to go into the restaurant business where he brings her sensibilities in the kitchen to a wider audience first in Tokyo and now in Hawaii.
Homey fare often starts with humble beginnings, as in the case with YuZu’s Lobster Curry Udon ($15.95). Leftover pieces of carrots and other vegetables, like tomatoes and onions, are simmered in water for a day to give birth to a flavorful broth base for the thick curry sauce. Udon cut fresh to order, bits of lobster and a full claw, stewed onions, fresh spinach and a mass of cheese — the melted strings of which cling to the stout noodles — complete the dish. Steamed edamame and watercress salad brightened with yuzu citrus accompany the mother lode. The heavy hot pot keeps everything piping hot till the last strand. “Many people love this,” says manager Chisako Nishimura of the dish originally only offered as a special.
Another dish to dive into is Hamachi Kama Teishoku ($15.95), the collar meat of the Japanese amberjack or yellowtail, which has a crispy top and tender flesh. Simply baked with salt and pepper, and served with grated daikon and shoyu for optional seasoning, the rustic and traditional dish utilizes the meat just behind the head and gills that remains after sashimi is cut. Mom knows best when she says this richly flavored section is the best part of the fish. Enjoy the delicacy as the entree in a teishoku, or meal set. Brown or white rice, tofu-enriched miso soup, blanched watercress ohitashi and boiled carrot and burdock kimpira are served as part of the set.
“Good ingredients are important,” Kubota says, and the healthy menu he has created reflects his mom’s nurturing nature. Not even refined sugar is served here. Sauces are graced with modest amounts of organic cane sugar and refreshing iced tea arrives at the table with a bottle of agave nectar. Mom would be proud.
Ala Moana Hotel
410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., daily
Dinner: Monday-Saturday, 5-11:30 p.m., Sunday, 5-9:30 p.m.