Japanese fusion dazzles with yuzu
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Tucked away in the Kona Tower of Ala Moana Hotel is a tasty and traditional Japanese restaurant serving up authentic food with zest. YuZu Ala Moana — named after the wrinkly and tangy fruit — might be relatively new to the Islands, but owner Isamu Kubota is no stranger to the restaurant industry.
“I had a restaurant in Japan for 26 years,” he says. “YuZu almost is identical. I brought over the same menu and styles of cooking, and, of course, the use of yuzu in our recipes.”
For almost four years, YuZu has integrated the citrusy fruit into a variety of dishes — some subtle and others more potent. If you’re skeptical of yuzu, experience the natural powers of the fruit in Salmon Lover Plate ($23.95), which utilizes organic cane sugar and yuzu vinegar.
“You know how sushi makes you thirsty? For some reason, using yuzu vinegar rather than rice vinegar doesn’t make your mouth dry,” explains Kubota. “It’s also much healthier for you, especially when using the organic cane sugar in place of processed white sugar.”
YuZu also is known for its udon, which is made fresh daily. Patrons are impressed with the delicious Lobster Curry Udon ($15.95). The subtle and creamy curry coats the thick and chewy udon, and a handful of raw baby spinach and large lobster claw complement the noodles. Customers also rave about Shrimp Tempura ($14.95), which comes with three difference sauces: traditional tempura sauce with radish, vegenaise (mayonnaise’s healthier, zestier cousin) and yuzu salt. Yuzu Salt is derived from a homemade recipe, and Kubota combines chopped yuzu with salt, which makes for a sharp and citrusy flavor that pairs well with the crunchy and savory tempura.
Kubota and his wife, while not vegetarian themselves, incorporate many vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options, as well as organic and local produce into their repertoire.
“We don’t like using MSG or any other bad ingredients,” says Kubota. “We always use ingredients that are good for your health such as gluten-free Tamari Soy Sauce. My wife loves vegetables, so we use a lot of vegetables, too.”
YuZu’s modern and eclectic atmosphere allows you to sit at the sushi counter, relax in the lounge area or gather at classic dining tables. Kubota also encourages diners to delve into Lotus Root Pizza ($8.95) and Vegetarian Shoyu Ginger Soy Karaage ($7.95). To top off the YuZu experience, enjoy a variety of desserts from crepes to acai cheesecake.
Ala Moana Hotel, Kona Tower
410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (lunch)
Daily, 5-6 p.m. (happy hour) and 5-10 p.m. (dinner)