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Staying On Top Of Great Cuisine

Columns Ono, You Know

February 29, 2016

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: BODIE COLLINS

The editor grills away at Japanese BBQ Yoshi ANTHONY CONSILLIO PHOTOS

The editor grills away at Japanese BBQ Yoshi ANTHONY CONSILLIO PHOTOS

When going out to eat, regardless of the type of cuisine we are craving, there is one ingredient we all seek: quality.

But as many of us know, seeing through clever marketing tricks and behind-the-scenes shortcuts some restaurants employ can be tricky, and at times we’re left wondering: Am I really getting my money’s worth?

Over the years, Ono, You Know has explored many restaurants that have proven their dedication to serving high-quality ingredients, and I’m excited to share some of them with you today. At the spots I’ve picked out, the management teams are not only committed to serving good-quality ingredients, but they’re also experts in their craft, pulling in top-of-the-line products available in their respective fish and meat markets. I’ve done all the poking and prodding to find out just what makes their menu items so special, so you can sit back, enjoy the flavors, and rest assured knowing you’ll eat the best of the best.

GET TO THE MEAT OF THE MATTER

At Japanese BBQ Yoshi, you’re in for a yakiniku dining experience like no other, and it all begins with truly exceptional beef and pork.

Open evenings, the restaurant only has been in business for a year, but it’s already earned a solid reputation for offering the upper echelon of meat. It serves exquisite cuts of both American and Japan-graded steaks for tabletop grilling, and consistently monitors the meat coming in from first-rate suppliers to ensure it meets the eatery’s high standards.

Wagyu Ribeye Steak ($60, 4 ounces)

Wagyu Ribeye Steak ($60, 4 ounces)

Great care goes into showcasing these top-quality meats at their best. The slabs are just lightly seasoned, rather that being overpowered with sauces and marinades, and when sauces are served, they’re matched specifically to the flavors of the meat. The truth is, these superlative cuts are full of natural flavors that need no adornments.

“We let the meat speak for itself,” confirms supervisor Scott Motoda. “Once (customers) try the meat, they say it’s hard to go back to regular yakiniku.”

With one bite of Wagyu Short Rib Kalbi ($22) and Wagyu Toro Kalbi ($21), you’ll pick up on the delicate and uniquely savory depth wagyu beef is known for — it’s an entirely different flavor than most of us are used to, and it’s one you must try. Additionally, the gorgeously marbled fat of wagyu — considered among the highest-quality beef produced — makes it tender as can be, as it’ll seriously melt in your mouth like butter. This is the whipped cream of meats, for sure.

Wagyu Short Rib Kalbi ($22) and Wagyu Toro Kalbi ($21) ANTHONY CONSILLIO PHOTO

Wagyu Short Rib Kalbi ($22) and Wagyu Toro Kalbi ($21) ANTHONY CONSILLIO PHOTO

Top-ranking A4-A5 Wagyu Ribeye Steak ($60, 4 ounces) offers that same distinct flavor, but with a bit more heartiness and meatiness. You’ll also want to contrast these Japanese choices with the flavor profiles of American steaks. Notice the heightened red-meat flavor of one of the supreme USDA Prime cuts, then taste the succulent glaze of natural juices in a piece of seared U.S. Kobe. Motoda says that the corn-based diet of U.S. Kobe (Kobe being one type of wagyu beef) — sourced at the restaurant from industry-leading Snake River Farms in Idaho — lends a sweetness to the meat that actually accentuates the wagyu flavor.

Japanese BBQ Yoshi excels at putting a fine-dining touch on yakiniku experiences. As an added plus, it utilizes grills heated by infrared technology, which are more space-and energy-efficient than conventional grills, and don’t produce large clouds of smoke. You’ll still get a great sear, though.

Japanese BBQ Yoshi
1316 Young St., Honolulu
784-0067;
happy hour offered

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEAFOOD

Ahi & Vegetable is a wonderful juncture of high-quality seafood and affordable prices. The person who brings the two together in the form of bentos, sashimi platters, poke and more is owner Sam Seo.

Bento No. 7 ($12)

Bento No. 7 ($12)

Early each morning, before the sun lights up the day, Seo goes to Fish Auction Pier 38 to pick out the freshest ahi to sell at his casual takeout shop. His skillful eye – which the ahi wholesaler has developed for more than 15 years — can choose just the right color, texture, firmness and freshness of the fish. In fact, he has such a good eye that even discerning buyers and workers at the auction come to eat at Ahi & Vegetable after they see the fish he selects.

“I choose the fish from the auction, so that means I can decide my quality, not a supplier,” explains Seo. He also is very selective about the purveyors he uses to source other prime catches sold in the shop, such as fresh Alaskan salmon.

Bento No. 9 ($12)

Bento No. 9 ($12)

At Ahi & Vegetable, quality extends to more than just the seafood itself, as the eatery houses a fish processing room, which is cleaned and maintained daily. By the time the shop opens at 9 a.m., the fish processors have been handling the fresh catches since 5 a.m.

So what are some good dishes to try? The signature Sashimi Special ($16) is a must, presenting unadulterated slabs of sublime ahi, hamachi and salmon. For only $1 more, miso soup and rice are yours as well.

For a well-rounded mix of offerings, Bento No. 9 ($12) won’t disappoint with a combination of ahi and salmon nigiri, California roll and shoyu poke.

“So many places serve poke, but at my place, we only mix it with a simple shoyu sauce, and people still say, ‘Your poke is so good.’ It’s because we use the fresh ahi, so people know whenever they eat it — the mouth can tell how fresh that is,” shares Seo.

Store manager Carol Tokuuke and owner Justina Seo with Bento No. 9 ($12) and Sashimi Special ($16)

Store manager Carol Tokuuke and owner Justina Seo with Bento No. 9 ($12) and Sashimi Special ($16)

Ahi-lovers also will adore Bento No. 7 ($12), presenting spicy ahi, spicy salmon and ahi poke on top of rice (choice of steamed white, sushi or brown).

For Seo, the biggest compliment is when workers and customers alike bring in their families to eat, or order a party platter for a special occasion, as he knows they would only want to share the best with the ones they love.

Ahi & Vegetable
Kapalama Shopping Center
1210 Dillingham Blvd., Kalihi
845-3500