Fishing Around For Mac-Nut Goodness
To most folks, the mere mention of macadamia nuts evokes images of chocolate-covered treasures that are perfect for snacking on at home or throwing into a care package to send to loved ones and friends on the mainland. But to a chef, macadamia nuts fall into an entirely different category. They’re seen as another amazing local product that they can use to transform a dish from ordinary to gourmet.
It’s easy to see why masters of the kitchen love them, as these one-of-a-kind nuts are far richer, more decadent and more oily than most of their counterparts. Adding to the benefit of macadamias, these tree nuts are full of healthy nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants — a fact I remind myself of after I polish off an entire can of Mauna Loas in one sitting.
If there’s ever a time to become absolutely nutty, it’s right here, right now, with macadamia nuts.
PAGODA FLOATING RESTAURANT
If you flipped through the pages of last week’s Dining Out, you may have come across our oyster-feasting pursuit. Well, I hadn’t quite gotten my fill of them yet, so I decided to go to Pagoda Floating Restaurant this week to indulge in some raw oysters served with a nutty sauce.
At the relaxing oasis within bustling Honolulu, where kamaaina can dine on their favorite local foods in a picturesque Japanese-inspired setting, I dove right into Gari Shoga Ginger Mignonette Oysters, which are available a la carte for $1.50 apiece during happy hour (5-6 p.m., except holidays) or $2.50 each after 6 p.m.
The large, plump oysters from Washington state are dressed up with pickled pink ginger, mirin, rice vinegar and chopped up shallots. And if customers would like some crunch in the sauce — like I did — they can get finely chopped macadamia nuts thrown into the mix.
“The nut gives a local flavor and a little bit of texture, also,” says executive chef Michael Arita.
While I was there, I was lucky enough to munch on Macadamia Nut-Crusted Catch of the Day, which is periodically offered on Pagoda’s famous buffet line. As Arita explains, he was inspired to add a chimichurri-style coating to the fresh fish. “What we use is mac nuts with parsley and we blend it all with panko crumbs.”
Additionally, the dish offers a light lobster cream sauce and tropical fruit salsa prepared with pineapple, strawberries and more. One thing I can assure youassure you is that the dish is just as flavorful as it is colorful, and the mac nut shines through in the crispy crust.
Pagoda is home to breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets throughout the week, as well as a Sunday brunch buffet. Pricing for the various buffet options ranges from $12.95-$39.95.
Pagoda Floating Restaurant
1525 Rycroft St., Honolulu
SAKURA TERRACE JAPANESE CAFE
Mirroring the beautiful cherry blossom it is named after, Sakura Terrace Japanese Cafe has a menu that blossoms with a wide range of elegant Japanese fare, including donburi, bentos, sushi, salads, a full bar, divine desserts and more.
When executive chef Takayuki Sekine joined the restaurant more than two years ago, he brought with him a signature dish that is now a mainstay at the eatery.
Enter Macadamia Nut Tofu, a celestial appetizer that is made from scratch in house utilizing pureed macadamia nuts and gelatin. The delicate creation takes a day to prepare in order for it to set just right. The natural oils of the nut are released during the pureeing process, giving the dish extra depth and luxuriousness.
“It’s reminiscent of goma dofu (sesame tofu), and that was the chef’s inspiration for the dish,” says front-of-the-house manager Jaron Takumi. “But it’s thicker in taste and texture — it’s very rich.”
The natural sweetness of the nut takes center stage here, as does a welcomed bit of nutty graininess that reminds patrons of the wholesome, handmade aspect of the dish. The sweetness also is beautifully counter-balanced with a shoyu konbu dashi sauce, perfect for dipping. And add some wasabi for spice, and you have a well-balanced and intricate mix of flavors to indulge in.
Macadamia Nut Tofu is priced at $6 regularly, but also is available for $5 during happy hour from 5 to 6 pm. Another plus? You can enjoy this and more of Sakura’s cuisine in a cozy setting that features a palm tree-lined outdoor terrace and intimate dining space.
Sakura Terrace Japanese Cafe
1240 S. King St., Honolulu