Oh Yes, It’s Oyster Time
Happy Mother’s Day, Ono readers!
I hope you are spending this most special of holidays with the leading ladies in your lives, who deserve the utmost praise. Preferably you’re treating your queen to a fine feast today — I know I am — and in honor of my favorite person, I also am seeking out one of my mom’s favorite seafood extravagances this week with fresh, fabulous oysters!
The topic of oysters in my family always conjures up memories of going to visit one of my older brothers years ago when he first moved to Seattle. My parents and siblings always wanted to go to Shuckers, a top-quality oyster house in the city, to get their fill of these mouthwatering mollusks, but because I was a youngster at the time, my taste buds didn’t want to go anywhere near the chilled shells on ice. Any attempt by my family members to get me to try an oyster would result in an emphatic head shake and quick reply: “No thanks!”
Of course, now that my adult palate has evolved to appreciate the salty, briny flavors and silky, creamy textures of this magnificent seafood, I could kick myself for missing out on those golden oyster opportunities. It’s OK, though, because it’s never too late to start consuming them in large quantities, and I’m making up for lost time at the best spots for oysters in Honolulu.
NICE AND FRESH
When dining on raw oysters, I’ve learned that size does not equate to flavor. In fact, usually the most popular types of fresh oysters are the smaller varieties that come from icy cold waters.
At Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill at Pier 38, chef supervisor Sharene Ogura agrees, especially when bringing a chilled bowl of Kumamoto and Kusshi oysters — two varieties sourced from the Pacific Northwest that the restaurant typically has available — to the table.
“They tend to be smaller, but it’s more about the flavor,” she says.
And as soon as you shoot one, you’ll know exactly what she means. These bad boys offer the perfect hint of ocean flavor without being anything close to fishy, and the oyster meat itself is plump, velvety and juicy. It’s no surprise, then, that kusshi translates to “ultimate” in Japanese, as executive chef Geoff Arakawa explains. Their briny quality is adored by discerning oyster lovers, while the milder Kumamotos are ideal for novice oyster explorers.
You can squeeze some lemon and Tobasco over the oysters and call it a day, but I encourage you to try them with Uncle’s local-style garnishes instead. Drizzle some of the spicy ponzu over the top, then pile on a bit of refreshing daikon and masago, and you’ll immediately taste a pop of brightness in each bite.
Uncle’s receives a variety of fresh seafood for its Chef’s Choice Oysters (market price), and depending on the season and availability, you might luck out with Miyagi, Goosepoint or New Zealand oysters on the spread — each one a treat. These oysters make for a great introduction to an entree of fresh fish, as Uncle’s gets its local catches straight from the auction next door. In short, this eatery is indeed a seafood paradise.
Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill
Fishing Village at Pier 38
1135 N. Nimitz Hwy., Honolulu
COOKED TO PERFECTION
If you enjoy throwing some oysters on the grill, or munching on them in baked casseroles or stir-fries, you know that they take on a whole new level of richness when cooked — and an entirely different flavor!
I’m always looking for unique ways to savor cooked oysters, and I recently found something truly special at Tempura Ichidai.
To match the hearty and sultry appeal of cooked oysters, the restaurant has come up with an Oyster Miso Hot Pot ($15), sizzling in a thick miso stew that coats the mouth with its luxurious texture.
“The sauce is very tasty from the oyster essence,” adds chef Susumu Mizui, who elegantly layers shimeji and shiitake mushrooms into the piping-hot pot, while bringing balance to the dish with fresh vegetable additions of Chinese cabbage, green beans and carrots.
You have to go to Tempura Ichidai to try this specialty, as it is a one-of-a-kind creation only found at the restaurant. The rest of the menu at this popular fried-to-order tempura bar, on the other hand, is rooted in traditional Japanese cuisine, including sushi, teishoku, donburi, udon and more.
After opening at Ala Moana Center in early 2016, the restaurant received critical acclaim for its high-quality Japanese food served in a modern yet affordable setting. Tempura Ichidai is gearing up to unveil its summer menu June 1, and in honor of the holiday I started this column with, I’ll leave you with one last note: It’s not to late to order the eatery’s Mother’s Day special today, priced at $45. It includes tuna carpaccio, assorted tempura, roast beef donburi and hamachi miso soup. The generous meal also offers appetizers, chawanmushi (savory cold custard), Japanese pickles, dessert and pineapple juice for Mom’s delight.
Ala Moana Center, Level 3, Ewa Wing
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu