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Homestyle Food For The Holidays

Cover Story

November 26, 2017

Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

Waitresses Kristel Escano, Ofelia Pigao and Rowena Uyeshiro with a few popular catering trays (prices for catering platters vary)

Hosting a big holiday gathering can be spectacularly fun, especially for hosts who love to cook and have plenty of time to plan, shop and prepare elaborate feasts.

The rest of us should thank our lucky stars that we can pick up the phone and dial 488-8824. That’s the number for Shiro’s Saimin Haven and its wonderful catering service.

Founded by the late Franz Shiro “Mistah Saimin” Matsuo in 1969, the Oahu restaurant has been feeding local families since 1969. Though it’s famous for 60-plus varieties of saimin, Shiro’s also runs a very busy catering department known for honest, homestyle cooking.

“We try to make everything from scratch,” says Bryce Fujimoto, Shiro’s catering manager. “There’s no frills or anything like that. It tastes good and it presents well, but flavor is the most important thing.”

Fried Noodles catering platter

Perfect for hosts whose houses are bursting at the seams with acquaintances they’d completely forgotten about, or for those with holiday work schedules that will keep them out of the kitchen, Shiro’s offers a huge variety of dishes in trays appropriate for a variety of group sizes. This month’s featured catering pans include a few dishes that are big favorites with Shiro’s customers, starting with the Assorted Sushi Platter (medium as shown, $45.50). This assortment of 72 pieces of local-style sushi includes cured tuna maki, small cone sushi, teppo with takuan, and oshi with egg on top.

An extra-large pan of Mochiko Chicken ($87) will feed 45-50 hungry cousins and assorted kin; a small pan feeds 10-15 for $27.50. “Mochiko chicken is one of our most popular catering items,” says Fujimoto. “We marinate the chicken for at least 24 hours in our secret sauce. Then we mix mochiko flour with other stuff — there’s a lot of love in there! — and fry it up.”

Assorted Sushi Platter ($45.50 medium)

Crispy Pork Belly, based on the Filipino dish lechon kawali, has chopped onions and tomatoes, and a shoyu-vinegar sauce. One of Shiro’s most popular pupu items,the medium pan serves 25 and costs $54.15.

According to Fujimoto, the flavor of Shiro’s Beef Broccoli is truly unique. “It’s Chinese style, but with a twist — a hint of sweetness and sesame oil,” he says. The restaurant uses high-quality ribeye for this dish. Prices range from $30.80 for a small pan to $98 for the extra-large pan.

Beef Broccoli catering platter

For any size gathering, Fried Noodles (from small for $27.50, to extra-large for $78.45) are a perfect starch to accompany the holiday meal. Shiro’s version of this island favorite includes chicken, pork, cabbage, onions and a garnish of char siu and green onion. “We make our own noodles in-house,” Fujimoto says. “Not a lot of restaurants do that anymore.”

Shiro’s Roast Pork ($30.70 small pan; $97.65 extra-large) is pork butt wet-roasted till it’s fork-tender, and served in its own au jus, with gravy on the side. “We still make gravy the old-fashioned way, with drippings from the roasting pan,” says Fujimoto. “It takes a lot of time.”

Like everything else at Shiro’s, it’s totally worth it.

Roast Pork catering platter

Call Ahead

Shiro’s Saimin Haven may sell 60-plus varieties of saimin made with noodles from its own factory, but its catering services keep staff just as busy as its dine-in business. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are very hectic; call 488-8824 now if you’d like Shiro’s to prepare your ohana’s holiday dinner! Smaller orders need 24-48 hours’ notice. For 100 people or more, call at least one week before your event.

A Family Affair

Few Hawaii restaurants are as family-oriented as Shiro’s Saimin Haven. Three generations of the same ‘ohana now work here, including catering manager Bryce Fujimoto, who started working for his grandfather, founder Shiro Matsuo, when he was a young teenager. The close-knit “work ohana” of about 90 includes employees who have worked here for decades, Fujimoto notes. “We have a great crew. People go above and beyond. Everybody likes coming to work. We’re really, really appreciative.”

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