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Embracing Chance

Ono, You Know

March 3, 2019

Story By: Ellise Kakazu | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

Dining Out editor Ellise Kakazu presents Stage Restaurant’s innovative Graham Cracker Calamari ($14).

Happy Girls’ Day!

Today, many girls in Hawaii and Japan will receive little gifts like specially prepared food to enjoy in honor of Girls’ Day or Hinamatsuri — a time when families wish for good health and a bright future for the young ladies in their lives.

Soft, stretchy mochi is a nice traditional goodie to get or give for the occasion, but this year I’ve decided to depart from the usual and commemorate the day with unconventional treats. This Girls’ Day is unlike others, as I am currently expecting a baby girl of my own!

Embracing the idea of change, I visited a couple of my favorite restaurants to indulge in out-of-the-box creations made with Japanese flair.

Let’s take a look at what I found, shall we?

CUTTING EDGE CALAMARI

In search of a dish that is as unique as every girl around the world, I visited Stage Restaurant in the gorgeous Honolulu Design Center. With executive chef Ron de Guzman at the helm of the kitchen, diners can expect nothing less than culinary masterpieces.

Stage Restaurant’s Graham Cracker Calamari

General manager Michael Moore says de Guzman serves world-inspired cuisine and seamlessly maintains a “balance of flavors and textures.”

For instance, guests’ palates will be taken from the Mediterranean to Japan in just one bite of Graham Cracker Calamari ($14).

Most preparations of the succulent seafood include flour, however, de Guzman puts his own twist on calamari by using yukari (Japanese shiso seasoning, similar to furikake) and crushed graham cracker to cover the calamari. These elements give the dish sweet and salty notes, and its tender texture.

Moore explains chef de Guzman rolls the seafood in the graham cracker and yukari mixture, puts it in the fryer to cook, and plates the calamari with fresh chopped shiso and a made-in-house wasabi cocktail sauce.

Graham Cracker Calamari was presented years ago on Stage’s lunch menu, and was later reintroduced on the restaurant’s dinner lineup due to popular demand — the appetizer is de Guzman’s mother-in-law’s favorite dish.

In addition to Stage’s captivating calamari, guests adore items such as Duck a la ‘Lilikoi,’ Chawanmushi, Beef Wellington, and Spiced Kurobuta Pork Chop.

CREAMY AND DREAMY

Since today’s celebration originates from the Land of the Rising Sun, I decided to visit one of my favorite spots in Kaimuki — Japanese Restaurant Aki.

Japanese Restaurant Aki’s Miso cream cheese ($6, $4.50 happy hour)

The popular Japanese restaurant is known for its delicious traditional offerings such as yakitori, sashimi, hot pot and oden. But there are also unique items like Miso cream cheese ($6, $4.50 happy hour) that guests can try.

According to manager Eric Rogers, the appetizer is an original Japanese Restaurant Aki creation. He explains the chef takes a block of cream cheese and marinates it in Saikyo miso, a type of white miso from Kyoto, for a few hours.

“(Saikyo miso is) sweeter than the regular white miso,” says Rogers.

Once the cream cheese is perfectly seasoned with the miso, it’s cut into bite-sized pieces and plated with nori, which also comes from Japan.

“This is so simple, but it tastes so good,” notes Rogers.

The delectable dish is quite refreshing and a great complement to any meal or drink. However, Rogers suggests pairing the cream cheese appetizer with a sip of Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo ($11.50, $8 happy hour) or the restaurant’s Japanese-style omelet.

Catch Miso cream cheese and Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo on Japanese Restaurant Aki’s happy hour menu, available from 4 to 6 p.m. (5:30 p.m. is the last call for food orders).

After treating the little angel in my tummy to these delectable dishes, I am convinced that change can be a good — and delicious — thing. Sometimes, the best things in life are found when venturing into the unknown.

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