Say ‘Yum’ to Yuzu-licious Flavors

Columns Ono, You Know

September 2, 2012

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

Behind every great dish is that one secret ingredient that tickles your taste buds and takes you by surprise. This week, I decided why not spice things up with yuzu, the surefire ingredient that adds some zest to life.

For those unfamiliar with yuzu, it’s a citrus fruit and plant originating in East Asia. The fruit (although rarely eaten as a fruit) resembles a tiny grapefruit with uneven skin, and you can’t miss its distinctly refreshing aroma. I’ve recently become a fan of yuzu and have grown fond of its tart flavor that makes you wanna say “Wow!”

Here at the following Ono, You Know establishments, you’ll see exactly how yuzu is incorporated into beautiful culinary works of art. It’s an essential ingredient in ponzu, a citrus-based sauce, and is even utilized in alcoholic drinks, giving off a bit of a bite. Yuzu will take any meal to a whole new level!

Yoshi Japanese Dining & Bar

It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. Yoshi Japanese Dining & Bar just opened its doors for the evening, and the place is already filling up with eager patrons who can’t wait to sink their teeth into authentically eclectic Japanese fare. “Do you have reservations?” a server asks a walk-in customer. “If not, you’ll have to sit at the bar because all the tables are reserved.” This alone tells me that this contemporary dining establishment has to be good, as it’s drawing in diners by the dozens.

Originally known as Yakitori Yoshi, this Makaloa Street restaurant revamped its menu from specializing in yakitori dishes to offering sushi, sashimi and teppanyaki options, as well as a versatile full bar.

And if you’re yearning for yuzu, Yoshi’s Yuzu Kosho Chicken ($10, a la carte) will make you say yum!

“Out of all our chicken items this is the most popular by far. It’s a bit on the spicy side because of the yuzu citrus, and it’s also mixed with black pepper,” says server Jarred Yuen.

This masterpiece boasts boneless morsels of locally raised chicken seasoned and grilled to perfection on the teppanyaki grill. The chicken skin is cooked to a crisp, while the meat is left soft, tender and juicy. According to Yuen, the meat is flavored with a dash of yuzu sauce, but the majority of the sauce is left on the side for dipping.

“It’s kind of like a lemon chicken, only more flavorful,” he explains. “Yuzu is growing in popularity and nowadays you’ll often find it used in Japanese cooking.”

So, turn up the heat and bring on the tang with Yoshi’s Yuzu Kosho Chicken, also available as part of the restaurant’s teishoku set menu ($25), which comes with two items, soup, salad and rice.

Yoshi Japanese Dining & Bar
1427 Makaloa St.

Blue Hawaii Sushi Bar & Restaurant

Blue Hawaii Sushi in Pearl City is making a splash this summer with its alluring spread of tasty eats with local flair. Emerson Ribao serves as management partner with restaurant owners Walden and Jazmin Butay, and says that Blue Hawaii Sushi combines the best of both worlds by blending genuine Japanese cuisine with Pacific Rim specialties. Open daily, here you’ll find everything from Bacon Wrapped Asparagus, Loco Moco, Blue Hawaii Salad and so much more.

Now, shedding its own light on the yuzu scene, Blue Hawaii heightens its cuisine with its homemade ponzu sauce, which is comprised primarily of yuzu, soy sauce, a dab of sake and mirin.

“Our ponzu sauce pairs well with just about everything,” Ribao states, “meat, sushi, seafood … anything! Soft Shell Crab with Ponzu Sauce ($7.95) is a great pupu option.”

Shiromi Nigiri ($6) and Shiromi Sashimi ($8) are two other delectable items from the sushi bar featuring smooth and ono pieces of snapper paired with ponzu sauce.

“The citrus flavor of the yuzu really intensifies the flavor of the dishes,” Ribao explains, noting that if you’re a yuzu fanatic, you also can ask for a side of yuzu juice to accompany your fish for that additional zest.

Be sure to save room for Steak Morsels ($12.95), which features a mound of steak cut into bite-sized cubes served with your choice of Blue Hawaii Sushi’s signature mustard sauce or ponzu sauce. Two scoops of rice, along with a medley of sauteed onions, zucchini and mushrooms, complete the meal. Take note that all entrees also come with hot tea, rice, miso soup and house salad with ginger dressing.

Blue Hawaii Sushi Bar & Restaurant
Pearl City Gateway
1140 Kuala St.


Oh yes, we’re going to a hukilau where the yuzu reigns supreme! Hukilau, located in Executive Centre in downtown Honolulu, knows how to bring the yuzu to the party. Known for its upscale local grinds, this restaurant is overflowing with immaculate flavors. Take Hukilau’s Shrimp and Shiitake Mushroom Potstickers ($7 during happy hour, $9 for dinner) for instance, which presents you with the tastiest potstickers filled to the brim with none other than shrimp and shiitake mushrooms blended nicely with oyster sauce, garlic, onion, cilantro and green onions. Executive chef Jason Takemura also stirs up a killer dipping sauce to go with it.

“Yuzu has always been incorporated into our menu from the beginning,” Takemura says. “Yuzu is served in all kinds of forms now — as pastes, concentrates, juices, etc. We use yuzu juice and blend it into our sauces. The potsticker sauce combines yuzu with oyster sauce, Maui onions, sake and miso.

“Yuzu helps to bring out the original flavors of the dish, but still has its own unique citrus flavor,” he adds.

And for the complete yuzu experience, sip on Hukilau’s Raspberry Yuzu Martini ($7), which melds together Raspberry Stoli, Chambord and yuzu to create one unforgettable cocktail.

“Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit,” Takemura explains. “The flavor profile is a cross between a lemon and a tangerine. It’s very aromatic and will enhance anything it touches.”

Executive Centre
1088 Bishop St.

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