La Dolce Vita, Japanese Style

Columns What's for Lunch?

August 11, 2013

Story By: Rachel Breit | Photos by: Rachel Breit

Dimension, color, use of negative space — these terms aptly apply to the culinary arts. In Japanese culture especially, the presentation of food is an art in itself. The plate is a canvas and the food is the medium. This attention to visual detail draws you into an all-encompassing experience.

Let your senses feast at Mimasuya Italiano of Kyoto, where classic Italian cuisine is presented with a Japanese flair using Italian-imported and locally grown ingredients. Despite more than 6,000 miles standing between Italy and Japan, the restaurant’s concept, down to the chic interior, is anything but disjointed.

The Pasta Course ($13) includes three assorted appetizers, salad and a pasta dish of your choice. If you’ve never had a fresh picked and perfectly ripe melon, then you’re especially going to want to try it wrapped in prosciutto. It is one of the rotating appetizers, which also includes bruschetta and Parmesan-topped mussels. The honey mustard dressing that comes with the salad is so good, and when paired with fresh Maui-grown lettuce … well, let’s just say, you’ll leave no salad behind. The dressing is made from local honey, fresh onion, garlic, olive oil and Dijon mustard. A favorite of the Pasta Course is Shrimp and Asparagus Aglio Olio. Your eyes will go manga style and googly when you experience the al dente Italian-imported pasta coated in garlic, olive oil and optimally cooked Kauai shrimp and asparagus.

A side note on al dente: The Italian term means “to the bite,” and when cooked in this way pasta, rice or even vegetables are tender, but still firm. The window of al dente, between underdone and overcooked, is only a matter of seconds, meaning executive chef Toshiya Umeda is paying attention. Detail-oriented Umeda is also choosing ingredients with care. The olive oil that serves as the backbone of most of the dishes is fruity and herbal with a peppery finish. These subtle flavors translate through to the final product.

When we think Italian, we think pasta. But wait, there’s more. Beef Cutlet and Sauteed Vegetables with house salad ($16) features cutlets prepared in a traditional Milanese style. They are dipped in bread-crumbs then pan-fried. (Oh, did we mention that Umeda makes his own olive oil and rosemary topped focaccia bread and uses it to make bread-crumbs?) The cutlets are served with a slightly sweet and smoky Marsala wine reduction. If you’d forgotten what you ordered, you may think you’ve just been presented with katsu and curry: the cutlet cut into bite-size pieces, the reduction spooned over one side and the vegetables arranged like a miniature sculpture garden. The Japanese presentation is in full swing.

Some swoon when they hear the word “gorgonzola.” Why the weakening in the knees for this cheese? Because the tension between the creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture and the blue cheese bite is almost romantic. Pair it with risotto and a medley of mushrooms and seasonal vegetables, and you’ll be head over heels for this other non-pasta offering. Umeda not only melts the cheese into the Gorgonzola Risotto with house salad ($14), but also liberally tops it with crumbles. It’s the ultimate in seduction.

Virginia Woolf said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Don’t you deserve to dine well for lunch? Call in advance to reserve the more private tables.

Mimasuya Italiano of Kyoto

1341 Kapiolani Blvd., Ste. 101
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: 5:30-10 p.m. (last seating 9:30 p.m.)
Closed every other Tuesday.
The next closing will be August 20.
Happy hour: Sunday-Thursday from 8:30 p.m. until closing
Note: The restaurant houses a full bar. Free parking is located just past the eatery at the Kapiolani side entrance of the Uraku Tower, in the basement level.

Honolulu, HI 96814

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Hawaii's Best