Classic cuisine, creative innovations

Columns Foodie Fare

June 1, 2014

Story By: Christina O Connor | Photos by: Anthony Consillio

YuZu in Ala Moana Hotel offers a new twist on Japanese cuisine. “We offer classic, authentic Japanese food, but we also have more creative, modern,” options,” says owner and chef Isamu Kubota.

Customers will find a wide selection of sushi rolls, nigiri, sashimi, udon and yakitori on the menu, along with innovative, contemporary items, including Lotus Root Pizza ($8.95).

For a sampling of what YuZu has to offer, Steak Poke ($9.95) is a good choice, featuring locally grown ogo, tomato, green onion, Tokyo negi onions and Hawaiian macadamia nuts seasoned with a sesame and tamari sauce.

“Ahi poke is one of the most popular dishes in Hawaii — and, of course, we have that, too — but we wanted to do something different,” Kubota says.

The restaurant also wows diners with Lobster Bisque Udon ($20.95). Kubota created this dish when he discovered the amount of people who love lobster bisque, and from there, he combined that flavor with classic udon.

“We use very fresh udon,” he says. “We don’t cut the udon until the order comes in, which is good for taste.”

The dish also is accented with local water-cress.

“I like to use locally grown products when I can,” he says. “And visitors from Japan and the Mainland want to experience all aspects of Hawaii, so I want to use local ingredients.”

While YuZu may offer a new take on Japanese cuisine, you don’t want to neglect your old favorites either. Assorted Vegetable Tempura ($9.95) pairs nicely with any meal. The vegetables differ based on availability, but at times include eggplant, broccoli and onion, dipped lightly in tempura batter.

To complete your meal, Kubota recommends Zelda Crepe ($6.95). The crepe is stuffed with local apple bananas and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

“Instead of white sugar we utilize organic cane sugar and agave.”

On the Side

When Tokyo native Isamu Kubota visited Oahu 10 years ago, he knew he found a place he wanted to call home, as well as where he wanted to start a business. For Kubota, his wife and business partner, the goal was to be successful restauranteurs.

“We were surprised that food was very expensive in Waikiki,” says Kubota, who opened his first restaurant in Tokyo more than 25 years ago.

It wasn’t long before they thought to open a restaurant in the Islands that offered visitors and locals cheaper options.

In 2004, Kubota opened the doors to Restaurant Kai, followed by a string of other establishments in Honolulu and Waikiki.

Two years ago, YuZu in Ala Moana Hotel was born, and last year a second location opened in Ko Olina.

Kubota, who also serves as chef at YuZu, taught himself to cook while living in Japan. His wife also is a chef, and Kubota credits her with establishing many of the restaurant’s dishes.

Contact Christina O’Connor at diningout@staradvertiser.com


410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu
Monday – Saturday Lunch: 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Dinner 5 – 11 p.m.
Sunday Dinner 5 – 9:30 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96814

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best