Choose your adventureCover Story
May 23, 2021
Story By: Lianne Bidal Thompson | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
It’s a story not unlike many others. Chef Yoshihiro Matsumoto vacationed in Hawaii and fell in love with the islands.
“My first visit was Aug. 1, 2004, at Sheraton Waikiki,” he states. “I wanted to live here very, very much.”
So, Matsumoto and the owner of the original Giro Giro Kyoto restaurant decided to open up a Hawaii outpost. In April 2011, Matsumoto’s vision became reality, when he debuted Nanzan Giro Giro.
“I love to work in restaurants and cook,” he explains, adding that all of his training has come from working in Kyoto kaiseki restaurants, which feature a set menu of multiple courses. The dishes are artfully prepared, using seasonal ingredients. They may appear small, but, as is the case with Nanzan Giro Giro, with six or nine courses, diners walk away satisfied.
“I make the tasting menu with my Kyoto kaiseki skills and local American ingredients,” he explains.
Just as Matsumoto chose his Hawaii adventure, diners choose their culinary experience at his restaurant.
Nanzan Giro Giro offers two kaiseki menus each month, a six- and a nine-course menu.
“For Kyoto kaiseki menus, (the feel) of the season is very important, so I import three seasonal ingredients from Japan,” Matsumoto explains, adding that typically, it’s seasonal fish, while produce is sourced here.
May’s six-course menu ($68) includes a starter (ahi, tomato cheese egg tofu, spinach sesame sauce, zucchini, shiso), soup (ono, yuba soymilk paper, napa cabbage and more), small dish/oshinogi (Kona abalone, trout roe, kale, asparagus, cauliflower cream), main (beef, red wine foie gras sauce, green beans sesame tofu), broth and rice (guji snapper, broth, hearts of palm, rice, wasabi, mitsuba) and pickles (napa cabbage, ume puree, cucumber nukaduke).
The nine-course menu ($143) features all of the same, with the addition of both land (duck, onion soy sauce, wasabi) and a sea courses (lobster, uni sea urchin soy sauce, lobster bisque). This menu also includes a sweets course (azuki beans puree, kuzumochi spring roll, mango sauce, vanilla ice cream). The dessert is available for an additional $15 with the six-course menu.
Both menus, true to kaiseki tradition, close with a serving of green tea. In this case, it’s Kyoto Tsujiri matcha green tea.
Each course comes perfectly plated on handmade dishes that are especially created for the restaurant by one of the co-owners, Ito Nanzan. These beautiful ceramics are also available for purchase.
Dual bills of fare are a new thing for Matsumoto.
“It’s the first time in 10 years and a big challenge for me,” he states.
The restaurant also offers kaiseki takeout for half price of the six-course menu. Customers may order one day in advance by phone, text, email or direct message on Instagram or Facebook. Pickup is 5:30 p.m.
The menus change on the last Thursday of each month, so the June menu will start on May 28. When Matsumoto describes his culinary influences, it seems like poetry.
“Kaiseki menu is flowing. Up and down, roe and meat, cool and warm,” he asserts.
As for the eatery’s name, it reflects its eclectic owners.
“Nanzan is one of them,” Matsumoto states. “He is Ito Nanzan, a ceramic artist in Kyoto. Giro Giro is my original Kyoto restaurant’s name. ‘Gi’ is the owner’s last name … ‘Ro’ is from Rosanjin, a big artist in Japan (who’s) a cook, ceramic and drawing artist. We have big respect for Rosanjin.”
A unique name for a one-of-a-kind restaurant.