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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Búho Cocina y Cantina

Restaurant Insider

July 25, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: REID SHIMABUKURO

ANNE LEE speaks with Diamond Dining president/CEO MICHAEL NISHI

Located on top of Waikiki Shopping Plaza, you will find delicious modern Mexican dishes with unbelievable views. Búho Cocina y Cantina has been a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike. They opened back up about a month ago, and Diamond Dining (which oversees Búho Cocina y Cantina an Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar) president and CEO Michael Nishi and I sampled some of the popular locally sourced Mexican dishes as he shared what’s new and upcoming.

AL: How did you get into the restaurant industry?

MN: I was born in L.A. and raised in Japan. I started my restaurant career when I was 24. My father worked in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. With my experience, I managed to open a bar when I was 30 and operated that for four years but wanted a change. Luckily, In 2014, I had the opportunity to come to Hawaii to work with Zetton Inc. Zetton and Diamond Dining formed a partnership in Japan, I joined Diamond Dining as vice president in 2018.

Mexican Street Corn ($7)

AL: What types of challenges did you face due to the pandemic?

MN: We had shut down Búho as there were no tourists in Waikiki, but kept Shokudo open, as we were fortunate to have a big local following. We were able to create takeout options for the community and created bentos to feed and thank the first responders. We reopened Búho in June. With having an open-air dining concept here, many guests feel more at ease and comfortable.

AL: What type of experience does Búho provide?

MN: We offer an authentic Mexican cuisine experience, with homemade sauces and dishes that were created by our former executive chef Arturo Silva, who was born and raised in Mexico. This spacious rooftop restaurant provides incredible views in an open dining concept.

Al Pastor Tacos ($16 for three)

Every Tuesday, we offer Taco Tuesday, during which we serve tacos for $2 from 5 p.m. to close. We will plan on bringing our popular Salsa Saturday back soon, possibly in the next month or so.

AL: Describe the cuisine at Búho.

MN: I believe that there isn’t a real traditional Mexican restaurant venue here in Waikiki. Many of our visitor clientele comes from California, where the Mexican cuisine is exceptional. We want to make sure that we can provide a traditional experience for tourists, as well as our local clientele.

AL: What has the chef prepared for us today?

MN: Chips and Guacamole ($9), which is fresh avocado, serrano peppers, red onion, diced tomato and cilantro served with our housemade tortilla chips.

La Pina Loca ($32) with Corona (beer prices vary)

Mexican Street Corn ($7), which is one whole yellow corn mixed with queso cotija cheese, lime, ancho powder and mayo.

We also have our Al Pastor Tacos ($16 for three). These are filled with our house marinated pork, onions, cilantro, lime and salsa verde. This is one of our top sellers.

Off of our entrée menu, we are featuring our Favorite Fajita platter ($35), which has three protein options. It comes with soft flour tortillas, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, rib-eye steak — all with rajas mix, black beans, Mexican rice, pico de gallo, crema, guacamole and adobo salsa.

On our seafood portion of the appetizer menu, we are featuring our Shrimp Ceviche ($15). It’s a combination of shrimp, tomato, red onion, lime, cilantro and avocado, served with freshly made tortilla chips.

Shrimp Ceviche ($15)

One of our popular cocktails is the La Pina Loca ($32) served in a pineapple. It’s a combination of Jamaica-infused Cazadores silver, Patrón Citrónge Pineapple, agave syrup, passion fruit purée, lime juice, and homemade pineapple sorbet.

Our signature Búho Margarita ($12) is made with Casamigos Blanco tequila, orange liqueur, agave nectar and lime juice. We carry popular Mexican beer, too.

AL: What do you see happening for the restaurant industry?

MN: Tourism from Japan will probably be coming in March next year, so we will be seeing a lot more of the mainland guests arriving. We need to be prepared for when the state will allow restaurants to operate at full capacity.

Favorite Fajita platter ($35)

AL: Anything else you want our readers to know?

MN: We will have special events — check our social media or call us. Waikiki Shopping Plaza has a parking special: $5 for five hours. We will still be offering takeout, and guests can also dine-in. We have an elevator from Kalakaua Avenue that will bring you straight to the restaurant.

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