Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Sho’s KitchenRestaurant Insider
October 9, 2022
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with Sho’s Kitchen owner SHOJI NAMATAME
Growing up in Japan, Shoji Namatame started working at his uncle’s restaurant at the young age of 3, helping make a few dishes here and there. In return, he got paid 100 yen, which at that time bought him lots of ice cream, candy and chocolate.
Thus, he learned early on that he could cook and in doing so, get rewarded.
His namesake eatery — Sho’s Kitchen — was one of the brave restaurants that opened during the pandemic and celebrated its one-year milestone in February. Expect delicious food and a takeout culture that offers affordable high-end bentos and more.
I got to sit with chef “Sho” and learn more about the Chef’s Table menu and items being offered for October.
AL: Tell me about your history and how you got into the restaurant industry.
SN: I worked with my uncle in Japan until I turned 21. His partner was opening a restaurant in Portland and they needed my help. I hesitantly came to work with him, as I had a language barrier and was unfamiliar with the mainland. I quickly adapted to the mainland. I wanted to go to LA after watching TV shows that showed the Hollywood sign and went to work in Santa Monica.
AL: How did you get to Hawaii?
SN: My first local job was on Maui but my culinary background is diverse (Guam, Bora Bora, Kauai, Mexico, Oahu). I came to Maui as a sushi chef to work at Kinchya at the Grand Wailea. The owner, Mr. Takeshi Sekiguchi (the resort’s original developer), spent over $200 million to build this restaurant and brought 600 tons of the rock from Mount Fuji from Japan.
In 2020 due to the pandemic, I decided to open my own restaurant offering takeout gourmet comfort food at a good price. Good food doesn’t have to break the bank.
AL: What is the Chef’s Table menu and what is being featured for October?
SN:The takeout restaurant has limited space and doesn’t give an opportunity for me to offer dine-in during the day. On the weekends, the outside lanai is open, which allowed me to be able to share my culinary skills and love for cooking.
The Chef’s Table course dinner ($80 per person) is available Friday and Saturday evenings, and the theme changes each month. October will be omakase, featuring Kumamoto oysters with housemade ponzu, 12 pieces of nigiri and six pieces of maki sushi — these will be determined by what fish is available and in season from Japan and here locally. Also included are a soup and special dessert made by Cake M. We are BYOB; we provide all of the glassware, you just bring your favorites. Reservations are suggested, and the first seating is at 6 p.m.
AL: What is one of the most interesting things that has happened in your career.
SN: When I worked at Kinchya, there was a golden teapot inside the restaurant valued at over $1 million that was stolen. It became national news, which brought much attention to the restaurant. We were already known as the most expensive course meal at $500 per person in 1992. The theft brought curious customers in the door, making the restaurant busier than ever.
AL: What is your favorite food to cook?
SN: Mexican food. When I lived in Mexico, my sous chef worked with a very famous Le Cordon Bleu Mexican chef for over 15 years. He taught me how to make the best Mexican dishes, and he learned how to make the best Japanese/Asian dishes from me.
AL: What is the easiest way to get to your restaurant?
SN:You can always call us first for a reservation. 808 Sheridan offers valet parking — with a vertical parking garage — located on the corner of Rycroft and Sheridan streets. The first hour is free and then $2 per hour after.