As you may know, if you’re lucky enough to have a reservation, the French Laundry reopens tonight after their usual three-week, January hiatus. We spoke to chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth today, the man who makes the magic happen in Keller’s kitchen day in and day out those other 49 weeks a year, who just took a much needed surfing vacation on Oahu.
Below, his informal guide to the best Japanese food on the island:
It was my second time going to Oahu. The first time I spent solely in Waikiki surfing and eating at the highly recommended Matsugen, a small Japanese soba restaurant. This winter I had more time to explore the island: visiting the North Shore, eating at shrimp trucks, having the shaved ice at Matsumoto, and watching surf competitions at Pipeline. The majority of the time I spent in Waikiki again, which had some of the coolest spots to eat. Whether it was breakfast at Leonard’s for malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts), or Helena’s with the traditional Hawaiian cuisine, it was all really good eats!
Trying all of the local spots was great but I found myself eating primarily Japanese. I ate lunch at Matsugen practically every day, having soba nato or soba noodle soup and even their lunch specials, which are a great way to try a few different things. Next door to Matsugen is Tonkatsu Ginza Barin where you make your own ground sesame sauce to go with the Kurobuto tonkatsu… life changing!
I know it may be hard to believe but yakitori in Yountville is hard to come by so I got my fix at Kohnotori. Eating grilled chicken skins and bacon wrapped enoki mushrooms. Sasabune for sushi was also great, just sit down at the bar and the sushi chef will deliver a personalized tasting menu. (Be sure to make reservations there.) You can also get great sushi at Wada as well as make your own kobe beef or beef tongue stir-fry, or even try the crispy beef tongue and cabbage salad.
My favorite new spot had to be Izakaya Naru. They are so great in there. Its crazy fun and the food is really good. Try the gyoza or the chicken karaage with ume sauce, soooo good!