Iron Chef on Isle

January 24, 2012 | By Brian Berusch

Morimoto Waikiki Serves Up Inventive Fare

During the course of one very exhaustive month, Masaharu Morimoto prepared to open successive restaurants—one here in Honolulu, the other on a verdant hillside in California’s Napa valley. The Morimoto empire was expanding, proof that his unique fusing of fares was—and remains—a hit with discerning diners the world over.

“It was all a bit of luck, this opportunity to be in Hawaii,” Morimoto says. “All the elements came together. That was sheer luck.”

Luck or not, one thing comes across very clearly when speaking with Morimoto: He employs no set formula for his various restaurants.

“The menu design will be different here, just as it is overseas and elsewhere,” he adds. “I need to work with locals, so that will dictate the menu development. Local fish, fruits. And the pineapple!”

However, unlike other chefs who have deemed Honolulu the “next big thing” in urban dining destinations, Morimoto has deep ties to Hawaii. After being raised in Hiroshima, Japan, Hawaii was the first place in the U.S. he visited. (He was married at Waioli Chapel in Waikiki in 1978.)

At Morimoto Waikiki, the menu is indicitive of his worldly influence, yet he has established relationships with Big Island (and elsewhere in the isles) farmers and producers to utilize their island-grown wares. He’s completely smitten with a particular coffee from a farm in Kona, for example.

“Quality and sustainability are my biggest care, and I’d like to use as many local ingredients as possible. But at the same time, I’d like to introduce my guests to something that is hard to get in Hawaii.”

And while he knows that guests from around the world will fill his airy and bright interior dining room, he attests that this eatery is for the locals.

“I know the local people love pork, so I’m adjusting to work with a lot of pork,” adds Morimoto, noting that he’s tapped a fish company in Tsukiji for traditional sushi dishes. However, there will still be tuna, opakapaka and Kona kampachi from Hawai‘i.

Morimoto has become a fixture at the most elite food and wine festivals in the U.S. (Pebble Beach, Aspen, South Beach, Austin), the World of Flavors gala in Napa, and executes guest teaching demonstrations at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., as well as the French Culinary Institute. He is an Iron Chef. He’s even got his own line of beers with Oregon’s Rogue Brewing Company.

In store for diners at Morimoto Waikiki are weekly specials, an omakase dining experience, unique takes on classic American dishes (French fries with melted American cheese accompanies the Spicy King Crab) and impeccable desserts.

Morimoto Waikiki
The Modern Honolulu [D:3 Waikiki Map]
1775 Ala Moana Blvd.