Tokkuri-Tei was our first izakaya experience and was probably our favorite meal in Hawaii, and it came to us from a recommendation! RONW at Hotel Waikiki was nice enough to post about our Hawaii visit, and we had several emails and suggestions from his readers, including Alan from Maikiki (THANKS!) on this post.
The place is in a strip mall about a 15 or 20 minute walk from our hotel. It's amazing how fast you can get off the beaten tourist path, even in a place as well-visited as Waikiki.
We were seated next to a guy who struck up a conversation with Logan about his camera, told us to visit his parents' coffee farm in Kona, and gave us a card for his Bible study, I guess in case we came morally unmoored during our trip. The friendliness of the Hawaiians we ran into was wonderful.
Within a couple of minutes of our being seated, the waitress dropped off a couple bowls of boiled peanuts. We Southerners felt right at home.
The menu took FOREVER to peruse, partly because it was enormous (pages and pages of sake and shochu, sections for sushi and grilled items and fried things and izakaya snacks), but mostly because everything sounded so delicious. We started off with a glass of the house unfiltered Nigori sake, presented in its cute little lacquered box. Drink the glass of sake, and then pour the what's in the box into the glass - at least that's how I did it, and the method seemed to work!
Among other things, we ordered the midrange sashimi platter (I think this one was $30 - right, Logan?). It was the first thing to arrive, and was the prettiest plate of sushi I've seen in I have no idea how long. Luscious pieces of salmon lay under shaved onion (thanks for the correction, Skye!). Albacore was just barely cooked in a ring around the outside - now I know what all those sushi bars around here are trying (and failing) to do with this tasty fish. Tako (octopus) was way more tender than I'm used to, and the clam, or hokkegai, gave me a completely new appreciation for what I usually get as a dry and chewy bite.
And the squid (ika) salad with flying fish roe... sigh... all so good!
While we were demolishing this sashimi tray, our next dish came out. These grilled chicken livers, as pretty as they look, were our only disappointment of the night - grainy and a bit mushy. We ended up leaving most of them on the plate.
Luckily, the next dish to arrive was the "miso-painted dish with eggplant", which I insisted we order after seeing it get rave reviews on several websites. And it was wonderful, with the deep toasty umami of the miso sauce and the toothsome eggplant, which I swear had a bit of smokiness. Oh man.
I loved this, but I don't think I felt quite so strongly about it as Logan did about the next arrival, "nori-chos". These were, quite seriously, tempura-fried squares of nori - which stayed crunchy for a long time! - topped with avocados, cheese, sprouts, and chopped tomatoes. These were really good, quite an East-West fusion, and Logan was so excited about them that we started talking seriously about buying Tokkuri-Tei's cookbook (on sale in October). They went perfectly with the shochu we'd moved on to.
And then my favorite dish of the night arrived - the chawanmushi. This light egg custard, flavored with dashi and full of enoki mushrooms and lightly chewy bamboo shoots, was such a comforting end to a wonderful meal. Though I never had anything like this as a child, this goes in the same category of childhood comfort as Mom's meatloaf.
After all this food, we were totally stuffed and I was really sad. There were so many other items on the menu that I desperately wanted to try! We have nowhere remotely like this in Austin, and I'm so happy we went and checked them out.
And Logan did end up ordering the cookbook, so maybe you'll see some recipes from this place when we get the book in October!
Tokuri-Tei. 611 Kapahulu Ave # 102. Honolulu, HI. 808.739.2800. No website!
It was time for the first Pina Coladas of our visit. They were good and cold and coconutty.
And that's Day Two of our four and a half day Honolulu stay. Coming up next, the Honolulu Farmer's Market, the Dole Plantation, and North Shore shrimp trucks!
In more chronological news, I'm back, suckas! Logan is in Hawaii for another week, so for the time being it's just me and the cats. I've got hundreds of pictures to edit and lots more to blog.