Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review: Gazen Izakaya, Waikiki Hawaii

Well I know there's been a bit of a break in content but there's a good reason! I moved to New York City and life got in the way. Moving across a continent is a big deal! Well I'm back in a sensible routien and I have lots of catch up to do on content and a whole new city to explore full of every kind of food imaginable. 

For my first wedding anniversary we decided to go to Waikiki. I had spent some time in Hawaii on work trips but my husband was yet to savour in the delights. Neither of us had been to Waikiki since we were very young, when you used to refuel in Hawaii on flights from Australia across the Pacific. 

Waikiki is now the perfect Japanese holiday destination and is filled with a hearty mix of Americans, Japanese and Australians... which makes it feel a little like being back in Sydney. This means a great variety of Japanese specialty restaurants all over Honolulu. 


Gazen was a real find, a traditional and authentic Kansai style Izakaya in suburban Honolulu. Aimed mostly at local residents rather than tourists the restaurant had a vibrant homely feel with many regulars who stopped to speak to us. 



Tuna Sashimi $16.50USD

Fresh and delicious, it seemed unreasonable to holiday in the middle of the Pacific and not eat tuna!


Tofu sampler $12.80USD

This was the real stellar dish of the visit. Home made tofu in three different styles - kurogoma black sesame tofu, sukui tofu in soy milk broth, zaru cold fresh tofu with Hawaiian sea salt. Each was delicious though I liked the sukui with a little soy and wasabi, were I coming back again I would have altered how much I order. I was expecting half or less of each sample. 


Croquettes $7.75USD

A home made specialty croquette made with ground chicken scallions and tofu. Delicious!


Tofu and Jako salad with yuzu dressing $7.50

Had I realised how large the tofu sampler was I would have skipped this but I was hypnotised by the range of fresh tofu products (and this was the small salad!). It was delicious but we ate less than a third of it. The yuzu dressing was crisp fresh and delicious, I expect there is a local yuzu farm since this was no bottled dressing.


Beef tataki $8.50USD and cucumber salad $4.50USD

American beef sometimes leaves a little to be desired, I probably would have skipped this if I was returning. The Cucumber salad was nice and cut through some of the fattier dishes, I wish it had come with more of the yuzu dressing from the other salad. 


Grilled chicken with onion sauce $9.25USD

If you were coming for a healthy meal this would definitely be a great option. Skin removed grilled chicken is served on top of sprouts and scallions with a delicious savoury ground onion sauce. Yum.



Okonomiyaki (Japanese vegetable pancake) $4.75USD

This takes a little while to prepare so you want to order this first and have it appear a the end of the meal. Fried vegetables and served topped with sticky sweet sauce, mayonnaise, dried bonito and herbs. Delicious. If you like the look of this check out my simple recipe for okonomiyaki a great way to get kids to eat more vegies.



Somehow I managed to not even get a picture of the seasoned burdock root dish we ordered which was by far one of the best. I suspect that exhaustion from so much food was to blame. 

So my usual approach when going to a tapas or izakaya place is to order one dish from each section of the menu and then order again if the party is still hungry. In this case this turned out to be a mistake and we were unable to eat half the food. The key here seems to be that this was not actually "small plates" and that really this was izakaya style food but with American sized meal portions. Just a litle nod to Hawaii's blended culture. 

The food was wonderful and that tofu was to die for, definitely worth going back to. Doing it again, I probably would have ordered the okonomiyaki and the tofu and left it at that. Service was usual immaculate Japanese deference. 

My only tip? Drive yourself or make sure to have instructions on your phone for a taxi driver since this was a townie restaurant away from the resorts and the drivers both there and back commented they had not heard of it. 


Gazen Izakaya


Traditional Japanese gastropub in suburban Honolulu

http://www.e-k-c.co.jp/gazen/honolulu/

2840 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96826


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