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L’Uraku

January 13, 2007

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There are not many restaurants where the ceiling looks like this…

This week we celebrated our Friday night family dinner at L’Uraku on Kapiolani. My dad received a gift certificate as a Christmas gift and there’s very little I enjoy doing more than redeeming restaurant gift certificates. The restaurant was mostly empty at our 6pm reservation but gradually filled up throughout the night.

Soft, warm potato rolls to begin. I always tell myself to never fill up on bread, but alas, it is more often than not a futile attempt as my love for bread goes far deeper than any main course dish. I like eating the lightly browned crust and slathering each pull of innards with butter, and plenty of it!

Wasabi butter is offered in addition to plain butter balls. Pungent little pipes of butter, a generous enough dose on the rolls and pretty soon all you can taste is wasabi tasting bread. My dad complained about the butter overpowering the flavor of the potato rolls, but for me, wasabi bread isn’t a bad idea :)

Between the four of us, we ordered two tasting menus and two ala carte entrees in addition to an appetizer. The appetizer was the Sushi Sampler – from left to right: Baked Miso Glazed Salmon, Grilled Unagi, “Crunchy” Soft Shell Crab, Seared Foie Gras, and another Soft Shell Crab. As a Euro-Japanese restaurant, the flavors and concepts were well integrated, though the presentation a bit on the sloppy side. The rice wasn’t packed tightly enough together, making it difficult to pick up each piece without leaving a chunk of rice behind. My favorite was of course, the Foie Gras, incredible buttery rich smooth, so sinful tasting yet not overly indulgent when paired with rice. You know how some people really like Unagi Don – a big bowl of rice with unagi? I could be very happy living on Foie Gras Don. The deep fried soft shell crab was a good “hot” sushi, though I’m pretty satisfied will all well fried and not greasy seafood!

The amuse bouche for the tasting was a Baked Miso Glazed Salmon Sushi. This is the same sushi on the sampler plate, the concept and flavor is simple, just miso and salmon, but the use of high quality ingredients and clean presentation elevated the dish. It also helps that smaller bites happen to taste better. Unless you’re talking about bread pudding.

A “salad” of Vine Ripened Hauula Tomato & Searched Shrimp was very refreshing. The tomato was served halved in a tangy light shower of avocado & ume-shiso vinaigrette. A smidgen of citrus aioli held down the single seared shrimp and a spoonful of fish eggs. I’ve been eating a lot of heavy (aka, local) foods, and food in general, this break and realized that this is the first time I’ve had a “salad” (or veggie based dish) in weeks!

For the second course, Pepper Seared Ahi & Foie Gras “Sandwich.” Hawaii seems to have a thing for foie gras sandwiches and sushi. Alan Wong’s and Hiroshi’s are just a few that come to mind. I looooove foie gras in so many and all forms that after one of the prep cooks at Alan Wong’s made me a grilled foie gras sandwich I was sooo happy that I didn’t eat dessert for a week. The sandwich I had there was done with crispy bread, while at L’Uraku, seared ahi was used to “sandwich” the generous cut of savory buttery goodness.

Moving on to main courses! Dad is a meat man and had a hard time deciding between the Lamb Chops and Filet Mignon ($28.50), but because my sister opted for the lamb, he chose the latter. Part of the fun in dining out is tasting many dishes, and I’m glad my parents agree! Sautéed and served bloody rare, with a citrus ponzu butter sauce, the filet balanced atop steamed vegetables and under a freshly grated “daikon oroshi.” And because we live Hawaii – a bowl of rice with furikake came with the dish!

My sister’s Garlic Rosemary Lamb Chop ($28.50) was a way bigger than expected portion of grilled lamb, with not the barest hint of “gamey-ness.” Beneath the chops was a little forest of sautéed shiitake mushrooms in roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette. Garlic roasted potatoes to the left, tomato confit and slices of grilled eggplant to the right.

What I’ve noticed about myself is that I’m a fish person by heart. Unless it has been a rainy day. If it rains on any given day then I begin to crave meeeeat so badly. I don’t know why and doubt I every will, so I just satisfy my cravings with the Miso Braised Shortribs ($24.50). Cause it’s not just any kind of meat I crave, but SOFT meat. Meat I don’t have to chew. Like the char siu from Yotteko-Ya, so slowed cooked pot roast. I have a thing about chewing, too much of it hurts and makes me tired! And this the soft chunks of savory shortribs slowly braised in a bath of miso and red wine was just perfect. I also like it when I don’t have to use a knife. Just poke and lightly pull. Sooo tender in the mouth with a distinctive heady miso flavor and so easy down. Nice. I used the roasted fingerling potatoes to soak up the truffle miso sauce and then when I ran out of potatoes I used the rice from my mom’s opakapaka.

And here is mom’s Opakapaka ($25.50), seared and served on wilted swiss chard with a tangle of fried “angel hair” potato. This dish also comes with a bowl of furikake rice, which, when spooned on top of the miso cream sauce, made a pretty good dish on its own!

I was already full and none of the dessert options on the tasting menu sounded appealing…how many times have we already had panna cotta and flourless chocolate cakes in our lives? But there was bread pudding on the regular dessert menu! So I asked. Kindly. To substitute the bread pudding for the tasting menu dessert. The waitress, who was clearly bemused by my insistence on bread pudding, quickly agreed and out came the dessert no more than ten minutes later. I have to say that I was a little letdown, the menu touted a Taro Bread Pudding and I mistaken imagined something that OnJin’s or Kakaako Kitchen would offer, a light custardy pudding where you could distinguish the chunks of bread from the pudding part. But instead I met a slightly taro-looking, but not flavored cut. A very solid cut that did not know how to wiggle and bore no sign of custardy joy. I was sad. But I was also happy cause the pale pink strawberry-azuki ice cream was just sweet enough with little bits of strawberries and azuki beans. It didn’t make sense to pair it with the bread pudding in any way, but at least I can go home saying the everything from amuse bouche to entree and half the dessert was excellent!

L’Uraku
1341 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814
(808) 955-0552



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