Sunday, October 31, 2004


Eurasian tapas dining
comes to Restaurant Row

In the beginning, there was Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, in a high-visibility corner of Restaurant Row. In August, Sansei begat Vino, a wine bar carved out of a little-used lounge area.

A few weeks ago, Sansei moved away, to Waikiki, and begat not just a new version of itself, but also the Sansei Steak House.

Next week comes the latest progression, as Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas opens in the Restaurant Row location that Sansei left behind.

Although Sansei founder D.K. Kodama is a partner in the new restaurant, he does not consider it "his," but rather the creation of chef Hiroshi Fukui, manager Cheryle Gomez and Chuck Furuya, a master sommelier who joined the Sansei organization last year.

Fukui comes from L'Uraku, the Kapiolani Boulevard restaurant he opened in 1996. That's the same year Kodama opened his first Sansei, in Maui's Kapalua Resort.

Both chefs are considered trend-setters in fusing traditional Japanese cuisine with European techniques and contemporary flair. Their styles are quite different, however, with Fukui's being refined and artistic, while Kodama's are more bold and boisterous.

The new restaurant Hiroshi will make the differences clear, beginning with revamped furnishings and a lighter, brighter color scheme, and on through the menu.

Manager Cheryle Gomez and chef Hiroshi Fukui go over their new restaurant's dishes, clockwise from front: filet mignon, grilled salmon chazuke, foie gras over grilled eggplant and kahala sashimi.

The tapas concept means smaller plates -- think small main dishes or oversize appetizers -- meant to be ordered in quantity and shared. It's the same principal as in the wine bar, Vino, which continues to share the restaurant space. The idea is to sample several dishes, rather than focus on the standard starter-entree-dessert lineup.

"It allows you to look at the whole gamut of the menu and choose what you want to eat, rather than worry about which is the entree-size," Gomez said.

The dishes reflect Fukui's traditional style, but he said he now feels he has the freedom to be less "Japanesey," incorporating new ingredients -- chopped Kalamata olives and Parmesan cheese, for example, sprinkled over thin slices of sashimi; or peppercorns pressed into filet mignon, topped with seared foie gras and a foie-gras ponzu sauce.

A private blessing for the restaurant will be held Thursday, with opening day on Friday. (By the way, the restaurant's middle name, Eurasion, is not a misspelling; it stands for Eurasian fusion.)

Meanwhile, Sansei is settling into its two new locations at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, with some outside furnishings just arriving, more than a month since opening.

Kodama says the two restaurants are drawing 250 to 400 diners a night, at a mix of about 60 percent visitors to 40 percent locals. "They're dressing up to come to Waikiki," Kodama says of his local clientele. "It's pretty cool. I like that."

The Restaurant Row location never drew the numbers of his Maui restaurants, Kodama said, averaging about 200 nightly, mostly local. "Tourists rarely come out of Waikiki."

But he said the new restaurant Hiroshi will be a more upscale destination and should attract more parties -- business people entertaining out-of-town guests, for example. It won't rely, as Sansei does, on steady visitor traffic.

Kaiseki returns to L'Uraku

Back at L'Uraku, a culinary team -- sous chef Edison Ching, kitchen manager Kawika Cahill and corporate chef Shuji Abe -- has taken over the kitchen since Fukui's departure.

Ching began his restaurant career right out of high school, at Sekiya's, and worked with Fukui for 4 1/2 years.

He continues a L'Uraku tradition, the Contemporary Kaiseki, on Thursday. It's the same night as the blessing ceremony at the new Hiroshi's, but this was apparently a scheduling coincidence caused when the original opening date for the new restaurant was delayed.

The L'Uraku kaiseki is a 10-course meal themed "Flavors of Fall." The menu includes Pumpkin & Chestnut soup, Snow Crab Meat with Micro Greens Salad, Oyster Royale, Grilled Hawaiian Moi and Miso-Marinated Beef Steak.

First seating is at 5:15 p.m. Cost is $70, $90 with wine pairings. Call 955-0552.

Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas

Restaurant Row; 533-HIRO

Hours: 6 to 10 p.m. daily beginning Friday

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar / Sansei Steak House

Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa; 931-6286 (Seafood) 931-6280 (Steak)

Hours: 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily; half-off sushi specials, 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday at seafood restaurant

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