The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, May 6, 1999

Good taste true of
food, if not decor

IT'S always interesting to witness different visions at work in creating a restaurant. Sometimes, the only physical change evident when restaurants change hands is a sign change. Other times, there is such a major gutting and overhaul, that all traces of a former owner are obliterated.

Count Kissho among the latter. The Japanese restaurant has opened in place of Cafe Aczione, whose owner, Errol Aczon is pursuing artistic endeavors unrelated to food. While he was there, the cafe seemed to breathe. It had a personality fueled by a floral garden, artwork, vintage furnishings and lamps, and a hand-painted floor.

All that is gone.

Star Rating

It's been covered over by linoleum, track lighting, icy glass-topped tables and bulky leather chairs. Accents include miniature tabletop lattice, lace curtains and faux flowers, all "noise" that detracts from the enjoyment of the chef's refined work.

A room has been added for private parties, but the decor is the same. If you can close your eyes to the surroundings, you'll find the food is quite good and fairly inexpensive. Pupu-style servings run, on average, $3 to $6. Count on ordering at least three dishes per person. Portions can be shared. For a complete meal, $1.50 will buy you pickled vegetables, rice and a bowl of miso soup, accented with mushrooms as well as the usual dice of tofu.

Start with delicate Fried Tofu ($4.50) in bonito stock, with crunchy slices of boiled lotus root and a small dab of mountain yam, not enough to offend those who don't like their starches slimy.

Pink and green are colors that recur here, starting with a vinegar-marinated Crab and Kiwi Salad ($5) and leading up to the BOMB! ($5), a lettuce-wrapped dome of steamed pork with a surprise center - think Chinese restaurant pork hash - that sits in a pink tomato-cream sauce.

This is not as bad as the Butterfish Wrapped in Crepe ($5.50), a spongy yellow mass that swallows the fish whole and obscures its flavor.

I also had to try the Ahi and Avocado Steak ($6.50), with fish and avocado crumbled and compressed into patty form. Of course it ends up tasting exactly like an ahi steak, so there's no reason anyone should be playing with the food this way.

It's best to stick with the real deal, unadulterated seafood offerings such as Garlic Fried Aku ($5) topped with crunchy pieces of garlic as big as pumpkin seeds.

Also exceptional is the Yakitori Chicken ($5), skewers removed, that comes with a garlicky miso sauce.

Finish your meal with a traditional serving of Red Beans ($2), or a refreshing dish of Cream Mitsumame ($3), cubes of kanten, or gelatin, mixed with pieces of fresh fruit, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You'll find the entire meal easy on the palate, even if the new decor is hard to digest.

See a listing of past restaurants reviewed in the
Do It Electric!

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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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