Chef’s menu makes
magic with wines
It is all but impossible to find a restaurant review that without reservation glows not only about the food, location, setting, service, prices and wine list but also about the seamlessness of how wines dovetail with the food. It is a unique and amazing phenomenon when wines truly blend, and then again present a foil against which we can taste a new, unique flavor.
A review like this could be written about chef Hiroshi Fukui of L'Uraku restaurant on Kapiolani Boulevard.
While many restaurants produce great food and wine matches, what is unique about Hiroshi's dishes is how effortlessly they work with very flavorful wines. It is true that little on his menu begs for a big cabernet sauvignon or cote rotie, but his dishes are able to bring richness to wines that at first appear sheer. In making this happen, Hiroshi accomplishes what seems an impossibility.
Dancing and weaving, wines such as prosecco, Saar rieslings, Italian pinot grigio, Franken Bacchus and scheurebe from the Rhinehessen offer up flavors that you miss when tasting them alone.
At a recent Contemporary Kaiseki dinner, 10 appetizer-size dishes of Hiroshi's creation were served one after the other, with matching wines. From the start, this meal made you wonder about the source of his inspiration. Ikura Panna Cotta "Lomi Lomi" was a brilliant contrast of textures and rich flavors, served with Col Vetorz Prosecco. A Kauai Shrimp Cioppino (paired with the 2001 Santi "Sortesele" Pinot Grigio) exhibited his playful expression of nouveau Cal-Ital. Uni Risotto with a green tea nage was followed by "Sausage & Eggs" -- home-made pork sausage with truffled egg-white omelet, seared foie gras and lilikoi reduction. The uni was paired with the 2001 Glen Carlou Chardonnay from South Africa; the sausage with a 2001 Pfeffingen Scheurebe Spatlase.
It was all incredible.
The next night, I actually returned to the restaurant and ordered everything on the left side of the menu -- that's the side with the appetizer courses -- and enjoyed a second kaiseki of my own making.
The way these dishes are composed, a number wines work well with several items. Ordering one wine with dinner is normal; two or more is rare. To have one or two wines ably accompany several different courses is wonderful.
Needless to say, the two wines we ordered fit so well: Franz Kunstler Reingau Riesling Habtrochen 2001 ($17 retail) and Scherrer Pinot Noir Russian River ($47).
The staff is friendly and casual. The setting is bright and cheery. But the food commands your attention. The national press writes about this restaurant often and Hiroshi has been at prestigious cooking events. Well-deserved.
Richard Field owns R. Field Food and Wine Co.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org