Morimoto Asia Waikiki, a new arrival in Masaharu Morimoto’s global restaurant empire, is sleek and showy in an understated way. There’s the precise geometry of long, clean lines that carry the eye across a large room of organic wood surfaces and fish-basket lights to a gleaming open kitchen. There’s the view, which takes in Kuhio Beach and the ocean beyond in an unobstructed sweep from the eatery’s second-floor lanai. And there’s the Iron Chef himself, still sleek at 62, hair slicked back in his trademark ponytail above immaculate chef’s whites.
It’s Morimoto’s charisma that pervades the redesigned `Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach’s showpiece restaurant, and the quiet thrill of diners drawn by his cachet is almost palpable. There are couples on vacation, mother-daughter pairings dressed to the nines, and foodies on the hunt for the fusion Japanese chef’s new Pan-Asian cuisine. What they find is as showy as the Iron Chef himself, but it’s not the cool chic of his now-shuttered Morimoto Waikiki. This new resto is more of a rickshaw ride across Morimoto’s vision of Asia. You take it all in—the expected, unexpected and the occasional showstopper.
So a trio of crispy, tender sticky ribs features on the appetizer menu, along with softly crunchy jellyfish noodles dressed in soy, sesame oil and jalapenos. It’s a promising start, especially if you’ve ordered a flight of Morimoto-brand sakes or a cocktail of Savasana or the North Shore Mule. The first is a cleansing refresher of Hendrick’s gin, lemon juice, shiso and cucumber; and the second, a tangy tropical twist rich with velvety lilikoi passion fruit. Both up the vacation feel if you’re sitting on the lanai; bring sunglasses if you’re dining before sunset.
Here’s where things get interactive (it’s a rickshaw ride, remember?). To dine at Morimoto Asia without trying some of the former sushi chef’s fresh fish seems like sacrilege (Morimoto was head chef at one of Nobu Matsuhisa’s Manhattan haute spots and earned a Michelin star at Morimoto XEX, his teppanyaki and sushi outpost in Tokyo). A sashimi salad of fresh local greens is presented in a clear plastic tube fastened with a traditional red-and-white mizuhiki knot. From the kitchen, meanwhile, a dim sum cart appears; the choices are tempting, but we’re in the mood for some luxe.
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