Archive for May 2012

Back in the 808: Sushi Izakaya Gaku

May 22, 2012

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I lived in Japan for two years.  I taught English at a high school in the third largest city in Fukuoka prefecture.  I have so many great memories from those two years, much of them revolving around food.  Eating and drinking is such a huge part of Japanese culture that it’s no wonder that most of my pictures from Japan often included people, nature, food or some combination of the three.

Professionals often frequent izakayas in Japan after work.  Izakayas are usually small, casual dining establishments that serve food, sake and beer.  I often used to go with other teachers to unwind after a long day and we would eat and drink beer until we were in danger of missing the last train home.

I had asked my friend Jeff where we should eat since we hadn’t been back to the islands in awhile.  When he told me that Sushi Izakaya Gaku was his favorite place to go, I knew we had to try it.  The day we flew back from Maui, we called Gaku around 4:15 to try to get a reservation for that evening.  They had an opening at 5 PM for us if we promised to eat fast so we booked it.  Good thing we did because people were getting turned away at the door as we ate our meal.

My favorite dish of the night was the spicy negi hama tartare.  One the raw quail egg gets mixed in, wrap it in the nori (seaweed) and eat.  The hamachi was perfectly creamy and the flavors of the fish combined with the scallions and raw egg were in perfect harmony with each other.

The homemade tofu with dashi jelly was amazingly smooth and silky.  We mixed in the wasabi and ate it with our spoons.  It was a pretty great way to begin our meal.

TM does not care for crab but he let me order the king crab cake.  It came out sizzling on the plate and tasted buttery with huge chunks of crab.

One of the specials that night was the papio carpaccio.  Interestingly enough, this was one of my least favorite dishes of the evening.  I had never tried papio before and thought it didn’t compare to the hamachi.

The karaage chicken had good flavor but it did not blow me away.  I will probably pass on it next time and try something else on the menu.

The nigiri sushi we ordered was impeccable!  Hamachi for me and salmon for TM.

We weren’t planning on ordering dessert here but when we heard green tea ice cream with homemade mochi, we decided we could share.  It was the perfect end to our memorable meal.

We ate our plates clean and paid our bill before the next reservation came.  This dinner was one of my top two favorite meals of this trip because everything about Gaku was great including the atmosphere, service, and of course, the food.  It was quite different from izakayas I used to go to in Japan.  It didn’t have the usual yakitori and other skewers you would usually find in izakayas and was definitely not as smoky (smoking is allowed everywhere in Japan) but it had an intimate and casual feel once you were inside.  I would go again in a heartbeat if we have time the next time we are back!

1329 S. King St.   Honolulu, HI

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