Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Doraku + Blue Tree = double happiness at Pacifica

Nadine Kam photos
Doraku Kaka'ako by day.

By Nadine Kam

If not for one small detail, I would not have recognized the kinship between Doraku Kaka'ako and next door neighbor Blue Tree Cafe, in the new Pacifica condominium building at 1009 Kapiolani Boulevard.

The former caters to the happy hour, pau hana and party crowd. The latter offers the fix for the aftermath, with healthful libations and many a vegetarian and vegan food offering.

But I put two and two together when I saw the small photograph of Benihana of Tokyo founder Rocky Aoki and his first wife Chizuru, on a table at Blue Tree while reviewing the two eateries last month. (Aoki also translates as "Blue Tree.") The two are the parents of the restaurants' founder, Kevin Aoki, who hosted a casual media tasting Feb. 25 to introduce the two concepts.

For Aoki, raised with the Benihana tradition, Japan-style specialities with a twist seems to come naturally, so I was more intrigued by his organic and vegetarian direction, which he chalked up to a matter of getting older and recognizing the need to guard his health in light of raising a young family while undergoing the daily stress of overseeing a growing empire that will soon see another teppanyaki concept, Aoki, opening in Miami soon.

Introducing a delicious fruit "life-changing" elixirs, very verde smoothie and kombucha, the probiotic fermented tea, is in line with what he does at home to stay healthy.

I applaud the effort believe that all restaurateurs should consider ways to keep their clientele alive. I would have opened a french fry and aioli shop in downtown Honolulu two decades ago if I didn't care that to do so essentially amounts to killing people.

Lilikoi kombucha and a very verde smoothie sit in front of a portrait of Rocky and Chizuru Aoki at Blue Tree Cafe.

Coral Reef roll with salmon, avocado, crab and won ton chips.

Doraku's Kaka'ako's "New Style" tuna tataki with julienne radish and onions, kaiware sprouts, crisp garlic chips, garlic aioli and ponzu sauce.

Doraku's Kaka'ako's Double Happiness roll of crab rolled in nori, thin-sliced cucumber and finished with tobiko, garlic aioli and ponzu sauce. This was so refreshing and a perfect option for the gluten-free crowd.

Chef Hide Yoshimoto’s panko-crusted hamachi with mango salsa, king oyster mushrooms, asparagus, mango puree, and lemon-butter ponzu sauce.

The Red Dragon Roll is an unagi-topped variation of the Dragon Roll, or California roll.

Love the upscale-casual vibe at Blue Tree.

At Blue Tree Cafe, we sampled delicate zucchini "pasta" topped with pesto and sun-dried tomato ...

... And mac 'n cheese comprising quinoa shells and mashed pea "cheese." I like the quinoa macaroni just fine, but not being vegan, I still prefer milk cheeses.

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