Friday, April 12, 2013

Taste of Marukai draws 1,000 to sample Japanese fare

Nadine Kam photos
After a kagami biraki ceremony, Mr. Takemura, president of Tsukasabotan Brewing Co., of Japan, shared a toast with 3660 On the Rise chef Russell Siu, Marukai Corp. executive vice president Richard Matsu, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Marukai Wholesale Mart welcomed food and sake fans to enjoy dozens of dishes along with a variety of sake, shochu and Japanese beer during its annual Taste of Marukai event that took place April 11 at Marukai's Dillingham store at 2310 Kamehameha Highway, which packed in its 1,000 guests easily.

Sure there were lines for sashimi, sushi from Gokujo Sushi and edibles cooked up by 3660 On the Rise chef Russell Siu, but there was plenty to go around, so much so that chances are, most people probably got full before they could sample every offering.

Although there is less emphasis on outside chefs than in past years, in favor of showcasing fresh seafood and products carried by Marukai, crowd pleasers from past events were back, including fresh grilled abalone, platefuls of sashimi, made-to-order handrolls, tempura, yakitori, and more.

The event opened with the traditional Kagami Biraki sake barrel opening ceremony, with Marukai Corp. executive vice president Richard Matsu welcoming chef Siu, the president of Tsukasabotan Brewing Co., and Gov. Neil Abercrombie to crack open the barrel and share a toast.

Elsewhere in the store, highlights included a soba-making demonstration, amezaiku Japanese candy art, and a fish-cutting demo. People seem to be fascinated by the process because a video I made three years ago continues to draw hits and comments.

Guests started lining up early for Taste of Marukai for a bite of Japanese specialties.

Marukai executive vice-president Richard Matsu with his wife Jo, right, and Kori Higa.

Matsu presented a check for $30,000 to representatives from four beneficiaries of the fundraising event: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce, and the Hawaii United Okinawa Association.

Diners in line passed a sashimi boat, below, and ahi en route to sashimi plates.

Plates full of the big three of sashimi: hamachi, maguro and sake; the fade in the photos is due to refrigeration mist.

Pan-seared, shichimi-scented mahimahi topped with cucumber crab salad, in a dashi-ginger nage, from 3660 on the Rise. Chef Russell Siu was also serving hoisin-glazed shortribs with jasmine rice.

An event goer shares her wishes with a sushi chef from Gokujo Sushi, which provided made-to-order nigiri and handroll sushi.

Nathan and Chika Tanaka of Candy Art Hawaii were there, demonstrating the traditional Japanese art of amezaiku, shaping hot melted sugar and starch syrup into whimsical lollipop shapes.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Le Guignol to close at end of April

Fans of Le Guignol have only a few weeks more to enjoy the French restaurant.

The restaurant announced via email to friends and family today that its last day of service will be the evening of April 30, 2013.

In the email signed Chef Ala & Family, the chef announced, "After over 14 years of serving our loyal guests, my family and I have decided it is time to turn the page. We are closing one chapter of our life and looking forward to new adventures. There are many exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

"We have always considered Le Guignol as an extension of our home and family. The relationships and friendships we have made over the past 14 years will remain a cherished foundation of our past and integral part of our future.

"We have so many loyal guests and friends to thank. We are so honored and humbled you chose to spend your most special moments with us throughout the years. Each and every visit was special, whether it was graduation time, party time, a romantic dinner for two, a reunion with family and friends, a celebration of a milestone, your child’s birthday bash, or just a much needed solace away from the storm.

"We are grateful to all of our loyal and devoted staff who have worked with us over the years. They will always be a part of our Le Guignol family. The love and Aloha that Auntie Leilani brought to Le Guignol will never be forgotten.

"We are eternally grateful to those that have graced our tables and supported us. You ARE what made Le Guignol. Thank you all for the journey.

"We hope to see you the month of April to experience Le Guignol one last time. Please keep in mind that we are booked the following dates for a concert and the opera: April 13th, 26th, 28th, and 30th."

The closure will leave Honolulu with, I believe, just one dedicated French restaurant, Michel's at the Colony Surf.
Le Guignol is at 1010 S. King St. #108. Call 591-1809.

Y. Hata looks forward to next 100 years

Nadine Kam photos
A dessert flan bears the Y. Hata & Co. logo in white chocolate. The company is marking its centennial.

Y. Hata & Co. is marking its 100th anniversary as a wholesaler of dry, chilled and frozen food products, supplying Hawaii's food industry. As they put it, "Every time you quench your thirst at Jamba Juice of sit down to a meal at Zippy's, a burger at Teddy's or a sumptuous spread at Aulani, you're enjoying Y. Hata products."

Additionally, Y. Hata also supplies schools and military personnel daily.

To mark the occasion and in looking forward to the next 100 years, Y. Hata has undergone a 100th birthday renovation and refresh, with restyling by Cathy Lee Style, and held an open house April 3 with pau hana pupu and drinks showcasing some of the company's products.

Included in the revamp is third-generation chairman and CEO Russel Hata's gift to the company's 200 employees, a Google-inspired employee lounge constructed from a pair of shipping containers, and furnished with flat-screen television, game table, dart board and foosball table.

hata lounge
A peek into the new Lounge @ Y. Hata, an employee lounge constructed from two shipping containers and styled by Cathy Lee Designs.

Also foremost in the renovation is the prominent display of the company's core values: Partners first, continuous improvement, ohana empowerment, ohana pride, candid communications, and live aloha, give aloha.

It was nice to see a business with a philosophy of putting people first, and I'm sure a lot of companies could learn from the example. Quite a few guests, after getting the workplace tour, were ready to fill out job applications!

Y. Hata & Co. had humble Hilo origins, starting in Yoichi and Naeko Hata's garage, after the couple immigrated from Japan. The company continues to be run by family. Russell is the son of chairman emeritus Frank Hata, the youngest of Yoichi and Naeko's 10 children.

And the company continues to look forward in ways beneficial to the aina and community, as a supporter of Kapiolani Culinary Institute of the Pacific, sponsor of culinary scholarships and CIP's national teams, and as home to a green, rooftop photovoltaic system.

Also of interest to many people will be the fact that they operate a retail store where anyone can shop for bulk food items, catering-size pans for parties and events, professional knives and cookware.

Among the most popular items are bags of McCormick chicken seasoning ($11.99) for deep-fry chicken and pork, and marinated kalbi, great considerations for your next big back-yard celebration. The shop is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays at 285 Sand Island Access Road.

Congratulations on 100 years of success and the next 100 years to come!

Y. Hata's third-generation chairman and CEO Russell Hata, with interior designer Cathy Lee.

hata space
Cathy said both genders were thrilled with the lounge, with the female employees immediately seeing it as a place for bridal and baby showers, and the men looking at it as a place to enjoy the Superbowl and other televised sports.

hata wall
A table for lunch or board games. All areas reflect Y. Hata corporate colors.

hata games
Employees can take a break for darts and board games, but they are never far from posters reflecting the company's mission and core values.

hata board
A dry erase board in the lounge provides a place for messages and brainstorming ideas. Outlets provide a place to plug in computers and other personal electronic devices.