Shirokiya’s Yataimura; A Mondavi Dinner

Hot on the heels of a recent column about the excellence of our Honolulu bakers comes news of another bakery about to open in Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center. Already a source of amazing pastries and desserts – Kulu Kulu Bakery opened last year on the second floor, joining the already impressive list of bakeries within the store – Shirokiya will have a full-size German-style bakery on the first floor (Macy’s side) by the end of the month. I’m not sure you can call yourself a true Honolulu foodie unless you are familiar with the food offerings at Shirokiya, because what started as a seemingly random collection of food purveyors has turned into a near-perfect representation and reflection of contemporary Japanese food.


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Andagi - one of the first food vendors at the Shirokiya market - on a recent busy morning | Jo McGarry photos

It’s been just two years since the oldest Japanese department store in town completed its Yataimura (complete with beer garden) on the third floor. Since then, new vendors, offering a seemingly endless array of foods, pop up regularly. And crowds start gathering early. On a recent Tuesday morning there was an impressive group gathered at the foot of the escalator to the third floor well before 10 a.m.

It’s best to think of the Yataimura as a bird’s-eye view of Japanese street food rather than a shopping mall food court, because the attention to detail and the assortment of fresh udon, ramen and bentos, sushi, sashimi and specialty foods far outweigh anything seen under any other culinary venue in Honolulu.

And what makes a trip to Shirokiya’s third floor so extraordinary is that you can taste almost any kind of contemporary Japanese food – whether it be a humble bowl of udon, a pork tonkatsu sandwich or a Japanese twist on a dozen different musubi. There’s gently poached salmon belly over rice, grilled abalone, chicken katsu, tempura stations, chicken karaage, pot-stickers – all prepared by a bevy of dedicated cooks who dip and dice and chop and fry with marvelous attention to detail.

And if you still think of Shirokiya as a place of assorted oddments of Japanese household goods, then I suggest you head to the beer garden on the third floor any evening around 6 p.m. for happy hour. I can think of no other place in town where 20-something hipsters hang out in the same place as tiny, old Japanese ladies – all vying for some of the best food and drink in town.

Robert Mondavi Vineyards and Ruth’s Chris Steak House come together this week to celebrate the godfather of California wine. Robert Mondavi’s 100th birthday is celebrated June 13 with a special menu offered at 96 Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses across the country, including our own Restaurant Row.

The five-course dinner and wine pairing offered for $110 pays tribute to two American icons in the world of food and wine. The menu includes a Chilled Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad paired with Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc; Wild Mushroom Ragout paired with Pinot Noir; Grilled Spring Lamb Chops with Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon; and a sizzling Filet Mignon with the very special Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

Having been to several similar celebratory dinners at Ruth’s Chris at Restaurant Row, I can highly recommend the evening. You’ll not only eat and drink well, but you’ll be joining a great group of like-minded food and wine lovers intent on having a good time.

For information and reservations, call 599-3860.

Happy eating!