On May 3 I got an email that simply read, “Changes for DK Restaurants.”
I almost didn’t open it.
I was shocked. The last time we had been to Hiroshi it was packed. (Granted, it was one of those special kaiseki dinners, but still.) It was hard to believe this restaurant, along with the more casual Vino, would no longer be our go-to dinner spot on a Friday night.
Not even 10 minutes after reading the email, I made reservations to eat there with my husband that night.
It just so happened executive chef John Iha — arguable one of the most underrated chefs on the island — was serving up fish and produce from Mari’s Gardens, an 18-acre aquaponics and hydroponics farm in Mililani where my husband works. So while it was great to see Iha — and everyone’s favorite master sommelier-comedian Chuck Furuya — that night, it was doubly nice to eat greens and tilapia (top) from my husband’s farm, too.
But I can’t say that took away from the shock and sadness I felt that night.
For one, both restaurants serve up some of my favorite dishes, including the Portuguese sausage potstickers (below) with wilted choi sum and an masterfully crafted truffled butter ponzu sauce that I could never replicate at home. (Which is why I love eating out.) And the fish here was always surprisingly good, from the panko-crusted mekajiki (broadbill swordfish) to the pan-roasted onaga on an ogo squid ink pasta to the crispy-skinned Hawaiian kampachi with local tofu and Manila clams.
And let me tell you, my husband and I have never had tilapia done so well — perfectly prepared, mindfully with the skin still on, so moist and flavorful. If you tried it, you’d never think of tilapia as the rubbish fish from the Ala Wai Canal again, trust me. (It helps that Iha is an avid fisherman. He knows what to do with fish.)
And then there was Vino, with its laid-back atmosphere perfect for dinner with friends, where all you need is a hot loaf of homemade bread, a nice spread of cheeses and a bottle — OK, several — of wine.
I have a lot of great memories at both restaurants, many with my husband, others with friends and a table full of sharable plates and empty wine glasses.
I can’t imagine the food scene in Hawai‘i without these two restaurants — or without Furuya, who’s not just a master of all things wine but has a way of making you laugh and roll your eyes at the same time. He’s an icon that needs to work a room full of hungry patrons, and I’m sure he and chef/restauranteur D.K. Kodama are looking for another venue — if not for their food, for him.
“Change is good — and inevitable,” Kodama said in that press release I read two weeks ago. “And we’re excited about the future as we grow our company in new ways.”
So while two restaurants close, I’m hopeful another one — maybe two! — will open in their place.
And I can only believe their next venture will be even better.
The last day of service at Slurp!, the ramen pop-up, will be May 15. The last evening of service at Hiroshi and Vino will be Thursday, May 21. So make reservations now.