We recently returned to Gyotaku Japanese Restaurant on South King Street for Diner A’s birthday, where the restaurant underwent a complete renovation about a year ago in December 2012, and I must say, it looks FAB’! *Snaps fingers and shakes head with attitude*
From here I’ll let the photos do the talking.
While I didn’t go in there myself, I heard the bathrooms are totally renovated as well.
Namesake to the restaurant, Gyotaku is a style of Japanese relief art where ink is applied directly to a fresh-caught fish, then the canvas is pressed on the inked surface to take an impression of the fish. It was originally done so fisherman could record their catch, however in modern times has developed into a popular style of Japanese art. Let’s take a look now at some beautiful Gyotaku pieces they have on display in the restaurant.
Getting to the business of eating, let’s check out the Lunch Specials…
Gyotaku Lunch Specials, current as of March 2012. Image courtesy of GyotakuHawaii.com
None of us were exactly starving that day, so we all just ordered entrees, where first-up we have birthday boy Diner A’s California-Don & Tenpura…
Next-up, Diner E’s California Delight…
And Yours Truly ordered the Gyotaku Lunch Box…
The Lunch Box and California Delight specials include Gyotaku’s House Salad and Miso Soup to round out the meal (ala carte appetizers not necessary!)…
A note on the service, once we were seated, it was fairly prompt, with food arriving within about 12 to 15 minutes of being ordered. However going there without reservations, we had to wait 15 minutes to get a table. Parking on the property is ample, so no problems there.
Let’s try the Miso Soup while it’s still pipin’ hot…
Pretty basic, yet done right. Nice balance of shiro miso, with about a small handful of cubed soft tofu and a few slices of konbu for added depth. As odd as this pick may seem, I still say one of the best Miso Soup I’ve had in restaurants here is at, of all places, Ethel’s Grill. Go figure.
Let’s try the salad…
The dressing is light, with somewhat of an asian flair to it, tasting like it’s based on mirin, vinegar, and either a little miso, dashi and/or soy sauce. While there’s a generous chunk of crab that’s imitation, its quality is decent for the price point, having a pleasantly fresh, genuine crab taste, FWIW.
Time for the main attraction, starting with the sushi…
Not the worst, yet not the greatest presentation, but hey for $13 for the whole spread (this being just one part of it), I’m not complaining!
While it’s still as fresh-made as possible, the very first thing I hit is the Maguro Nigiro…
First of all the sushi rice is EXCELLENT. Turns out they use a sushi rice brand I’ve never heard of called New Rose. Sounds rather generic, however in flavor and texture, it’s a quite respectable sushi-grade rice. Only extreme sushi connoisseurs would expect any better.
From there, I always hit the also fresh-as-possible Hamachi Nigiri…
Again, this is some oishii bang-for-the-buck sushi. Like the Maguro slice on the previous, the Hamachi slice on this one was melts-in-the-mouth, not on your hashi fresh as can be.
OK, let’s switch-up and also take advantage of the tenpura (notice they spell it with an ‘n’) while’s it’s also still crispy fresh out of the fryer, starting with the biggest, the Eggplant Tenpura…
The tenpura batter was light and crispy, and not greasy at all, while the eggplant within was soft ‘n tender. If anything, I’d like to see more crispy bits swirled on the batter while it’s fried, but hey, for a high volume restaurant, I’m happy with this. Also to note, the tenpura sauce had good dashi depth, with just a few dabs of grated daikon in it for added dimension. While I’m a grated daikon FREAK, I was happy with how it was served as is.
Let’s try the Japanese sweet potato tenpura…
I swear, I so LOVE root vegetable tenpura varieties such as this. As for the Shrimp Tempura, that one’s not going to win any awards for the genre, yet again, FWIW, A-OK.
Yakitori (Japanese style grilled Teriyaki Chicken)
As you can see, there’s my NOT so favorite meat, chicken included in the Lunch Box in the form of Grilled Teriyaki Chicken (very similar to Yakitori on skewers). Which I would have preferred grilled Saba, or better yet Misoyaki Butterfish, and probably could have asked to substitute the chicken for fish, but just rolled with it, as I didn’t want any confusion on our order. Thankfully they ACED this! It was super juicy and tender, with great grilled markings and a deep, nicely balanced sweet-to-savory, perfectly thickened Yakitori style sauce. Like the Nigiri Sushi, I really can’t see expecting any better unless you were a die-hard Yakitori fan, and know those small Japanese bars around Japan such as Torigin who REALLY know their Yakitori.
Summing it up, between the fantastic sushi and the wonderful rice used, light ‘n crispy outside, tender inside tenpura and nicely grilled, full-flavored, juicy ‘n tender Yakitori style chicken (not on skewers), I give Gyotaku’s budget-friendly Lunch Box special a very solid 4 SPAM Musubi.
California Delight lunch special (part 1 of 3): Vegetable and Shrimp Tenpura & Karaage Chicken
As for the California Delight, both Diner C and E gave it a thumbs-up as well, also noting the quality grade of the sushi rice, and the fried foods being light and crispy, and not greasy at all, while being very, very tasty (great word!).
Last but not least, let’s get a better look and taste of Diner A’s California-Don…
This Donburi is a big bowl of King Crab & Kani Kamaboko Tossed with Mayonnaise, Cucumber, Avocado and Masago, served over Sesame Seed Nori Furikake Seasoned Sushi Rice.
And? Two thumbs-up by Diner A. He raved about it the entire time digging through it, mentioning several times he’d return and order the same dish. That usually says it all. I got to try some of the chunky topping of avocado and imitation crab mixed with mayo and all the other “goodies”, and must say, OMG, that thing is to die for.
Anyway, this also says it all…
I did quite well myself….
I love when portions are just right, and this was perfect for lunch.
For some of us, even this was too much food, where here Diner E had enough to take home for later….
Gyotaku will be opening a new location in Aikahi Park Shopping Center (Kailua side) in early 2014, while they also have locations in Niu Valley Shopping Center and Pearl City.
Diner A about to rock out on some Gyotaku for his birthday
The beautiful renovations to the King Street location, consistently good to great Japanese dishes, affordable prices (especially for lunch and early bird), prompt service (on our visit), and lots of parking on the premises make Gyotaku a highly recommended choice on your next family or business outing.
Gyotaku Japanese Restaurant
1824 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826
The Tasty Island Rating: