Tsukada Nojo, apopular izakaya chain from Japan recently opened its first Hawaii location near the Hawaii Convention Center earlier this month. In staying true to its name (Tsukada being an area in Miyazaki, Kyushu, and “nojo” meaning “farm”), the restaurant introduces its concept, which fuses Japanese modern sensibilities with Farm-to-Table showcasing locally-sourced ingredients.
Last Thursday, March 16th, a private media preview luncheon was held there, where they showcased some of their most popular dishes. Following is coverage from the event, as we begin with a look around Tsukada Nojo’s new digs.
Tsukada Nojo is located in its own brand new stand-alone building, way up the mauka end of Kalakaua Avenue on the Ewa side, right across Century Center. Another landmark would be Micronesia Mart, who is next to it on the corner of Kapiolani Blvd, adjacent to the Hawaii Convention Center. Waikiki is just footsteps away. There’s limited parking in front, however they’re planning on doing valet service to maximize use of the lot.
The main dining room has a high ceiling with a very open, quite modern, yet relaxed, casual feel.
There’s a second floor loft dining area that staircase leads to, which at the time was being temporarily used for office space, however it will soon be available, particularly for private parties.
Under the 2nd floor loft is more seating within the 1st floor main dining area.
Notice this artwork on the wall features two chickens, which is exactly what Tsukada Nojo’s cuisine is centered on: chicken.
The lighting is ambient, setting a comfortably casual mood, with just enough brightness to get them great foodie shots, yet not so much as to feel you’re in an institution.
Tsukada Nojo is an izakaya, which is loosely the Japanese word for “gastropub”, meaning a bar centered around really great food.
Speaking of bar, there it is, located at the very front left as you enter.
The two beers on tap are Maui Brewing Company’s Bikini Blonde and Big Swell IPA. There’s a menu PDF menu download link at the end of this post for a complete listing of their spirits.
Trying to keep things rustic, they employ an open kitchen layout, where even the dishware used are neatly on display.
Above is the left side of the open kitchen, which has an “L” shape layout within the back of the restaurant.
Above is the right side of the “L” shaped open kitchen, where all the dishes are expedited.
Dishware and utensils neatly on display.
Being this was a media event, the dishes they would be serving us in sample format for this luncheon were set-up stylized in full dress on a table for great photo ops. Following are those.
I still REFUSE to lug around a DSLR rig with me. My trusty, pocketable Canon PowerShot S100 gets all the great shots I need!
Kale beer – $10 Maui Brewing Company’s Bikini Blonde Lager and Kale juice
Hamachi Jalapeno – $15
Yellowtail sashimi, green onion, and jalapeno, served with a sweet chili ponzu sauce
Nojo Salad – $9
Mixed greens, cherry tomato, almonds, and a veggie-based garlic anchovy dressing on the side (vegan soy milk dressing available)
Chicken Veggie Tacos – $12
Curry chicken, tomato, red onion, and cilantro wrapped with sliced radish
Chicken Veggie Tacos
Umami Shichimi Chicken Wings – $10
Deep-fried chicken wings with shichimi teriyaki sauce
Nojo Chicken Nanban – $12
Miyazaki-style chicken fritters dipped in a soy vinaigrette, topped with house tartar sauce
Saikyo-Miso Avocado – $12
Avocado marinated in saikyo-miso
Nikumaki Rice Ball – $3.50
Miyazaki region’s comfort food: a pork belly-wrapped rice ball in sweet soy ginger sauce, served on green leaf lettuce, served with teriyaki sauce
Bijin Nabe (Chicken and Vegetables) – $50
Chicken-based collagen soup with garland chrysanthemum, zucchini, watermelon radish, tofu, chives, enoki mushroom, maitake mushroom, aburaage, green onion, and tsukune meat ball
Shaved ice with mixed fruits, mochi, black beans, milk syrup, and vanilla ice cream
Monaka Ice Cream Sandwich – $6
Choice of: matcha, black sesame, mango, or lilikoi
Matcha Berry Tiramisu – $7.50
Matcha biscuit, fruit, cream, and matcha powder
So here we go with the food sampling session, where out comes the Nojo Chicken Nanban, also plated with the Nojo Salad. While on the other sample plate are the Jalapeno Hamachi Sashimi and Chicken Veggie Tacos.
First on the Nojo Chicken Nanban, described as Miyazaki-style chicken fritters dipped in a soy vinaigrette, topped with house tartar sauce. Because of the bold tartar sauce, the first thing that came to mind upon tasting it was this is the chicken version of Fish ‘n Chips. I sort of got that soy vinaigrette, however the I’d say more your usual American style Tartar Sauce pretty much overtook that “Japanified” flavor profile of the soy vinaigrette. It certainly had a nice crunchy batter on it.
Speaking of chicken, straight out the gate, as you regular readers know I’m not its biggest fan, so you’re going to have to take my opinions on said dishes somewhat with a grain of salt. That said, had this been say, Nojo Hamachi Nanban (fish), I’d probably be going “goo goo gah gah”! lol That also said, and counter to that, Kelly Simek, KHON2’s morning weather news anchor, told me she LOVED the Nojo Chicken Nanban, going for seconds and thirds of it. Wow, you go girl!
As for the Nojo Salad, I loved the mixture of crispy fresh greens in it, however I think my plate was missing the much needed Garlic-Anchovy Dressing. I should have asked for it, but didn’t bother. Still, it was a nice refreshing compliment to the savory fried chicken and rich tartar sauce it was plated with.
Next to sample the Chicken Veggie Tacos, described as curry chicken, tomato, red onion, and cilantro wrapped with sliced radish. Again, that personal dislike for chicken was the only hindrance for me. Otherwise, this was DELICIOUS! Had that been curry fish or beef, or even something vegan like Tofu, I’d be all about it! That sliced radish “shell” was especially totally “rad”! I’d like to experiment making tacos at home using sliced radish as a shell vs. tortillas. Genius!
Plated with that was a sample of the Hamachi Jalapeno, described as Yellowtail sashimi, green onion, and jalapeno, served with a sweet chili ponzu sauce. And? Dude, you’re talking to a sashimi FREAK, so of course I’m going “goo goo gah gah” over this! It’s not chicken! Yay! Seriously though, the combination of the heat from the Jalapeno and robust “zip” from the sweet chili ponzu sauce, along with the abundance of chopped negi was FANTASTIC with the super fresh, super soft generous slice of Hamachi Sashimi. I could eat a whole platter of just this and call it a day. Then again, who wouldn’t?!
Next let’s sample the Saikyo-Miso Avocado, described as Avocado marinated in saikyo-miso. OK, think of this as the highest grade fish sashimi, except instead of fish, it’s the finest avocado money can buy, infused with this subtly savory, absolutely refined miso flavor. Avocado Sashimi if you will, especially when paired with the accompanying “hit” of the Wasabi. It cuts like “buttah” and hits your palate with this ever so silky sexiness, for lack of a better word. There you go, “Silky Sexiness” is the word of the day my friends, thanks to this AMAZING Saikyo-Miso Avocado. By far my favorite dish of the day! LOVE IT!!!!
Next up we have the Umami Shichimi Chicken Wings, described as deep-fried chicken wings with shichimi teriyaki sauce. Well, it’s chicken again, their theme, yet this was my favorite of all the chicken dishes served. It’s as good as spicy teriyaki wings can get, with a sort of Karaage “thang” goin’ on.
Very tender and juicy inside with the Karaage Chicken type of finish it it. Spicy heat-wise, I could easily handle it, which means, it’s not the “scorcher” some of you who look for that is. I suppose you can tell them to kick it up with more Togarashi Shichimi seasoning, if that’s your thing.
Next up, the Nikumaki Rice Ball, described as Miyazaki region’s comfort food: a pork belly-wrapped rice ball in sweet soy ginger sauce, served on green leaf lettuce, served with teriyaki sauce. On the menu these sell for $3.50 for a plate of two. Shown is a family-sized sampler plate served for this special event.
Now read that again, “Pork Belly-wrapped rice ball with sweet soy ginger sauce”. Next to the Saikyo-Miso Avocado, this was up there as my fave! The only thing I didn’t care for was that they put too much sauce infused into the rice, making it kinda’ soggy and overpowered with sauce. Still, overall, this was OISHII! The flavor-packed, chewy-crispy pork belly wrapped around the musubi rice KILLED IT (a good thing)!
Finishing off the savory items, we have the Bijin Nabe (Chicken and Vegetables), described as a chicken-based collagen soup with garland chrysanthemum, zucchini, watermelon radish, tofu, chives, enoki mushroom, maitake mushroom, aburaage, green onion, and tsukune meat ball.
And? Wasn’t feelin’ it. That chicken-based collagen soup didn’t quite have the rich character I was expecting, coming across as rather “thin”. I’ll put it this way: the soup broth of the Koterri Ramen at Tenkaippin is WAY more rich and complex than this. The piece of chicken placed in it tasted like it was basically either steamed or boiled with no further flavor treatment to it. Sort of like Chinese style Cold Ginger Chicken, sans the ginger-cilantro pesto. The Tsukune (ground chicken) meat ball was equally a bit plain (note note bland), IMO.
Again, my feeling towards chicken in general is making up my opinion here, so take what I just said about this with a grain of salt.
It must also be noted, the samples of the Bijin Nabe were served in ceramic bowls, so that couldn’t have been a factor, say vs. had it been served in a disposable plastic bowl. So they did it as much justice as possible for a sample serving.
Moving on to dessert, we have the Monaka Ice Cream Sandwich, with a choice of matcha, black sesame, mango, or lilikoi. Served was the matcha and mango ice cream.
The Daruma and Dragon shaped shell is your typical wafer ice cream cone “shell”, like the type you’d get with soft-serve ice cream. The Monaka ice cream tasted more like a hybrid ice cream-sorbet, having a creamy, yet finely gritty “ice’ee” mouthfeel to it. That Matcha Monaka Ice Cream was notably intense in green tea flavor, which I LOVED! This was the best Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream I’ve ever had, which I could just as well take a huge cone of that and call it a day! Along with that Jalapeno Hamachi Sashimi of course!
Next for dessert we have the Matcha Berry Tiramisu, described as a Matcha biscuit, fruit, cream, and matcha powder.
What’s interesting is the Ricotta Cheese came across as tasting more like a custard or flan to me.
Like the Monaka Matcha Ice Cream, the Matcha green tea powder dusted generously on this really put the Green Tea BAM! in this dessert, screaming out loud, I’M ALL ABOUT GREEN TEA, YA’ ALL! And as a whole, it truly does come across as a Tiramisu dessert in a cup with a green tea “twang”. Absolutely oishii and a must-have when finishing off your meal here!
Finally, we have the Polar Bear, described as shaved ice with mixed fruits, mochi, black beans, milk syrup, and vanilla ice cream. For some reason they didn’t have enough block ice to make enough samples for every table at this event, so what I’m showing you is a photo only from another table, however I didn’t get to try it.
No problem, as host of the event Sean Morris did, and explained the Polar Bear as such: “The shave ice has sweet creamy milky flavors over the ice, which conceals a core of chopped strawberries. The beans, making up the eyes and nose add a touch of sweetness, as do the ears, which were dried apricots.” It certainly is “Kawai’i” (cute), and was a huge photo ops hit concluding this event!
Above are My media table mates from left to right, Teiko Kasai and Aya Takada, a writer and PR specialist, both originally from Japan, along with Helen Li and Joyce Zeng, both PR specialists originally from China (here’s a photo of myself with them).
Above is our table’s server Ivan, showing off the Umami Shichimi Chicken Wings. He was excellent, going out of his way to make sure I got to sample what would be my favorite dish, the Saikyo-Miso Avocado. You da’ man, Ivan!
Above is Tsukada Nojo restaurant manager Eileen Wong with the organizer of this event, Sean Morris, President of Advertising Associates International.
Above is KHON2 News Wake Up 2Day Weather Anchor & Meteorologist Kelly Simek with Tsukada Nojo Executive Chef Shingo Sato and General Manager Edward Mailoa (here’s a photo of myself with them). Fellow KHON2 reporter Taizo Braden was sitting with Kelly at this event.
Huge mahalos to Sean Morris, President of Advertising Associates International for hosting yet another successful restaurant tasting event! Also big mahalos to the hard working staff of Tsukada Nojo’s new location in Honolulu for everything you did at this media tasting event. You folks rocked it!
Wrapping it up, Tsukada Nojo has a beautiful new space, located conveniently near Ala Moana and Waikiki. Being still in soft opening mode, with their grand opening scheduled for April 11th, they’ve got lots of time to iron out any kinks. While not not for me, if you love chicken, there’s lots to love here. If you love Matcha desserts, you definitely gotta’ try their take on it. Most of all, if you appreciate the responsibility, unbeatable quality and freshness of farm-to-table cuisine, done with the attention to detail the Japanese are known for, this place is for you. Overall, I’m impressed!
Tsukada Nojo Hawaii 1731 Kalakaua Avenue Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
POPULAR JAPANESE IZAKAYA TSUKADA NOJO MAKES ITS HAWAII DEBUT
HONOLULU – Tsukada Nojo, thepopular izakaya chain from Japan recently opened its first Hawaii location near the Hawaii Convention Center earlier this month. In staying true to its name (Tsukada being an area in Miyazaki, Kyushu, and “nojo” meaning “farm”), the restaurant introduces its concept, which fuses Japanese modern sensibilities with Farm-to-Table showcasing locally-sourced ingredients.
The cuisine is chicken and vegetable-centric, with the menu broken down into seven major categories: hot pots, small cold plates, small hot plates, salads, large plates, rice & ramen, and desserts. Under hot pots, several versions of the chicken-based bijin nabe (or beautiful person hot pot) include the original with chicken and vegetable, a spicy rendition, a beef sukiyaki, a lemon cilantro, and a tomato version—all collagen-rich to enhance the skin’s elasticity for a more youthful complexion. Under small cold plates, popular presentations are chicken veggie tacos, hamachi jalapeno, and poke and cucumber tataki. Small hot plates comprise of dishes as the chicken mentai (spcy cod roe) spring rolls, shiitake nanban (deep-fried shiitake stuffed with minced chicken), and grilled skillet egg with unagi and cream cheese. Salads offer added fresh approaches along the lines of a kale and smoked chicken Caesar, an unagi chopped salad, and a salmon and mango salad. Large plates incorporate more beef, featuring items as steak with jalapeno miso, tomato hamburger steak, and steak roll with kale. Rice and ramen round out the savory, featuring options brimming with umami such as a veggie miso ramen, chicken paitan tan tan spicy miso ramen, and unagi kabayaki fried rice. To conclude, desserts tempt the palate with a matcha berry tiramisu, golden pineapple mitsumame, and a few shave ice bowls with mixed fruits and mochi hidden in a ball of finely shaved ice, with ice cream, apricots, and black beans arranged to resemble the face of a teddy bear.
The dishes at Tsukada Nojo as prepared by Executive Chef Shingo Sato incorporates island-grown ingredients whenever possible. Besides the fresh chilled chicken from Punachicks, the produce is sourced from over a dozen other farms on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, including Aloun Farms, Maui Farmers’ Cooperative Exchange, and Kaneshiro Farms. The result is a series of contemporary Japanese dishes that are vibrant in color and bursting with local freshness.
The two-story restaurant is located in a new building located on Kalakaua Avenue, across the street from Century Center. Jointly conceived by Naoto Adachi and Naoya Noguchi, two interior designers of Design Office, the 3,600-square foot space features farmhouse natural wood furnishings blended with metal industrial accents, such as antique factory-style pendant lighting with exposed bulbs. Old recycled wood, grey concrete slates, brick, and terra cotta tiles add textural diversity to the earth-toned space, and elevating consciousness of multi-faceted design. A full bar made of wood on one end faces opposite of a stainless steel open kitchen, with round tables and wooden chairs with burnished metals being interspersed in between. Large, solid wood communal tables and open-faced banquette-style seating make for a more social atmosphere. High vaulted ceilings accentuate the open space, leading the gaze upwards to the second floor where a loft equipped with a state-of-the-art projector and sound system makes for a perfect private function space.
“We want to bring a new perspective to the popular Japanese izakaya concept by infusing freshness,” says Shingo Sato, Executive Chef. “People are savvier about sustainability, regional sourcing, and natural ingredients, so we want to give them what they seek. The farmer’s table is designed to give our patrons the impression as if they were literally dining at a farmer’s home, replete with freshly grown produce and responsibly raised livestock.”
Tsukada Nojo is located at 1731 Kalakaua Avenue, in a brand new two-story building near the Hawaii Convention Center. The restaurant is currently operating under its soft opening hours (Monday to Saturday, from 5:00 – 10:00 p.m. with last call at 9:00 p.m., with weekday lunch service commencing on March 20), but after April 10, it will be open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., and for dinner from 5:00 – 11:00 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, from 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 5:00 – 10:00 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, please call (808) 951-4444.
About Tsukada Nojo
Tsukada Nojo opened its first location in Tokyo in 2007. Owner Hisashi Yoneyama sourced from farms located in Miyazaki, Hokkaido, and Kagoshima to create his farmer’s table style of dining. Fresh farm ingredients were served in an izakaya format to diners who sought after healthy meals without worries about from where they were sourced or how they were harvested or raised. The restaurant grew in popularity as evidenced by its 150 locations throughout Japan, and has since expanded to Singapore and Beijing, China.