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Nanzan Giro Giro

Nanzan Giro Giro Japanese Restaurant

For some people, when you mention Japanese food, they only think sushi and maybe sometimes even ramen soup (originally Chinese). But there is so much more to Japanese cuisine. And a lot of it has to do with their art of cooking and presenting their dishes.

One of my most recent dining highlights in Honolulu, Hawaii has been at Nanzan Giro Giro. It’s a Japanese restaurant in a nondescript building in a part of central Honolulu where most people usually just wiz by in their cars to get to the larger shopping and dining areas of Ala Moana and Ward Village. The restaurant does no marketing whatsoever… no big signs, no lights, and a dysfunctional website (at the time of this writing). No one I spoke to in Honolulu even knew this restaurant existed. Yet, they are still able to fill the place on weekdays. And I’m starting to suspect that is how they want it. It’s a truly authentic Japanese restaurant after all.

It’s an amazing experience….yes, experience. Because it’s not just a place to fill your stomach, it’s the experience of enjoying authentic and artistic preparations of quality food chosen by the chef and only the chef. You have no say what is served other than the beverages you choose to consume.

This is a prix fixe establishment. You pay $58 per person and get 6-7 simple yet impressive dishes in return. For an additional $14, you may also get dessert. It’s not a cheap place, but it’s also not one of those extraordinarily expensive prix fixe restaurants that hide you in the dark. Here you get to see the work of the chef in action. Everyone has the front seat.

This was our second visit. I believe every restaurant deserves at least two visits before you make up your mind. I’d have to say the menu we experienced the first time seemed more daring and exploratory. This second time around was a bit more safe for the general population. Whether that was just my imagination or the intention of the chef, I don’t know. But this second time I walked away slightly disappointed there were no wild surprises such as the fish scrotum soup we experienced the first time.

Btw, the menu changes monthly, so if you want to have a new experience every time, you shouldn’t go there more than once a month.

Gallery of the October servings:

I recommend you make your reservations well in advance. They don’t take many bookings each night, since everyone spends at least 2.5 hours sitting down.

Oh, and don’t be offended if you the chef seems to ignore you. Our experience is that he’s a bit insecure speaking to westerners, due to his broken English. During our visits, he freely chats with all Japanese diners. At first, I thought he discriminated against us and the other non-Japanese couple sitting next to us. But eventually he came and spoke with us and apologized for not mastering the English language well enough. Fortunately, his staff is attentive and very good in explaining the meals and answering any questions you may have.

Bon apetit!

art, cooking, prix fixe, slow food

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