SUSHI THEN SOME
Chef Masami Shimoyama prepares shrimp tempura during the buffet. Photo by Randy T. Fujimori
By Simplicio Paragas
He lords over the sushi bar, deftly preparing assorted nigiri and temaki, looking up only briefly to assess the crowd. Like a skilled samurai, Hakone executive chef Masami Shimoyama slices ahi, maguro and hamachi into precision-like pieces, placing them atop a hand-shaped block of sushi rice.
Despite competition from a new wave of Japanese restaurants — from Nobu’s to Morimoto’s — Hakone continues to be a stalwart provider of traditional Japanese cuisine … and an abundance of it. Calling this a “buffet,” however, underestimates the quality of food that Hakone puts out on the line. This isn’t the typical hodgepodge of dishes nor is it based on a more-is-better come-on.
Once limited to the weekend, the popular sushi buffet is now available on Wednesdays and Thursdays, a shift that should please those who are often shut out during the busy weekend hours.
The buffet offers an assortment of dishes.
“You usually have to make a reservation two weeks ahead of time for the first seating during weekends,” says food and beverage director Ward Almeida. “Unlike the Wednesday and Thursday sushi and appetizer buffet, the sushi buffet includes everything.”
I usually like to make a beeline for the shabu shabu station, where other diners often congregate and share techniques. Mine is simple: steep the thinly sliced cuts of beef into the konbu-infused water and with a few swish, swish motions, I’m done. With a side of ponzu or sesame sauce, this is a dish in simplicity but scores high in flavor.
In addition to shabu shabu, other noteworthy items include succulent crab legs, noodles, sashimi, assorted sushi, and non-oil-saturated crispy shrimp and vegetable tempura. During October, the buffet will be specially priced at $42.50 for adults and $21.25 for children 6 to 10 years.
“The biggest compliment we get is when people tell us that Hakone is the ‘only place you can get authentic Japanese food’ at a buffet,” Almeida says. “Shimoyama-san is very old school, and strict and regimented in the kitchen.”
(Hakone, Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, 100 Holomoana St., 944.4494, princeresortshawaii.com)