POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 4, 2011
Usually at this time of year, I'd be hailing the latest Mexican cuisine, but diners likely already have a favorite spot for burritos, tacos, nachos and margaritas. I went to one restaurant in Manoa and found out the best thing about it is their salsas. There are just too many more exciting options out there to waste my time and yours, so off I went to the next spot on my list.
That would be Broadway Seafood & Oyster Bar, which opened on the site of the former Go Shi Go on Keeaumoku Street, next to Salon Glitter. If heading mauka on Keeaumoku, it'll be on your right, across from the McDonald's.
I think this restaurant marks five out of six in recent weeks with owners from Japan, all with different themes, from Italian to quick, street-style udon, but with single-minded focus, which I find very different from the way the typical American restaurateur works.
Americans typically want to be liked, and so it seems to me that restaurateurs work hard at being all things to everybody. Some actually succeed, but what I've written many times is that more typically, a restaurant has some good items and some bad, and the bad detracts from anything good created. It's far better to concentrate on the few things one does well, and that is what the Japanese restaurateurs do so well. They take a single concept or single dish and hone it to perfection.
Broadway Seafood & Oyster Bar is bound to be a hit, creating its own niche. Oyster bar purists will find much to be desired in this limited, sanitized version, but the restaurant does make it easy to enjoy a range of oysters in side-by-side taste comparisons. If you never could taste the difference between a Kumamoto or Pacific oyster before, you'll come away with a palate-educating experience.
BROADWAY SEAFOOD & OYSTER BAR903 Keeaumoku St.
Cost: About $30 to $40 for two for lunch and dinner; B.Y.O.B.
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Here you can taste how the ocean terroir affects the salinity and flavor of the oysters. If you want to taste the differences, the hard part is staying away from the horseradish, squirt of lemon, cocktail sauce or Tabasco that reduces them to one universal flavor. Oysters served at Broadway Seafood & Oyster Bar don't need any flavor enhancer. It's just that most of us have grown accustomed to using these sauces to mask scent and flavor of oysters whose freshness is in question. To date, live oysters arrive every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
The atmosphere here is different day and night. It's pleasant enough during the day but seems more upscale at night, when the lighting, New York-themed artwork and jazz music brings you closer to the Big Apple. The restaurant's owner frequented oyster bars there and missed them upon moving to Hawaii.
My heart sang as I perused a list that included a roster of Miyagi, Kumamoto and Pacific Northwest oysters from Fanny Bay, Denman Island, Otter Cove and more. There are about 12 on the list, and I wondered how I might sample the most without feeling ill or poor. I was pleasantly surprised to find a luxurious experience for two to be refreshing, and less than $40.
You can opt for a half-dozen ($16, with two each of three types of oysters) or a dozen ($30, with three each of four types of oysters). I thought I could try the most by ordering two half-dozens, for six different types. But availability was limited to chef Toshihiro Abe's selection of whatever he could get in fresh, meaning we couldn't choose them ourselves. That might change later. There were only four types of oysters in the house, but Abe said he is hoping to find another supplier so he can have six or seven options available at all times.
I ended up ordering the half-dozen, which were pretty much what I wanted to try anyway: the vaunted Miyagis, Sunset Beach and the Penn Coves, from a place more commonly known for its mussels.
The Penn Coves were meaty and briny, with strong flavor and nice smooth finish. The Sunset Beach oysters are a perfect choice for beginners, smooth and mellow, for someone who doesn't really like the taste of oysters. Miyagis had more salinity than the Penn Coves with a milder flavor and wonderful firm, almost nutty crunch.
If raw oysters make you queasy, there are cooked versions as well, whether you prefer them deep-fried, broiled on the half shell gratin-style ($10) or Rockefeller style ($12), here with a creamy blend of minced spinach, onion, butter and cheese.
If you order the "Vampire Killer" ($8), you can skip the oyster panko butter yaki ($10) because their breadcrumb prep is similar. The "Vampire Killer" appetizer is presented like escargot, the snail replaced by whole cloves of roasted garlic encrusted in butter and bread crumbs.
Fried oyster curry ($9 at lunch, ala carte in the evening) consists of five deep-fried oysters on a bed of rice and tart curry, the sharpness cutting some of the oysters' heaviness.
Other options are a seafood spaghetti ($12) with shrimp, calamari and clams, and eggplant caprese pasta ($12), the "caprese" taking the form of a creamy tomato-mozzarella sauce, stirred with slices of eggplant.
Beyond the oysters, the best dish here is Atlantic Salmon Meuniere ($12) topped with mushrooms and served with red (tomato) and green (pesto) sauces.
The restaurant is still in soft-opening mode, so more dishes will be coming in the month ahead. I'm looking forward to the additions.
Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Advertiser. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.