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New restaurant joins Kona Kampachi wait list

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Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is in Hawaii to prepare for the late-summer opening of Morimoto Waikiki and for a fundraising event for the Parents and Children Together (PACT) Community Teen Program last night.

Masaharu Morimoto
Morimoto Waikiki will
open in the Edition
Waikiki hotel later
this summer.

» Executive Chef:
Jojo Vasquez
» Times: Lunch and
dinner daily
» Seating: 190
» Hiring now: 160
» Phone: 941-8500

Source: Morimoto Waikiki

He spent Friday touring purveyors’ facilities on the Big Island, including Kona Blue Water Farms Inc. for its Kona Kampachi – sashimi-grade Hawaiian yellowtail fish – which will be on his Waikiki menu.

Harvesting of the fish will resume July 18 after being suspended last year so the company could reconfigure its offshore pens, said Neil Sims, president and chief executive officer.

The reasons behind the timing of the harvest resumption are a gulf away from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – Kona Blue’s pen plan was devised in 2008, and implementation began last year, he said.

"There’s not a lot of sashimi-grade product to come out of the gulf, but this underscores for us, and I think for all Americans, the vulnerability of our seafood supplies and our need to move toward more sustainable relationships with the oceans," Sims said.

Sims is a fisheries biologist by training, and given the depressing nature of the work in the earlier part of his career, he felt the need to get a more positive gig.

Kona Kampachi had gained acceptance in upscale restaurants far and wide over the last four years and has already regained some momentum, as noteworthy and award-winning restaurants in Hawaii and on the mainland are lining up their orders.

Chefs awaiting their first shipments include Jacob Anaya at Pahu i’a Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai; Chris Leahy at BLT Prime in New York; and Kevin Davis, owner and chef at the new Blueacre Seafood Restaurant in Seattle.

The entire list of local ingredients that Morimoto Waikiki will use has yet to be finalized. However, in addition to the Kona Kampachi, "chef Morimoto will be sourcing many ingredients from the local area, some of which include Kona coffee, Hamakua tomatoes, ogo, abalone and heart of palm," said Ryan Sweeney, a publicist for the restaurant.

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Morimoto’s renowned omakase, or chef’s choice menu, will be offered at the Waikiki eatery, which will serve lunch and dinner daily.

The hiring process is under way with the restaurant looking to employ 160 people in all positions from front of the house to back of the house, though Jojo Vasquez already has been named executive chef. Applicants are asked to specify the position they seek when e-mailing their resumes to

There is no firm opening date for either the restaurant or the hotel, on the Ilikai property in Waikiki, though reports on the hotel range from August to September to October.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Advertiser. Reach her by e-mail at


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