After reading Martha Cheng's review of Tairyo in this week's Honolulu Weekly, I needed to try it out myself - http://honoluluweekly.com/restaurants/2010/07/izakaya-tairyo-a-good-catch-of-fish/.
So after work today, my friend and I thought we would try something new, instead of going to an old favorite like "Olive Tree", so we went to Izakaya Tairyo. It was a good choice, since we had a taste of sake at Whole Foods Market in Kahala.
Like Martha mentions in her article, I've also wondered about that new restaurant on Piikoi with that red koi on it's facade. It's a great eye catcher!! I just loved the decor and ambiance of Tairyo - fun, colorful, inviting sounds from the staff and diverse music, homey feel, Japanese character uniforms of the staff, but most of all, the approachability of the entire decor experience. It really took me somewhere else, instead of a restaurant on Piikoi Street....it took me away to a neighborhood restaurant somewhere in Tokyo. It really felt good being there. The friendliness and customer service of the staff had a perfect balance of attentive sense of urgency and casualness.
Their menu covered all of the necessary Izakaya needs - sashimi, sushi, fried foods, hot pots, noodles, grilled fish, and desserts. Besides the regular menu, they had 3 daily specials.
We started with the Tairyo roll, which was topped with a very generous amount of akura (large salmon roe eggs) and we paired it with a bottle of Kikusu Junmai sake. We new that the evening was going to be good, because the wasabi that came with the sushi roll was REAL wasabi root! Without us asking for it. Awesome.
Then we had the Tairyo Fisherman's Bowl with a dashi broth pot. This dish was a very comforting one. The waiter explained to us how to eat it. "Put a little shoyu, then mix a little, then eat a little. Then add a little shoyu, if you want, and add a little bit of dashi broth, mix and then taste. Add more dashi broth or more shoyu to taste." My friend said that this would be a great "after a night of heavy drinking" dish and I have to agree. After eating the Tairyo roll, this dish reminded me of a decomposed version of it with dashi broth. Tip: order only one Tairyo named dish. I think Tairyo means that it was similar ingredients...akura eggs, raw ahi, nori, wasabi root, rice.
Next we had the mixed tempura plate. The tempura batter was a light and crispy coating, but with no flavor. Just a little more salt, after the frying process would have taken the dish to the next level. This was not one of my favorites. See the picture below - no color = bland flavor. The vegetables and seafood was fresh and tasty, but the tempura batter did not enhance the entire dish. In fact, it brought it down.
Finally, Agedashi Tofu and vegetables. I have to say this was my favorite dish of the evening. Flavorful and umami! I know what was missing from all of the food - UMAMI! Savory flavors that make your mouth water.
I will surely be back and will order something from the grill, I bet there is Umami on their grilled items.