An invitation to taste the new spring offerings at O-ku? Yes, please!
Dinner started with the Whitefish Crudo ($12), thinly-shaved local red snapper and flounder with lime zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and truffled microgreens dusted with volcanic red salt. The dish is served with soy sauce, but our server, Daniel, recommended forgoing the strong, salty condiment to let the appetizer’s flavors sing. And boy, do they sing. The peppery microgreens, the crack of salt crystals on the teeth, the delicate brine of the fish. Yum!
Oku Whitefish Crudo - Photo by Ferris Kaplan
General manager Victor Eanniello told me the spring menu items that prove wildly popular may become menu perennials. That’s the case with the Rock Shrimp Salad ($15), which I was unable to resist despite the fact that it wasn’t, technically speaking, one of the new spring features. Mixed greens are lightly coated with a carrot-ginger vinaigrette and warm shrimp tempura provides a nice spicy bite. The shrimp are a little bit addictive…fortunately, they prove easy to scoop up with chopsticks.
Oku Rock Shrimp Salad - Photo by Ferris Kaplan
Next was King Salmon Usuzukuri ($16), six velvety pieces of what Eanniello calls “the fattiest of salmons from New Zealand” that practically melt on the tongue. The soy-ginger vinaigrette is almost unnecessary with fish this rich.
Oku King Salmon - Photo by Ferris Kaplan
Another new dish suggested by Daniel is the lobster and caviar hako. The presentation is beautiful, architectural blocks of rice surrounding cucumber and topped with lobster salad, which is, in turn, topped by caviar. Lobster and caviar sounds like the last meal for a dying epicure, decadent in the extreme. I wanted to like this one, I really did. But the caviar is too sparse to register and the delicate lobster flavor is overwhelmed by the cucumber. Disappointingly, the dish tasted like cucumber and rice. At $25 an order, this is one of the most expensive on the menu, and I hope they tweak it if they want it to make the perennial list.
Oku Lobster and Caviar Hako - Photo by Ferris Kaplan
A better, slightly more expensive, alternative was the O-ku nigiri. For $30, you get a selection that changes daily. Mine included salmon with avocado and salmon roe, yellowtail tuna, mahi with serrano pepper, and Wagyu beef with a red onion marmalade and the slight crunch of potato crisps.
Oku Nigeri - Photo by Ferris Kaplan
Finally, dessert. Desserts aren’t on the regular menu, but ask. Skip everything else and head straight for the triple chocolate bar, fortunately a perennial. The brownie-like crust is topped by chocolate mousse and chocolate chips. Sea salt adds contrast and passion fruit puree is drizzled to add sour to the intense chocolate. There are lighter desserts on offer, but really, why bother?
Chocolate Dessert Bar - Photo by Ferris Kaplan
Eanniello said the spring menu items will be available for another few weeks, so hurry if you want to try them—but don’t forget longstanding favorites on the menu. They’ve earned their place there.