THE GOCHISO GOURMET: Miso & Ale pop-up


“Hot And Sour Ramen” photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

With the amount of time I spend at Vino, I keep telling myself to try those other dining establishments in the 50th because, you know, there ARE other restaurants out there. But I keep telling myself, “OK, next week,” “or the week after,” “or next month,” and by the time you know it, that recently opened restaurant is celebrating its first or even second anniversary or even worse, closed for good. And another potential glorious meal bites the dust.

But there is hope: pop-up restaurants. For the past year or so, these fly-by-night operations have started popping up (pun intended) at unlikely locations. First it was The Pig and the Lady at Hank’s Haute Dogs in Kakaako (they found a regular niche at the local weekly farmers markets as of late), Plancha at Morning Glass Coffee in Manoa (Chef Robert McGee now holds court at The Whole Ox Deli) and recently Miso & Ale at Moke’s Bread & Breakfast in Kailua (also at Lucky Belly in Chinatown and Mr. Ojisan Restaurant in Kapahulu).

What makes a pop-up more enticing? Expediency. You’re usually alerted to a pop-up dinner with only a couple of weeks notice and they usually limit their dining experiences to 30 or less diners. There’s no time to procrastinate and say maybe next week or next month. Hesitate and the opportunity is gone. Maybe forever. So purchase now — yes, most pop-ups require advance purchase of the limited reserved seats so pre-pay fosters commitment. No more backing out. No refund. No getting “sucked” into Vino on the same evening.

The Miso & Ale Story
The story actually starts a generation earlier, as both Chef Christopher Okuhara and Chef Christopher Gee come from notable local food families, with Okuhara’s family running the venerable Likelike Drive Inn and Gee’s family running Legends Seafood Restaurant. After both completed formal culinary training and did stints at notable local and Bay Area restaurants, their paths crossed at the Dining Room at the Laniakea YWCA, then eventually to their joint venture, Miso & Ale.

Okuhara is the more reserved of the two, getting credit for running the kitchen, while gregarious Gee runs the front of the house. Add unofficial Maitre d’ Titus Nakagawa along with Resident Sommelier Keola Warren and you have a quartet for pop-up success.

A benefit with most pop-ups is you’re allowed to BYOB. And since our group travels with a small cellar of wine selections, it makes it all the merrier, as we’re able to pair multiple wines with each course. And as usual, we started with a little bubbly.

The Menu

Chapter 1
“Surf & Turf Charcuterie”
Smoked Thai chicken sausage with a butterscotch miso mustard, cured ahi with a lemongrass romesco and pork belly rillette with a petit apple compote
Recommended pairing: Lambrusco/Peroni
Our Selections: 2002 J. Lassalle 1er Cru Brut
1998 Domaines Schlumberger Cuvee Anne Gewurztraminer

Chapter 2

“Farm Fresh Summertime Salad”
A summertime salad of fresh spinach, mint, basil, candied tomatoes and toasted pumpkin seeds with a kabocha panna cotta topped with a lardon vinaigrette
Recommended pairing: Pinot Gris from Oregon/Rogue Mom Hefeweizen
Our Selections: 2010 Penner-Ash Viognier
2010 Lou Coucardie Roussanne/Viognier/Grenache

“Hot And Sour Ramen” photo by Ryan Tatsumoto
“Hot And Sour Ramen” photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Chapter 3
“Hot And Sour Ramen”
Fresh chukka soba with a hot and sour chicken broth, seasonal vegetables and vegetable gyoza
Recommended pairing: Singha/Gewurztraminer
Our Selections: 2010 Alois Lageder Dolomiti Pinot Grigio
Zardetto Private Cuvee Brut

Chapter 4

“Surf & Turf Charcuterie” photo by Ryan Tatsumoto
“Surf & Turf Charcuterie” photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

“Miso & Ale
All Day Braised Short Rib”
All day braised short ribs with roasted mirepoix, garlic-arugula grits and dark ale sauce
Recommended pairing: Chianti Classico/Damian Donker Belgian Strong Ale
Our Selections: 2004 Saxum Broken Stones Syrah/Grenache/Mourvedre
2001 Tenuta Guado al Tasso
Chateau Boswell Beckstoffer IV Cabernet Sauvignon

Chapter 5
“Deconstructed PB & J”

Liquid nitrogen peanut butter ice cream with toasted vanilla lime cake, red grape tapioca and roasted curried peanuts
Recommended pairing: Tawny Port/Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout
Our Selections: Graham’s 20 Year old Tawny Port
Monchiero Carbone Birbet

The Verdict
The Surf & Turf Charcuterie board was definitely the most interesting, pairing Eastern flavors with European technique. It presented an amalgam of flavor sensations, from earthy and herbal to sweet and sour to salty and savory, though it was a difficult pairing for just one. Luckily, I sampled four different wines with the courses, with the Gewurztraminer and Viognier leading the pact. The only sensation missing from the dish was a textural contrast like a crispy pork skin on the rillette, fried herb on the sausage or crunch with the ahi.

There was a brief hiccup with the salad course with the candied tomatoes almost missing their cue being added after the plate was tabled, but the Gewurztraminer and kabocha panna cotta were sheer heaven. The salad had a great balance of flavor and textural sensations though I either would have julienned the tomatoes or rehydrated them slightly to reduce the “chewiness.”

Like The Pig & the Lady, Miso & Ale also serves a liquid course and the sweet and sour ramen had a nice balance of heat, sour and savory, with the surprising addition of a sweet potato wedge and paired perfectly with the Prosecco.

Gee stated that 18 bottles of dark ale went into the “all day” short ribs. Fallin’ off the bone with unctuous gelatin, it actually made the Saxum Broken Stones seem light in comparison. The flavorful grits completed the ultimate savory course, and Guado al Tasso didn’t hurt, either.

Dessert was the main spectacle of the meal, with Gee narrating, while Okuhara created the perfect peanut butter ice cream from liquid nitrogen and a KitchenAid in all of 52 seconds. And while the tawny Port was great, the Birbet complemented and lightened the dish at the same time. For those planning on booking subsequent meals, tableside ice cream production (in various flavors) seems to be a recurring theme with Miso & Ale.

Though there were a few “hiccups,” the overall meal and experience was great. And I would highly recommend sampling Miso & Ale if you find yourself vacationing in the 50th. Of course I can’t tell you where they’ll serve dinner next as they simply “pop-up” at various locations. However, they do have a Website advertising their next series of dinners if you are in the 50th:

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the Univ. of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at

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