Nanzan GiroGiro

 May 9, 2011

560 Pensacola St Honolulu, HI

A new restaurant to the islands, Nanzan GiroGiro offers Japanese “kaiseki” (tasting menu) dining with a menu that changes every month. No menus needed here! For the entire month the set menu is served to all diners with the exception of those that may have allergy concerns with certain dishes. The standard kaiseki menu consists of 7 courses and is priced at $50, with an optional dessert course for an additional $8.

The restaurant itself is very nice and modern in design and decor. There is a centrally located, open kitchen which is surrounded by a long counter. This is the primary seating area for diners. There is a small lounge area with enough seats for 8 people. One of the unique things about this restaurant is the use of the custom designed plates, cups, and bowls. Everything is very uniquely styled and a few of the dishes incorporate very intricate patterns. Some of the bowls and cups even have little birds or men hanging from the edges which I thought was a cute touch.

I was very excited to learn of this restaurant opening right here in Honolulu. Local restaurants with ever changing tasting menus are in very short supply here, so I had high hopes that Nanzan GiroGiro would be a place I could go to when I wanted to try something different. There are other locations in town that also offer kaiseki menus, but none so far that I’ve come cross that change on such a regular basis. Our server told us that the menu at Nanzan GiroGiro will change on the last Thursday of every month. Here is the menu for the month of May:

Green bean & egg custard topped w/ uni & wasabi – A mild and sweet custard with a touch of heat from the wasabi.

Appetizer trio – Braised shiitake & ginger carrot wrapped in egg, yellow squash & sprouts w/ tempura fried wakasagi (smelt) in a vinegar sauce, chicken breast & celery in a sesame sauce served in a half shell

Monchong & bok choy w/ daikon radish in a ginger broth and plum purée – A delicate broth accompanies the sweet monchong fish. Ginger and radish help add some bitter contrast.

Ahi, asparagus & corn sprouts – This simple dish came with a dipping sauce of shoyu, yamaimo & radish sprouts. While the sauce was excellent, the combination of ahi and asparagus was a bit odd.

Beef & pork “Hamburger” w/ lotus root – This interesting take on a hamburger was wrapped in yuba tofu paper w/ a clam broth & nalo greens. While the concept was interesting, the clam broth flavor was extremely overpowering.

Eggplant & tempura fried okra in a shrimp sauce w/ bonito jelly – Another interesting concept, but similar to the last course the shrimp sauce was far too strong, akin to eating whole uncooked shrimp, shells and all.

Rice course – Uku (gray snapper) ochazuke w/ tsukemono – A nice finish to the savory courses, this “ochazuke” had great umami flavors.

Lilikoi soufflé w/ almond macaroon – A decent finish to an otherwise roller coaster meal.

At the very start of the meal I had very high hopes. The bean and egg custard with uni was quite good, but as the meal progressed I found myself somewhat underwhelmed by the flavors. There were a few moments of unique tastes and good flavors, but for the most part I felt that something was a little lacking in this menu.

Overall I left Nanzan GiroGiro disappointed. I had very high hopes for the restaurant given the reputation of its other locations and the initial reviews I had read online. I’m not sure if this month’s menu is just not as good as last month’s (from which most of the reviews I’ve read were based), but for many reasons I felt that the menu we had tonight was a bit weak. There are a couple of other places in town that originate from Japan that also offer kaiseki menus. And, although they may not change their menu as often, I felt that tonight’s meal didn’t stack up favorably against the flavors of these other establishments.

Will I try Nanzan GiroGiro again? Maybe. Our server told us that they are working on getting their website updated to include the monthly menu. Perhaps in the future when I get a chance to see the menu up front, I might come back to check out dishes that catch my attention.

Nanzan Giro Giro
560 Pensacola St
Honolulu, HI 96814

Nanzan Giro Giro on Urbanspoon

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  • Kimberly

    Wow where is this place?? How’d you find it?

    Great review…since it is new, I’ll give it some time before trying it out!

    • Nom Nom Foodie

      It’s located at the very bottom of Pensacola right after the Wedding Ring shop. I heard about it from some friends and family who knew that I’ve taken an interest in “tasting menus” lately.