The question came up at the last Natto Day dinner: What about a Tofu Day dinner?
For one thing, we had no idea there was a Tofu Day. But true to the Japanese tradition of punny food days, 10 sounds like 'to' and 2 can be pronounced as 'fu,' so voila! Oct. 2 is Tofu Day.
This knowledge and the question it spawned came to us from Paul Uyehara of Aloha Tofu, who's been generously donating the natto for our Natto Day dinners. So on Oct. 12 he's teaming with Gazen, the izakaya known for its silky handmade tofu bathed in smoky dashi broth, for a seven-course feast of sumptuous tofu-inspired dishes.
Gazen's Chef Hiro gave deep thought to the progression of courses. The menu starts off with luxe ingredients and bold flavors: There's uni in a deeply flavored nori sauce ("because uni feasts on seaweed," the chef explains), rib-eye, shrimp, pork belly. There's fried kushikatsu skewers and a play on makizushi.
Then there's a calming reset for the delicacies to come: Two courses putting artisan tofu front and center. Chef Hiro is making all the tofu by hand. Broths and dessert will feature Aloha Tofu's rich, creamy, premium soymilk.
And for only the third time in his career, and the first time in five years, Uyehara is making the slick, silken tofu skin called yuba. Yuba needs to be simultaneously heated from the bottom and cooled on top. In Kyoto a single sheet can cost $40. Uyehara's yuba will feature in two of the courses.
Here's the menu for the Oct. 12 Tofu Feast at Gazen.
• UNI-CYCLE: Silky Housemade Tofu infused with uni, served in a savory sea of aonori sauce
• ROLL-IN COW: Fresh Yuba Maki of rare rib-eye, avocado and tomato topped with shoyu tare
• SURF N TURF: Panko-fried Kushikatsu Skewers featuring 1) Shrimp, mozzarella and shiso and 2) Tofu, ginger and veggies wrapped in pork belly
• INTERMEZZO: Fresh grapes and asparagus dipped in shira-ae
• A SYMPHONY IN TWO PARTS
o One: Tosui Tofu—An homage to the specialty of Tokyo’s famed Ukai Tofuya restaurant—bathes Gazen’s freshly made tofu in a savory broth of creamy soy milk and twice-simmered chicken stock
o Two: Yuba Donburi—Luxuriant fresh yuba makes a rare appearance in Hawaii, draped over organic Nanatsuboshi rice from Hokkaido and served with umami-rich dashi sauce garnished with yuzu zest and mitsuba; Chef Hiro’s housemade pickles accompany
• OYASUMI: Coffee-infused Soymilk Blancmange
Tofu Feast at Gazen
2840 Kapiolani Blvd.
Thursday, Oct. 12
$50 per person includes tax and tip (drinks are on your own tab)
Corkage of $15 per bottle
Gazen will have a full bar including sake, beer and wine available for purchase. Parking is limited, so plan to come early for nearby street parking or else carpool or Uber!