Giving Thanks For Island Restaurants

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - November 23, 2011
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Ivy Nagayama, general manager of Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar. Jo McGarry photo

The annual Restaurant Week promotion reminded me that restaurants are surviving on the tiniest of profit margins.

While chatting recently with Ivy Nagayama of Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar, it became clear that there is no longer a huge gap between the cost of going out for dinner and the cost of shopping, cooking and staying home.

For example, the fourcourse evening menu offered at Sansei last week featured a farm-to-table menu of lomi salmon tartare, fresh aku katsuo tataki and king crab ramen (surely the greatest noodle soup in the world), and entrees of braised short ribs or fresh catch of the day. A Thai basil drizzled vanilla ice cream was included as dessert.

The ingredients for the dishes all came from local farms and fishermen, with a cost to the diner of just $40. Sansei and neighboring d.k Steak House offers a similar Thursday night special most weeks, as part of its commitment to promoting local produce.

“People do love the set menus,” says Ivy, “and our chefs do a great job with whatever local produce is in season.”

Consider the time you’d have to spend sourcing and then preparing local produce if you wanted to re-create even the simplest of meals, it’s easy to see that restaurants are offering more and more value.

As food and utility costs increase, restaurants are tightening their own belts rather than passing on the costs.

Take a look at the menu in your favorite restaurant next time you’re there and ask yourself when the prices were last increased.

While restaurants absorb the escalating costs of food, delivery and utilities, my Thanksgiving wish is that more of us support our neighborhood dining rooms, because eating out is not only about supporting local business.

We all benefit from time spent together sharing food, wherever we choose to eat, and an evening spent without the hassle of shopping and cleaning can free up valuable family time. By keeping prices reasonable, restaurants are doing more than just surviving these challenging times, they’re offering a place to rest and regroup, and oftentimes save money.

Restaurants give back to our community in countless ways: They make up the bulk of our business community, contribute millions of dollars in taxes, keep armies of people employed, and donate time and energy to thousands of fundraisers each year. Eating out a little more during the holidays seems a small way to give thanks.

And if you’re about to start holiday shopping, I’m hoping that restaurant gift cards are at the top of your list. Many come with a bonus for the buyer, and all come with a guarantee of a gift well chosen. Ever seen anyone standing in line at Roy’s Dec. 26 trying to return a gift card?

You might still have time if you call now to order one of Beth Iwata’s gorgeous Thanksgiving desserts. The talented Brasserie Du Vin pastry chef has been taking orders for Pear Cranberry Upside Down Cake, Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust, and Pecan Tart.

I ordered the pumpkin cheesecake and the upside down cake as soon as I heard they were for sale.

Let’s hope she’s inspired to offer similar treats for Christmas. For last-minute orders, call 545-1115.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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