A Risk-Taking Hawaii Chef Opens New Restaurant During Pandemic

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November 13, 2021

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(HILO,HAWAII)– Hawaii Chef Louis Pauole said he knew he was taking a risk when he decided to open a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, but he did it anyway.

“I gambled on myself, knowing it would be successful,” he said.

Pauole opened Izakaya Miyo in September of 2020 in Hilo, a city on Hawaii Island’s east side. During that time, Hawaii was shut off from the rest of the world due to COVID-19 restrictions, and local mandates narrowed dining to only six people at once.

With a limited market, Pauole had to be creative. He went with the name and concept of Izakaya, which means small plates with drinks in Japanese. Patrons get just that, as well as a front row seat to Pauole’s cooking, giving guests a true chef’s table experience. The menu is peppered with hard-to-find items, matched with local ingredients at high price points to meet supply.  

The support of the local community contributed to the restaurant’s immediate success, and Pauole said they were booked for several months straight. 

“Everybody wanted to get out and everybody wanted to eat. It gave people a sense of hope and normalcy,” Pauole said. 

Ehu Nigiri topped with fresh lemon zest. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Marinated Japanese kohada nigiri topped with fresh grated ginger. Photo by: Megan Moseley

 

A group of patrons listen to Hawaii Chef Louis Pauole’s description of his sushi invention. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Customers can add sake pairings to their dinner experience. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Izakaya Miyo sells specialty sake that can run thousands of dollars – such as this one. Sake is a simple beverage made of rice, water, yeast and a special mold enzyme known as koji. The higher-end sakes cost more because the rice is hand washed to make for a finer finish. Photo by: Megan Moseley

But there’s nothing “normal” about the menu.

Pauole’s culinary style is innovative, advanced, and clean. He surprises guests by using unique ingredients. From imported fresh, Japanese fish, to one-of-a-kind garnishes and expensive sakes, Izakaya Miyo is raising the bar in terms of East Hawaii cuisine. 

“Whatever I can get my hands on that is very unique, that nobody else is doing, that’s what I want,” he said.

Since 10 years old, Pauole’s been cooking. He’s fought to get where he is today, literally. For years Pauole worked as a professional fighter while following his passion of cooking. 

He graduated from The Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship with a culinary arts degree and served multiple tours on cruise ships as a cook and chef before returning home to Hawaii.

Japanese style smoked sashimi trio with ponzu jellies – Ahi, Hamachi and Salmon. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Crispy salmon on a crab salad, pea puree, parsnip puree and crispy brussel sprouts with a mac-nut caramel gastric, topped with a lime marble butter sauce. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Snapper Nigiri with wasabi caviar on top. Photo by: Megan Moseley

 

Sou vide rib-eye topped with chimichurri, served with fried Ogo on a bed of sautéed spinach and mushrooms. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Izakaya Miyo is located in the back of Pauole’s other restaurant, Miyo’s. Miyo’s is a Hilo staple and has been a part of the community since the 1980’s. Pauole said he worked there for many years before purchasing the restaurant in 2019. He added Izakaya Miyo to the back of the original Miyo’s restaurant, and regulars are enjoying the expansion. 

“I love the sashimi. The fish is fresh. It’s a nice place, and the workers are friendly. Louis is a very friendly gentleman who knows how to draw a crowd,” said Nancy O’Connor Nishihara, a regular at Pauole’s restaurants. 

His wife, Felisha, who also works in the restaurant, says it’s been a beautiful experience growing the business and her family with the support of their regular guests. 

“This island community is unique in the way that we build and grow together, “ she said. 

Chef Louis Pauole prepares dishes in front of guests at Izakaya Miyo. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Izakaya Miyo dishes are made with unique local ingredients from Hawaii Island. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Izakaya Miyo owner and chef Louis Pauole shares the story of how sake is made to guests. Sake is made from hand-washed rice. The more finite the rice, the more expensive the sake. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Guests at Izakaya Miyo in Hilo, Hawaii get to watch a trained chef make unique Japanese-inspired food right in front of them. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Sake raspberry gelly glaze with a raspberry mousse covered in a chocolate mirror glaze, meringue cookies and fruits. Photo by: Megan Moseley

Izakaya Miyo now seats up to 12 people, and is open Tuesday through Friday. You can book a reservation online at https://www.izakayamiyo.com/home.

 

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