“Most of the time if you are a chef of any caliber you either have to start your own restaurant or jump in to an existing one and keep things moving; here I am pushed to be creative with flavors and I get to set the rules.”
-Chef Skyler Osborne, Izakaya Miyo Bar
One of the most innovative and exciting restaurants in Hilo can be found in the unassuming Manono Street Marketplace. Miyo’s Restaurant and Izakaya Miyo provide a double shot of delicious traditional Japanese foods and cutting-edge fusion dishes that evolve frequently. Miyo’s Restaurant has been well known to the Hilo community since it opened in 1987 and has been in its Manono location since 2012. Longtime Executive Chef Louis Pauole purchased the restaurant from Miyo and added Izakaya Miyo in September of 2020. I was lucky enough to be one of the first guests to enjoy Chef Louis’ Omakase experience, and it was everything I had hoped for- a number of fantastic small plates that varied in taste, texture, ingredient, and visual appeal, but were all superbly prepared and divinely delicious. On my second Omakase visit I enjoyed the same fantastic experience with different dishes, showcasing the continuing evolution and creative craftsmanship of the chefs.
Since last November, Chef Louis has mostly handed the reins over to new Executive Chef Skyler Osborne to continue the creative journey of Izakaya Miyo- both the food and the beverages. The new bar and seating configuration allows for more guests to enjoy the show, whether for lunch or dinner. There is no bad seat in the house, and the avant-garde approach to refining, revising, and reworking menu options pleases my gourmand heart to the fullest. It is not easy to find this level of sophistication in food in the middle of the ocean (not that there aren’t many other fantastic restaurants and private chefs here, because there are, but this is different), and Chef Skyler’s journey to the Executive Chef position sheds some light upon how the influences from the places to which he’s traveled and worked have shaped what he is now bringing to the table.
Like Chef Louis, Chef Skyler is a Hiloan. Similarly, his route to fine dining was also interesting and circuitous. He began working in fast food and realized that he had an interest in food, which moved him along to working with Chef Jeff Kestner of Hilo Bay Café. Chef Skyler credits Chef Jeff for teaching him new approaches to thinking about and cooking food. He eventually began creating some unique lunch specials for the restaurant that had not been done before. Chef Skyler then moved to the Mainland where he worked as a sushi roller and manager of a sushi restaurant, then to a high end restaurant in Boise where he learned about higher end cocktails and wine pairings, and eventually he became the sous chef for the Nisqually Red Wind Casino in Washington state, overseeing 5 different restaurant venues (and cuisine types) within the casino. After several years in Washington, Chef Skyler came home, worked a while for Booch Bar, and after personally enjoying 3 of Chef Louis’ Omakase dinners, found a place at Izakaya Miyo. The results speak for themselves (I know, having gotten to sample a number of dishes you see in this article).
The Omakase menu is available Thursday through Saturday (by reservation). The fixed price is $110 per person for 5-6 courses. There is an optional wine or sake pairing with five of the courses for $50 per person. You may also inquire about a specialty whiskey pairing. Every effort is made to not repeat the same proteins from one month to the next, guaranteeing continuous creative efforts.
An important piece of information for the eating public is that you can now order a la carte from the Izakaya-side bar menu when you dine on the Miyo’s Restaurant side. That means you can have your tempura combo and the mind-blowing shiso bites when you go for dinner (Izakaya bar menu items are not available at lunch time). Pretty fantastic that you can select items from the bar menu while enjoying the comfort of traditional Japanese dishes. This applies to the specialty cocktails as well, and let me tell you, those cocktails are pretty darn special. I was able to sample the Ube Colada Martini (So ono. So dangerous.), the Hilo Spritzer (very light and refreshing), and the Izakaya Old Fashioned (nicely done with the bitters). Chef Skyler reports they are working on another seasonal cocktail that might involve those love them or hate them initials of “PSL”. And new pastry chef creating desserts for the Miyo’s side is Sarah Perells (owner of Finesse by Sarah).
Some of the highlights from the Izakaya bar menu (other than the drinks), include several dishes that were prepared for our tasting pleasure. And trust me, it was a pleasure. They still make the amazing sauteed Hamakua mushrooms and mouth-watering Brussels sprouts, and they’ve added items including ceviche on deep fried rice paper (see featured photo), Chef Louis’ famous egg toast, a sunomono trio, those mind-blowing shiso bites I mentioned earlier (ahi cubes wrapped in shiso, tempura fried, then topped with pickled onions, bonito flakes and yuzu zest), ahi noodles in ponzu (ahi to mimic the shape of udon noodles), and a hauntingly delicious duck with a five spice blueberry pinot noir gastrique. Trust me, you are going to need to visit multiple times to enjoy all of the amazing artistry being prepared at Miyo’s and the Izakaya Miyo bar. You’ll probably see me there, feasting on the duck (see bellow) and several other amazing treats!