HONOLULU | Hands down one of my best meal experiences in Honolulu was at chef Ricky Goings’ pop-up restaurant, Sooper Secret Izakaya. Operating a few nights a week in a space that’s home to a cafe during the day, you’ll find some of the city’s most exciting dining here. In fact, it was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation 2022 best new restaurant award.
Philadelphia-born, Honolulu-raised Ricky, who has worked at some of Hawaii’s top restaurants, started Sooper Secret Izakaya after his father died during the pandemic, inspired to create a deeply personal dining experience, cooking the food that he wanted to, from the heart.
His dinners follow the progression of courses of a traditional Japanese kaiseki meal, with dishes that throw away the rule book, and always respect the quality and provenance of the produce used. The result is food that’s exciting, interesting, and of course delicious. The fact that it all comes out of a tiny, underspecced cafe kitchen, makes things all the more impressive.
It’s a super chill, intimate space with 10 guests max. No matter where you’re seated in the small room, your right there with Ricky, who prepares and cooks everything in front of the room while chatting away, before serving the dishes himself. To help, a recently hired assistant chef, and one wait staff. The team work so well together, and are very passionate about what they’re doing.
What you eat will depend on the night. The best produce is sourced from Hawaii and further abroad, and the menu’s constantly changing. It’s an “everything was a highlight” kinda situation here. I particularly loved the Tasmanian uni waffle with butter and sugar syrup; the pork belly rib; and the foie grass PB&J ‘uncrustable’ with coffee jelly. Every dish is personal, and has a story behind it. There’s also a lot of “fuck it, wouldn’t that be cool” going on when it comes to menu development here.
Sustainability is also important. The coffee jelly, for example, uses what would have been discarded filter coffee from the cafe, to create something new.
For drinks, it’s a one pager of quality beer, wine, and sake, all selected to pair well with that nights menu.
Sooper Secret Izakaya
2045 Kalākaua Avenue
Thu – Sun: 6:30pm to 8:30pm