ASUKA Restaurant specializes in its namesake hotpot dish called the Asuka nabe. It is a hotpot dish dating back over 1,300 years to the Asuka period of Japanese history and originates from the ancient capital city of Nara. It is considered to be one of the earliest Japanese hot pot dishes. The dish is said to have been first made by a monk using milk, honey, and miso; ingredients that were considered to be extravagant and luxurious at that time period. The modern version of that hotpot served at Asuka restaurant incorporates chicken broth and kombu seaweed to those classic ingredients. The Asuka nabe has been passed down through the millennia and is considered a local hometown dish in now parts of Nara.
CHEF Hitoshi “Kenny” Ikeguchi was born in Nara, Japan, the home of the Asuka nabe. He has 45 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry, receiving his culinary training at Osaka Castle Hotel after he graduated from the Tsuji Cooking Academy.
In 1972, he moved to Vancouver Canada to pursue a personal chef career. He managed the Vancouver–branch of Kobe Japanese Steak House and all their personal and business events. In 1973 he transferred to Hawaii for the opening of the new branch of Kobe steak house in Waikiki and worked 3 more years before moving to New York City.
In New York, Chef Ikeguchi joined Georges Rey Français fine dining restaurant in Manhattan as the first Japanese head chef of a French fine dining restaurant in New York. In 1979, He moved back to Hawaii and took a position as sous-chef at The 3rd Floor Restaurant in Hawaiian Regent Hotel Waikiki, the top fine dining restaurants in Hawaii at the time. Since then he has called Hawaii his home and has endeavored in many restaurant and entertainment ventures in Hawaii and abroad such as the Moroccan restaurant Haji Baba, The Bistro by The Water fine dining restaurant in Thousand Oaks, California, as well as The Discotheque Club in the Royal Cebu Hotel in the Philippines.
In 2003, he opened Shabu Shabu House as a partnership; the first Shabu Shabu Hot pot restaurant in Hawaii. He has since parted ways with the Shabu Shabu House with the desire to create an authentic Japanese culinary experience that not only pays homage to his hometown roots but to the roots of Japanese hotpot cuisine as a whole. Asuka Restaurant is the manifestation of this desire to add his hometown flavor to the melting pot that is Hawaii.