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NATTO+DURIAN: Just natto meant to be

Naru’s ambitious menu of 8 natto creations would have been great … if it hadn’t taken half the night

Posted April 24, 2011 by Mari Taketa

Ayyy, people, it wasn’t meant to be.

It was all so promising, the way it came together. It started with my reveries about Izakaya Naru’s natto ice cream, the stinky fermentation neutralized by black honey and mixed into a delectable goo of vanilla slime. Then @kyleepuu tweeted about a durian coconut milk sticky rice at Sabai Dee Thai restaurant across the street, and the light bulb went on in my head.

Score! People signed on for my NATTO+DURIAN dinner faster than either can clear a room. Score! Naru said they’d be happy to add a few more natto dishes to the three already on its menu. And score! Sabai Dee said they’d be ready with durian sticky rice for all.

How 21 of us ended up parking our butts at Naru for four hours last Wednesday, waiting so long for eight erratically timed natto dishes that we ended up picking up the durian dessert as takeout and eating it between natto courses at Naru, can be chalked up to several reasons, none of which I’ll get into here. I feel worst for @rsuenaga, a non-natto eater who got his Orion beer but not his udon, and for @codyonizuka, another natto intolerant who never got his ahi poke or anything at all. (Cody was the one who picked up the durian sticky rice from Sabai Dee, and saved rsuenaga’s night by having the foresight to order pad thai as well.)

I’m grateful to Naru, who went out of their way to create five new natto dishes for us and did their best to keep natto eaters, non-natto eaters and the rest of their patrons happy. I felt bad when they bowed me out the door at the end of the night with profuse apologies.

And I want all 20 of you who showed up for NATTO+DURIAN to know how awesome you are. Half of you I’d either never met or barely met before. As the organizer, I was stressed, but every time I looked around you were laughing, mingling, taking pics, sometimes even eating. You’d be fun to hang out with any time, anywhere.

Come to think of it, you’d need a sense of humor to identify yourself as a lover of stinky slime. More so to come prepared to follow up with the malodorous fruit that felled Zimmern. Every one of us knows that look, that wrinkle-nosed sneer of rejection. It’s happened to you, hasn’t it? The natto comes out and people move away? This night we found there is power in our numbers, people: Together we do not stink!

But I digress. The actual food: Naru rocked many of the natto dishes, including a tofu-skin pocket stuffed with natto and kimchee, natto with lotus root, matsuri natto mixed with cubed ahi and a riot of other yums and spooned onto nori, natto-gyoza pizza and of course the natto ice cream.

Would I go back to Naru? Of course — with a much smaller group. And I’ll order every natto dish they’ll let me.

NATTO+DURIAN: The food (1 of 14)


Naru last Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. Always love the hand-written card that's waiting when you book a table. Better yet, Naru tells me they've prepared eight courses for the natto lovers among us, for only $20 a person! Score!

Izakaya Naru
2700 S.King St.


  1. Posted April 24, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Mari, I love how you wrote this Natto story. I’ve tried Natto because my husband likes it for the health benefits. Natto in my dreams, tho I’m adventurous I can’t imagine it tasting that wonderful. How was the ice cream?

  2. Tracy
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Beautiful pictures on this gallery, although the thought of natto ice cream gives me the shudders… why would someone DO that to their ice cream??

  3. konaish
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Who knew a natto-durian dinner would be so popular! I think we just overwhelmed poor Naru with so many of us. Aside from Ryan & Cody not getting their food, it was an enjoyable evening and we got to taste a lot of great natto dishes. I liked the durian sticky rice, too. Creamy, sweet & not too pungent.

    I see there’s a new Comment format, too.

  4. Posted April 24, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Marilyn: health benefits?! even more natto for me! :D the ice cream becomes even creamier when whipped w/ the beans and black honey, w/ a musky aftertaste that’s not unpleasant. so much more interesting than plain vanilla!

  5. Posted April 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Tracy, what is it abt ice cream that makes this the mason-dixon line of natto? this is a serious question.

  6. Posted April 24, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    konaish, we’re riding out the past week’s amazon glitches, so not really a new format. we’ll be back to normal soon, i hear!
    u are always a great sport and a pocket of positive energy and i’m always happy to see u :)

  7. Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    I had such a great time, everyone was great fun to eat with and surprisingly my fave dishes were the potato salad and natto ice cream! Thanks for such a great opportunity to try such innovative dishes! Smell ya later :)

  8. Posted April 24, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    ayyy, @rsuenaga. i’m glad u were there and i got to meet u once. i’m crying for the friends who are crying for u. u left this life way too early.

  9. M
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Hello Mari, I ate natto before and didn’t care for it but in Japan I ate it everyday at breakfast. The natto was so much better there.


About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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