|The President and First Family, courtside|
Honolulu, HI - President Barack Obama on Sunday skipped the beach on his second day of vacation, instead spending the afternoon with the First Family watching an exciting game of college hoops and then dining for two hours at Morimoto Waikiki, one of the eponymous venues owned by Chef Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America fame.
Dinner came on the heels of the Diamond Head Classic at University of Hawaii, where the President watched the Oregon State University men's basketball team, coached by First Lady Michelle Obama's brother Craig Robinson, do battle on the boards. The First Family sat courtside behind the team bench.
The sushi outing is a vacation ritual for the Eater in Chief, who was making his third pre-Christmas-eve visit since 2011. The President sped in his motorcade across the island from his vacation rental home in Kailua and arrived with Mrs. Obama and his entourage at the chic eatery located in The Modern hotel at 7:23 PM.
A heavy security presence blocked the lively Waikiki streets, a brightly lit beachside strip that's even busier during the holidays. As the President and First Family feasted, patrons already inside Morimoto were allowed to continue dining under heavy guard, and asked to refrain from using their smartphones for photos.
The President selected from Morimoto's vast menu, dubbed a "seamless integration of Western and Japanese ingredients," heavy on fresh fish. It includes what the chef recently billed as "the world's tiniest sushi!," with each piece smaller than a dime; a selection of noodles; an enormous raw bar; and the Morimoto Omakase, the "Chef's Choice" menu, $140 per person, starring oh-toro, anago, unago, and maguro, among other items.
Mrs. Obama and White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford both appeared with Morimoto on Food Network's Iron Chef America: Super Chef Battle in 2010 to promote the Let's Move! campaign. Comerford competed in the Kitchen Stadium, winning the day with dishes that paid homage to the First Lady's White House Kitchen Garden.
The press pool had no view of the Presidential dinner action, being held across the street at an Outback Steakhouse. But pool did note a crowd of about a hundred fans gathered across Ala Moana Boulevard from Morimoto to watch and cheer as the President departed with his entourage at approximately 9:29 PM.
The excited crowd was rewarded with a wave from the President, who arrived back home at his rental compound at 10:04 PM. The island roadways have been lined with supporters as the President has moved around Oahu, some flashing the "shaka" sign at their beloved island son as he rolls by in his motorcade.
|Arriving with Malia, the President waves to the crowd|
There was more cheering for the President earlier in the afternoon as he arrived at the University of Hawaii's Stan Sheriff Center at 2:49 PM to watch his brother-in-law's Beavers get knocked out of the quarter final of the eight-team Diamond Head Classic as they took on the University of Akron Zips.
Clad in a purple polo shirt and dark jeans, President Obama walked into the arena with First Daughter Malia by his side, followed by Mrs. Obama and Sasha. The crowd of more than 3,400 cheered as the First Family arrived, and President Obama made his first appearance on the arena's Jumbotron before tip-off. He high-fived fellow fans as he arrived and at half-time.
|Cheering for the team|
Mother-in-law Mrs. Marian Robinson, matriarch of the Robinson clan, and Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass were also part of the cheering section, as was Craig Robinson's wife Kelly Robinson and their kids, and White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Kass and Titcomb helped kick off the President's two-plus weeks of R&R on Saturday, joining him for five hours of golf on the championship course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Despite their famous cheering section, the Beavers fell to the Zips 83-71, bringing the Beavers' record to 6-3. The Oregon hoopsters are used to Presidential adulation: Back home in Washington, Mr. Obama and his family watched the team win on Nov. 17th as they played Maryland. Craig Robinson and his players also enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the White House with the President and Mrs. Obama in 2012.
|Mrs. Obama gets a kiss from nephew Austin Robinson|
Accompanied by a woman holding a sign that read "Beavers Hate Pipelines," the polar bear entered the arena and danced during a second half time-out. "It was unclear if the president noticed them," pool reported.
After the game, the President and First Family departed the arena at 5:00 PM and briefly returned to their rental home in Kailua before heading off to dinner in Waikiki.
The President arrived on island just before midnight on Friday, and has no public events scheduled through Jan. 5th, 2014, when he will return to Washington, DC.
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Information: Morimoto Waikiki is at 1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI, 96815. Phone: 808-943-5900.