Take a Bite
May 4th, 2016

PHOTO COURTESY MOANA SURFRIDER

The Moana Surrider is celebrating Mother's Day weekend with a Mad Hatter's Mother-Daughter tea party taking place a day ahead of Mother's Day. Pictured are Kristin Khem and her daughters.

12th Avenue Grill

The popular Kaimuki restaurant is devoting a handful of specials to moms on Saturday and Sunday.
Weekend specials include a small plate of Belgian endive salad ($15) with
housemade Shinsato Farms guanciale, rock shrimp, Big island avocado, house feta, toasted almonds, and Rincon Farms strawberry vinaigrette; and a large plate ($38) of Lavender and Sweetland Farms goat cheese-crusted Maui Cattle Co. beef tenderloin with roasted cauliflower puree and marinated Ho Farms tomatoes. For dessert, there will be lemon ricotta panna cotta ($9) with Rincon Farms strawberry-rhubarb compote and oatmeal streusel crisp.
Then, Sunday Supper on Mother's Day will be a $36 per person (two-order minimum) complete meal of seafood cioppino with Penn Cove mussels, Manila clams, Hawaii white fish, scallops and Baja Gulf shrimp in a tomato-white wine sauce, served with antipasto salad, garlic bread, preserved lemon haricots verts and Manoa chocolate hazelnut crepes with fresh berries and Frangelico crema.
At 1120 12th Ave. Reserve at 732-9469.

PHOTO COURTESY BLT STEAK

BLT Steak is known for its grilled steaks and raw bar. More specials await on Mother's Day.

BLT Steak

The restaurant in the Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk is offering Mother’s Day blackboard specials, as well as an $85 per person prix fixe three-course meal ($119 with wine pairings) with appetizer, entrée, side and dessert selections from the blackboard menu.
Among the blackboard options are appetizers of smoked salmon carpaccio ($17), endive salad ($19), and charred octopus with confit tomatoes, shishito peppers and white bean salad ($19).
Entrée selections are a roasted Cornish hen with spring vegetables and truffle jus ($38), beef Wellington with red wine sauce ($58), and grilled New Zealand king salmon with baby squash and strawberry gastrique ($38).
The sides are roasted portobellos with buratta and charred tomato ($12), lobster penne with Alfredo sauce ($12), and rainbow carrots with honey-mustard glaze ($12).
Finish with the dessert choices of chocolate raspberry mousse cake with white chocolate ice cream ($12), or honey-rosemary buttercake with vanilla-lavender panna cotta, roasted peach-honey Sauce and lemon-thyme sorbet ($12).
The Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk is at 223 Saratoga Road. Complimentary validated parking available. For reservations, visit bltrestaurants.com.

PHOTO COURTESY CHEF MAVRO Chef Mavro will be cooking his mom's specialty pistou on Sunday.

PHOTO COURTESY CHEF MAVRO

Chef Mavro will be cooking his mom's specialty pistou on Sunday.

CHEF MAVRO

At his eponymous restaurant, chef George Mavrothalassitis will be serving his mom's specialty pistou tableside as a complimentary soup course on Mother's Day. Mavro calls his mom's Provencal comfort dish "the best in the whole world.
"Her soup included a large variety of spring beans, ham hocks, tomato, salted pork belly and, of course, one ton of basil and Parmesan cheese. And … love, always the best ingredient. I’m still carrying on her recipe when I cook a pistou soup."
Spring menu options for the occasion are flexible and this complimentary course means that four courses become five for the same price, and six courses becomes seven, etc.
Guest favorites on the spring menu include Keahole “Lobster à la Française” with split English peas, Manoa lettuce, bacon, tokyo turnips and essence of crustacean; and North Shore free-range roast chicken with Périgord truffle, green asparagus, Yukon potato and bearnaise jus.
Also on Mother's Day and everyday, chef de cuisine Jonathan Mizukami is introducing acallop sashimi with 10 grams of Eussian sturgeon golden osetra, black pepper mignonette and crème fraiche, at $75.
Chef Mavro is at 1969 S. King St. Reserve at 944-4714 or email chef@chefmavro.com. Reservations from 6 p.m. Visit chefmavro.com.

FILCOM CENTER

The center is presenting a Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet featuring Creations in Catering, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. There will be a prime rib carving station; omelette station; salad station; eggs Benedicts; Belgian waffles; French toast; raw bar with oysters, shrimp and poke; and entrées such as roast turkey with Portuguese sausage-cornbread stuffing and giblet gravy; guava-glazed ham; steamed fish; kabayaki-glazed salmon with wasabi yuzu aioli and bubu arare; plus an assortment of pies, mini tarts, chocolate mousse, and more, for dessert. Cost is $50 for adults and $25 for keiki ages 3 to 8 years old.
At 94-428 Mokuola St. in Waipahu. Free parking. Reserve at 680-0451.

JAPENGO

Japengo will celebrate Mother’s Day with a menu of fan favorites. The four-course menu includes crispy pork belly and roasted baby carrots salad, scallop truffle-yaki, steamed local fish in a Thai coconut curry broth, and coconut crème brulee. The cost is $55 per person; $28 per child ages 6 to 12; or free for ages 5 and younger.
Japengo is on the third floor, Diamond Head Tower of Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, at 2424 Kalakaua Ave. Reserve at 237-6166 or online at japengowaikiki.com. Valet and self-parking are complimentary.

HILTON HAWAIIAN VILLAGE

Rainbow Lanai
A Mother's Day brunch buffet will be offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, including a complimentary mimosa or glass of sparkling wine for adults.
The buffet starts with a cold selection of salads, fresh fruit, cold cuts and selections from the sea, including smoked salmon, chilled shrimp, ahi poke, and hot selections such as mini char siu baos and pork pot stickers, eggs Florentine, waffles, braised beef, baked chicken with lemon garlic cream sauce, steamed fish with chimichurri sauce, kim chee fried rice and a carving station with kiawe-smoked prime rib and crispy pork with hoisin and bao. There will also be omelette and dessert stations, and a selection of breads, including gluten-free options and gluten-free pancakes.
The cost is $65 for adults and $30 for ages 12 and younger; excluding tax and gratuity.

Bali Steak & Seafood
The prix fixe Mother's Day dinner starts with a white truffle-scented polenta torte; followed by a first course of poached Kauai prawns, second course of king crab arancini; and a choice of one of three entrées, prime New York strip steak, pan-roasted Kona kampachi or petit filet and king crab Oscar; ending with dessert of strawberry shortcake with mascarpone and basil gelato.
The cost is $89 per person, excluding tax and gratuity.

KAHALA HOTEL& RESORT

Treat mom to a dinner at Hoku’s or Plumeria Beach House on Mother’s Day, and she’ll also receive a $50 Kahala Spa treatment gift certificate. The certificate can be used toward services valued at $150 or more, excludes merchandise, and is valid through Aug. 31, 2016.

Hoku’s
A five-course menu on Mother's Day is highligted by roasted Kona abalone, scallops with mushroom, and sautéed beef tenderloin for $110 per person and an additional $45 per person for wine pairing.

Plumeria Beach House
A Mother's Day dinner buffet starts with a variety of salad and appetizer selections including seafood and sushi, carving and action stations with prime rib, seafood Newberg, truffle-yaki catch and braised Kurobuta pork collar with smokey jus, wild mushrooms and a dessert station featuring The Kahala’s signature bread pudding with vanilla anglaise. The cost is $75 for adults and $37.50 for children younger than 12 (plus tax and gratuity).
For reservations, call 739-8760 or email restaurants@kahalaresort.com.

PHOTOS COURTESY MORIMOTO

A raw bar is one of the highlights of Mother's Day brunch at Morimoto Waikiki in The MODERN Honolulu.

MODERN HONOLULU

Morimoto Waikiki
Enjoy a buffet brunch with stations set up offering Peking duck, sushi, noodles and salads, omelettes, prime rib, sweets and a mimosa cart. Also a visit to the "Iron Chef's" namesake restaurant would not be complete without a trip to the raw bar. Brunch runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $95 per person; $40 for ages 12 and younger. Reserve at 943-5900.
The restaurant is in The MODERN Honolulu at 1775 Ala Moana Boulevard.

The Grove
Executive chef Keith Pajinag delivers organic, local and housemade specialties for a $55 per person four-course Mother’s Day lunch. Or $70 for the meal plus two mimosas. Courses include:
> Strawberry and tomato gazpacho and Dungeness crab salad with basil and chive oil
> Grain Salad with Smoke Mahi: Spice-rubbed mahi and quinoa salad with sherry vinaigrette
> Butter-poached sous vide crispy chicken breast with grilled escarole, spring onion and truffle polenta
> Rhubarb galette with candied pistachio and white chocolate cream cheese
Single mimosas are $10 per glass of Prosecco mixed with your choice of orange, guava, strawberry-banana or peach juice. Reserve at 281-5548.

PACIFIC WHALE FOUNDATION

The foundation is inviting those on Maui out for an afternoon brunch cruise or sunset dinner sail, both offering cocktails, live music, spectacular views, and a rose for every mom.
The brunch cruise runs from 1 to 3 p.m. Check in at the foundation's 612 Front St. Lahaina Ocean Store at 12:15 pm. The cost is $95.95 per adult and $65.95 for children up to 12 years old. Keiki up to 2 years old admitted free at one per paying adult.
The dinner sail runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Check in at the Lahaina Ocean Store at 4:15 p.m. The cost is $139 per adult and $89 for children up to age 12. Keiki up to 2 years old admitted free at one per paying adult. Seating will be limited to 26 passengers.
Book online to save 10 percent, or call (808) 249-8811 ext. 1.

MOANA SURFRIDER

The First Lady of Waikiki is celebrating the bond between mother and daughter with a “Mad The event will take place in the Grand Salon, featuring a fashion show of Cinnamon Girl fashions, a local boutique known for its mommy-daughter coordinated outfits. There will be discounts on select designs, as well as an amateur fashion runway featuring mother-daughter tea patrons, with prizes and a complimentary photo for moms and their daughters.
Moana Surfrider executive pastry chef Nanako Perez-Nava will be preparing special items as part of the Moana Classic Tea Service that day, which will include jasmine tea roll cake with fresh strawberries, mango macaron with chocolate butterfly, a chocolate lady bug tartlet, Cinnamon Girl dress mini cupcakes, flower icing cookies, and orange-blueberry scones with lilikoi curd and Devonshire cream. Adults will receive champagne and girls will receive a gift-wrapped copy of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, “Alice in Wonderland.” The cost is $50 per person (not including tax and gratuity).
The Moana Surfrider is at 2365 Kalakaua Ave. Free valet parking will be available, or self-park at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. Reserve by calling 921-4600.

Beach House Restaurant
Mother's Day brunch from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday will feature island bounty from land and sea, starting with salads and housemade soups, and a raw bar of poke, chilled shrimp, Pacific oysters, snow crab clusters, alae-cured gravlax, sashimi, nigiri sushi, California rolls, and more.
There will also be dim sum offerings, omelette selections, blueberry granola pancakes, roast prime rib, crispy suckling pig and such signature entrées as grilled onaga, crispy Chinatown chicken, port-braised short ribs, Kahuku garlic prawns, steamed snow crab legs, and more. Plus several desserts.
The cost is $80 for adults, $40 for children 6 to 12; tax and gratuity not included.
Reserve by calling the Starwood Dining Reservations Center at 921-4600 between
8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., except Sundays, when hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

ROYAL HAWAIIAN HOTEL MONARCH ROOM

Mother's Day brunch starts with Royal Bakeshop pastries and sweets, with Pink Palace pancakes, build-your-own eggs Benedicts, and such mixed plate offerings as steamed crab legs, a green curry Asian cioppino, sake-marinated local snapper, kiawe-smoked huli-huli syle chicken, Australian lamb rack, pork loin with green apple mustard, ginger-scallion fried rice and dessert station featuring a mini cupcake bar, lilikoi cheesecake lollipops, strawberry shortcake with lavender whipped cream, and more.
The cost is $125 per person, and $60 for children 12 and younger.
Reserve by calling the Starwood Dining Reservations Center at 921-4600 between
8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., except Sundays, when hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

SHERATON WAIKIKI

KAI Market is known for its diverse daily buffet options, and Mother's Day specialties are bound to satisfy everyone in the family. Included will be a chef's action station featuring alae-crusted slow roast prime beef, steamed snapper with ginger, lup cheong, Chinese parsley and soy sauce, made to order omelettes, blueberry and plain pancakes, soy-sake braised short ribs, Chinatown noodles with char siu, assorted poke, oysters on the half shell, chilled shrimp cocktail, a cheese board, desserts, and much more.
The cost is $60 for adults and $30 for keiki ages 6 to 12.
Reserve by calling the Starwood Dining Reservations Center at 921-4600 between
8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., except Sundays, when hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

TIKI'S GRILL & BAR

All-you-can-eat snow crab Legs, red velvet waffles, a “Build Your Own” omelet station, poke bar and hand-carved salt-crusted prime rib, will be among the highlights during Tiki's Grill & Bar's Mother's Day Brunch buffet taking place 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 8.
There will also be a pancake and French toast bar, crab eggs Benedict, macadamia nut mahimahi with lemongrass beurre blanc, plus seasonal fruits, salads and housemade kim chee. A Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary bar and champagne specials will also be offered. The cost is $48 for adults; $19 for ages 5 to 12; and free for age 5 and younger. Reserve at 923-TIKI (8454) or online at Tikisgrill.com.
In the Aston Waikiki Hotel at 2570 Kalakaua Ave. Three hours free valet offered.
3 Hours Free Valet | Live Musicians | Ocean Views

YARD HOUSE

With Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduations all on the horizon, Yard House has a gift for all, including the giver. Gift givers will receive a $10 bonus card for every $50 purchased in Yard House gift cards through June 30. Available at any Yard House location and online at Yardhouse.com.
Bonus gift cards are valid from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2016, and can be used at any of the 63 Yard House locations across the United States. The bonus cards are valid for food and non-alcoholic beverages only and do not include alcohol, gratuity or tax.
The restaurant is known for its menu of local and regional specialties to enjoy with more than 100 taps of draft beer. On Mother’s Day, all moms will receive a complimentary mini dessert.
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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her restaurant coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.


May 3rd, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Prosciutto-wrapped baguette is presented with egg yolk for dipping, one dish on the new weekend brunch menu at Bread & Butter.

I love breakfast, and the latest to make mornings easier to wake up for is Bread & Butter, which is offering weekend brunch from a most civilized 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, because, not everyone is up at dawn.

That's something I found out when, jetlagged, I wasn't responding to messages from friends about our 10:30 a.m. brunch date. They ended up coming to my house and pounding on the door exactly one second after I woke up, looked at the time on my phone, and realized I slept through my alarm. Talk about scrambling to action!

It was all worth the massive confusion and pain of getting ready in 10 minutes.

Here's a look at some of the dishes offered on the menu. Absent is one of my favorite dishes, the taro pancakes, which I didn't photograph because they couldn't really be seen, buried under whipped cream.

My full review is in the May 4 Crave section.

Bread & Butter is sister restaurant to Hide Sakurai's Shokudo, next door at
1585 Kapiolani Blvd., and Buho Cocina Y Cantina. Call 949-3430.

The room is bright and spacious.

The kim chee-fried rice-filled omelette is topped with slices of Portuguese sausage. It's the sausage that provides all the flavor because the rice is light on kim chee flavor.

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The non-traditional Caesar salad comes with slices of bacon and avocado, with dressing on the side. For $12, recently, it comes with a slice of housemade garlic, cheese and rosemary-topped focaccia. Add $2 for your choice of a cup of Maui onion soup or clam chowder.

So sad that I have yet to find a lobster roll in this town that's comparable to those on the East Coast. This one is a nice try, but the sweet roll detracts from sweetness of lobster, and pink peppercorns also overpower the lobster. The pickled vegetables do help to brighten the roll. Otherwise, gotta keep it simple.

Egg Slut is fun to eat and the smoked mashed potatoes are addicting.

Pork belly eggs Benedict is one of my favorite dishes here, along with taro and banana pancakes that I did not photograph because they did not look like anything underneath a cloud of whipped cream.

Fans of avocado toast will find comfort in a dish of "Smashed Avocado and Bacon," the avocado topped with sunflower seeds, crushed pistachios and walnuts, over baguette.

There are seven pizza options on the menu, including this one with prosciutto and figs If you've never tried their four cheese and honey pizza before, add it to your list. The savory-sweet combo is killer.

A baked egg and sausage stew is more ratatouille than either of the top-mentioned ingredients. The dominant flavor is tomato.


May 3rd, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Chef Lee Opelinia welcomes diners to his Bay Area popup Province, for a taste of Filipino-inspired fine cuisine.

SAN FRANCISCO — Going and coming home from Dubai meant a total of 42 hours of air travel. There was no way I wanted to be sitting on planes for 20 hours at a stretch, so it also meant taking some time to "rest" in San Francisco before the 15-hour Emirates Airline non-stop flight from S.F. to Dubai. The route was created to cater to Silicon Valley engineers and their family heading to and from India. Dubai just happens to be a hot destination for Western travelers curious about the ultra-modern city that sprung out of nowhere in what was formerly a small fishing village.

Yay for clam chowder overlooking San Francisco Bay at Hog Island Oyster Co.

On the trip over, I hit up the Ferry Building Marketplace, and because I was already sick before I got on the plane, I had a craving for a bowl of soup, clam chowder at the Hog Island Oyster Co. It was a mere snack before Melissa Chang and I were to meet her cousin (and my college journalism classmate Patrick Chu) at The Ramen Bar for a proper lunch. Of course because of the generous portion size at Hog Island, I was already full and could not handle ramen. So I had a salmon and kale salad.

Coincidentally, The Ramen Bar is part of Michael Mina's empire, and there is a chance that when he opens operations here on the site of the former International Market Place, The Ramen Bar may not be too far behind.

Later, I dropped into State Bird Provision's sister restaurant, The Progress, described in the previous post. But things got interesting on the return trip when we were able to attend chef Lee Opelinia's Province popup.

This truffled, buttery polvoron, or cookie, made a great amuse bouche, teasing our palates and making us long for more.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Opelinia worked at the Ritz Carlton and was picked by chef Ron Siegel to work in the Dining Room, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant. It was there that he worked alongside Hawaii chef Chris Kajioka, who called on him when he needed a sous chef to help him open Vintage Cave. Opelinia returned to his hometown about a year later to work on developing his own signature style, with plans to promote Filipino cuisine, reflecting his heritage.

These days, Opelinia works at Parallel 37 and stages small popups about twice a month to test the waters for a possible bricks-and-mortar venture down the line.

His menus are influenced by the flavors of Filipino cuisine that he grew up with, but, Western in execution, it can't be called Filipino food. He said many of those who seek his popups through word-of-mouth have never tried Filipino food before, so part of his mission is educational. His biggest fear is that people will attend one of his popups, then try to order something similar in a Filipino restaurant.

After trying his cuisine, we're hoping to get him back to Honolulu for a popup different from any other in town, if anyone out there is willing to offer a kitchen. Opelinia can be found via facebook.com/ProvinceSF or on Instagram #ProvinceSF.

Smoked adobong beets with braised onion, beet greens and puffed quinoa.

Two views of tortang talong with charred Filipino eggplant in an egg espuma and sourdough croutons.

province egg

A careful arrangement of sliced and shaved asparagus precedes a pour of tamarind-asparagus soup, below. Refreshing for summer.

province pour

What is amazing in this dish of Dungeness crab arroz caldo are those little brown chips made from crab fat. They pack so much flavor that those little bits manage to flavor the entire dish. Also love the sweet spring peas.

Pork belly with pickled pearl onions, pork liver sauce, long beans and yam leaf laing, similar to luau leaves with coconut milk. This dish might be considered a clean take on lechon kawali.

Dessert of fresh mango and mango blanco, the light mango purée layered over coconut pudding similar to haupia. Interestingly enough, picking up the mango pieces with a fork sent the parsley springs down into the mango with the tines, adding another flavor dimension.

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her restaurant coverage is in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.


April 21st, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

The 5:30 p.m. line outside of State Bird Provisions, sister restaurant to The Progress, which is next door at 1525 Fillmore St. in San Francisco. Just like State Bird, there is no signage outside the door and looking at the space, you'd never know there is a restaurant there.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. – Before getting on a 15-1/2 hour flight to Dubai, I took a break in San Francisco and for the last meal of the day April 19 headed out to check out The Progress, sister restaurant and next door neighbor to State Bird Provisions.

It's named after The Progress Theatre that opened in the space in 1911, and today the name stands for sustainability progress as the restaurant serves as a vehicle for 100 percent local production.

Inside The Progress. I noticed the lighting along this wall was perfect for food bloggers a Instagrammers.

For their efforts, chef proprietors Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski—who opened The Progress in 2014—were honored as 2015 Best Chef West winner in the James Beard Awards.

The prix fixe menu changes almost daily and starts with a few wholesome "snacks," that serve as salads and appetizers, then your option to choose four out of about 13 light to heavy dishes of the day to share family style, at $58 per person. There are also about four daily add-on items.

It's a little like State Bird in the offering of a roster of delectable menu items, with add-ons tempting you as they are offered on carts that arrive at your table. There is always a line to get into State Bird because the James Beard 2013 Best New Restaurant winner has such a fun vibe and food to match. The Progess is its more sedate and sophisticated sister.

Here's a look at what was on the table:

THE SNACKS

Marinated parsnips with fig saba.

Yellow snow peas with lemon oil and sea salt.

Beet tartare on seven-pepper cracker.

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Pakistani mulberries.

THE ADD-ON

From options that included Hog Island Sweetwater oysters ($3.50 each), grilled spot prawns ($16 for two), and broiled sardines cured in local sake lees ($6 each), we opted for CA sturgeon caviar topped with a potato cloud ($10 each), below.

progress caviar

progress caviar2

THE MAIN COURSES

Artichoke cavatelli with English peas, bone marrow and bottarga was very lemony. Because of the bone marrow aspect, I was expecting this dish to be a little more savory than it was. It was a treasure hunt for bits of marrow.

Double duck broth featured strips of duck in the broth and diced duck tucked into pillowy dumplings, sharing the bowl with mushrooms and turnips.

Grilled Llano Seco pork shoulder was topped with sunflower seed sambal, pickled carrots and ginger and lettuce for wrapping.

Grilled Spanish octopus with fava hummus, shaved fennel, toasted black rice and preserved lemon was the most assertive dishes we ordered, and my favorite of the evening.


April 14th, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Bacalao fritters served with a mild harissa aioli are among the highlights on the evening menu at Fête, the newest addition to the ever-growing Downtown food scene. Chicken liver mousse was another favorite.

I have eaten at so many poorly managed restaurants in the past year that I feel a little gun-shy when visiting an eatery for the first time. If I walked into a new establishment with no expectations in years past, I now walk in with skepticism.

A restaurant run by professionals has become a rarity as barriers to entry have been broken down by food trucks and popups, and so many who graduate to bricks and mortar appear to be winging it.

But, sitting down to dinner at downtown Honolulu’s newest restaurant, Fête, and speedily plied with greetings, menus, ordered drinks and pupu in spite of the full house, I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes! Obviously, professionals at work, and diners are responding. Barely a month old, it's packed, making reservations a must.

Even though Fête is a first-time effort from the husband-and-wife team of Chuck Bussler, who serves as general manager, and Robynne Maii, executive chef, the two have lengthy backgrounds in food service.

Maii’s extensive culinary métier starts with such local restaurants as 3660 on the Rise and Padovani’s Grill, leading to New York’s Waldorf Astoria. She’s also been an educator and worked for Gourmet magazine as a research assistant and "Truth in Labeling" columnist. The couple met in New York, where Bussler worked at several restaurants over time, including Savoy, Blue Hill and Prune.

PHOTOS BY CRAIG T. KOJIMA / ckojima@staradvertiser.com

I’m already a sucker for Chinatown’s brick walls and picture window storefronts, but the additions bring warmth and a modern sophisticated grace to the early 20th century space. It’s a restaurant that could fit in easily in San Francisco’s or Brooklyn’s food scene, but we’re the lucky ones.

Bussler, who also worked with “Top Chef’s” Hugh Acheson to open 5&10 in Athens, Ga., designed Féte’s interior, which included tasking local artists to create glass lighting fixtures, a living wall and other unique details.

Fête’s artisanal menu is short and sweet to keep service manageable for the kitchen. In spite of its brevity, there’s no shortage of good ideas, so you’ll probably be hungering for all 11 lunch dishes and 16 dinner items, plus a handful of sides and desserts. This is a place where it’s just as pleasant ordering a few small grazing bites before a night at Hawaii Theatre, as it is sitting down for a full meal.

The bar is similarly curated with a handful of old-fashioned cocktails, predominantly local craft beers, and an eclectic roster of small production wines from around the globe.

At the bar, Mari Maffioli created a Clover Club cockktail, that includes Brooklyn Gin, a shout-out to the city the owners' once called home.

Owner Chuck Bussler takes a hands-on approach in running the restaurant, and to date, the staff has been equally capable. This should be a given, but alas, so rare in this town.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Marinated olives accented with orange zest was a delicious amuse bouche. I could have eaten these all night.

There wasn't enough foie gras to be satisfying in a foie gras gyoza appetizer.

Kabocha squash risotto (recently, $23) isn't very sexy, but delivers a healthier take on the rice dish, with curly kale and shiitake, shimeji and maitake mushrooms that also give the dish texture.

Maii shows her Korean heritage with a dish of grilled kalbi-marinated bavette ($28), the steak flavored with a mild touch of kochujang sauce and layered over flavorful fernbraken and mungbean sprout fried rice. The dish is topped by an overeasy egg and cucumber namul.

If you can get past an unusually hard shell, you might enjoy the juiciness of Fetê's fried chicken. I think a lot of people would appreciate a change in the batter.

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Fête is at 2 N. Hotel St. (corner of Nuuanu Avenue). Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, and 5 to 11 p.m. Saturdays. Call (808) 369-1390.