Take a Bite
June 29th, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

It took three to bring this three-tiered Fish House Tower to the table. From left, Four Seasons Ko Olina general manager Sanjiv Hulugalle, Fish House chef Ray German and Fish House general manager Thomas Stone.

I've been so busy keeping my eye on soon-to-open restaurants in Waikik that I overlooked what was going on in Ko Olina, where The Four Seasons Resort Oahu has opened to all in need of an escape from their daily routines.

To celebrate, the resort at Ko Olina is offering Hawaii residents (with valid ID) a 50 percent off best available room rate (about $595 per night to date) from June 29 through Dec. 19, 2016, with complimentary amenities including valet parking and Internet access throughout the resort.

Coinciding with the hotel opening is the debut of dining areas on site, including the Hokule'a Coffee Bar, the luxury Italian restaurant Noe, and the casual-luxe, beach-front, line-to-table restaurant, Fish House.

The restaurants opened to hotel guests yesterday before opening to the public today. A visit to Fish House netted an abundance of seafood and other dishes with chef Ray German's signature Latin flair.

In spite of all the luxury the Four Seasons stands for, this place is far from stodgy. Dishes of burgers, steaks and seafood are presented in a room with a rustic, beachy vibe that suits the location mere steps from sand and sea.

Here's a quick peek that doesn't begin to give a complete picture of the number of dishes and sides available. This being the Four Seasons, sandwiches are $22, 8- to 14-oz. steaks are about $48. Budget accordingly.

A fish scale pattern graces the bar at Fish House.

To the side of this lounge area is a pool table.

To the side of this lounge area is a pool table.

An amuse of cubed mango topped with black sea salt, with lardon and uni.

At a restaurant named Fish House, your first thought may be to get the Fish House Tower, configured to suit your party size, and starting at $35 for four seafood selections for one to two. This is essentially a large ($125 for four to five people) with the addition of two whole Keahole lobsters at $55 each.

The large tower also comes with two kinds of poke, here the traditional ahi with ogo and onions, and one of the specials for the summer's day was ceviche with lime, orange slices and avocado.

Kim Shibata wanted an overhead vantage of the feast.

Libations include many a craft cocktail, beer, wine, kombucha, cold-pressed juices and this Pineapple Elyx-ir of local pineapple juice, pomegranate, hibiscus, champagne, bitters and vodka. Share it with friends, or not.

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The Fish House salad is a cross between a wedge salad and old-fashioned shrimp-and-crab Louie, topped with shaved bonito. Mix in the poached egg.

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As good as all the dishes were, no one could get enough of the spiced-up North Shore corn on the cob with lime, smoked paprika, creamy condensed milk aioli and Parmesan cheese. The corn itself was so fresh and sweet, the perfect texture. A definite OMG moment.

Grilled onaga was served with chili water and flavored vinegar.

A healthful starter of chilled avocado drizzled with quinoa and hazelnut crumble, and cider vinegar.

One of the entrances to the restaurant.

Looking down from the lobby level to one of three pools. Fish House restaurant is next to the pool.

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


June 28th, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Imperial Rolls are filled with a mix of juicy shrimp and pork in a delicate rice paper wrap at Rice Place. Delicious! They're part of a larger dinner appetizer platter that also includes bulgogi rolls and Bae Bae Cakes of sticky rice topped with char siu and lup cheong.

Rice Place owner Trinh Vo notes that in many cultures, to say "Let's eat," literally means to eat rice.

Indeed, those were among the first words I learned when studying Cantonese in college, and again now that I am studying Mandarin. "Sik faan" translates literally in Cantonese as "eat rice," and to ask, "Sik faan mei ah?" or, "Have you eaten yet?," is the equivalent of saying hello. It's the same when you ask, "Ni chi le ma?" in Mandarin.

And so, Vo's restaurant is a celebration of Asia's rice tradition, with many of the dishes offering her fresh, contemporary take on Vietnamese cuisine, while other dishes take their cues from Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisine.

Some people who read my columns may remember that I have an aversion to rice that started in infancy, when, as a young food critic, I refused to eat a mixture of rice and chopped steak that my parents were attempting to pass off as food. At 1, I would sit in my high chair for what felt like hours, while my dad tried to coax then force me to swallow that squishy wad of food. I wouldn't do it, so dinner time always proved to be a traumatic experience for both of us.


Rice Place owner Trinh Vo must be good at getting her kids to eat, because I gladly ate two things at her restaurant that I don't usually enjoy, rice and cucumbers. She made cucumbers palatable in this dish of Refresher Deluxe, the cucumber "noodles" tossed with grilled ika and poached shrimp in a light vinaigrette.

As I grew older, all my suspicions about that white, flavorless, flabby material were confirmed, that polished white rice was devoid of nutrition and was simply filler material for lack of better ingredients.

At Rice Place, though, it ain't like that. Instead, Vo explores the world of rice flours, noodles and fine lacy rice papers that she treats with utmost respect.

Although she describes herself as a home cook, that doesn't take into account the fact that she grew up in the business. Her mother ran a catering business and at one point, five food trucks in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Vo—who eventually grew up to work in the fashion industry—always provided an extra hand. Unlike her two other siblings, she found food preparation fun instead of a chore.

This is not street fare, so flavors are more muted than your typical Chinatown Vietnamese restaurant. At times I miss the intensity of in-your-face fish sauce and Asian herbs heaped on unapologetically, but there is a spare elegance at work here that is a breath of fresh air and gives us a glimpse of Asian cuisine of the future.
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The Rice Place is at 725 Kapiolani Boulevard, C119B, where Ah-Lang, or Angry Korean Lady, used to be. Open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 9 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, Saturday brunch from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and dinner 6 to 9:30 p.m. Call 799-6959. Visit thericeplace808.com.

TOP 5 DISHES

Usually I narrow my choices to Top 3 dishes, but I couldn't do it here. I liked so many of them, so here's my Top 5:

Báhn xèo, described on the menu as "Lettuce Wrap Rice Flour Crepe" looks like an egg crepe, but the rice batter cooks up extra crispy, a nice counterpoint to soft savory fillings of shrimp, pork belly and bean sprouts. It's served with lettuce and mint for wrapping, plus a mild sweet garlic chili sauce for dipping.

The Imperial Rolls star in a dish of Noodles and Rolls served with steamed rice noodle cakes and lettuce for wrapping. Taste the rolls solo too.

The Imperial Rolls star in a dish of Noodles and Rolls served with steamed rice noodle cakes and lettuce for wrapping. Taste the rolls solo too.

Flat, translucent rice noodles are a joy in this dish of pesto boat noodles. The housemade pesto contains no nuts ito address those with nut allergies.

The Asian Cajun makes my list because I love spicy food. Others will find this tom yum version of a Louisiana seafood boil way too hot to handle. Due to the delicacy of the other dishes, when ordering, eat this last.

Housemade condensed milk gelato is rich and creamy as expected, served with housemade azuki beans with a touch of lemon for preserving texture, and housemade mochi that's soft, not as chewy as the commercial variety. It melts quickly, so work fast.

MORE DISHES

Though we've seen many a rice bun over the past two years, the rice is usually too soft, the texture flabby. Not so the scaled down crispy rice buns of Rice Place's Go! Go! Rice Burger Sliders of beef bulgogi and cucumbers. The perfectly crisped rice was the best part.

The Rice Place offers daily stew specials. I didn't quite get this one with bean sprouts, look funn rolls and baked pork with side of broth. I felt like they were disparate ingredients in need of a binder. Hold out for beef brisket stew. Now that one's a keeper!

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner is a take on Hainanese chicken rice, a dish I find boring. It's perfect for those who can't stomach spices and herbs.

The Carnitarian dish comprises ribeye wrapped asparagus with a thickened teriyaki sauce. I found it less interesting than the Vietnamese- and Thai-style dishes.

Sticky rice and mango for dessert.

A rice cream sandwich dessert with green tea ice cream is tricky to share because the ice cream oozes out when you try to cut it.

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


June 25th, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Temptation on the grill. Galbi sausage to the left, spicy pork sausage to the right.

With wide-ranging interests from punk music to graphic design, L.A.-based brothers Yong and Ted Kim and friend Chris Oh, started making sausages on a lark.

"It was 2012 when we made our first sausage, just for fun. It was just something we were doing on weekends," said Yong. "We didn't think anything of it, but when lightning strikes, you gotta run with it."

So they did, and their Seoul Sausage truck made it all the way to winning the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” Season 3, where their Korean-inspired sausages captured fans' hearts and appetites across the nation.

"From that, we've had opportunities to go to Korea, to New York. We've gotten speaking engagements in Asia, just by being different and going off the beaten path," Yong said.

Brothers Ted, left, and Yong Kim brought their Seoul Sausages to Eat the Street Honolulu last night and they're coming to Kapolei tonight, June 25. Don't miss it.

Ted shows the Korean BBQ galbi sausage layered with garlic jalapeño aioli and kim chee relish. So delish!

The Seoul Sausage Co., crew has been on the island for a week, appearing at the in4mation downtown store to celebrate their T-shirt collaboration June 17, appearing at Honolulu Night Market on the 18th, Eat the Street Kakaako last night, and are set to appear today at a Kapolei block party sponsored by Kapolei Lofts, running from 2 to 7 p.m. on Kuou Street between Manawai and Wakea streets.

Ted said, "When we came here, we had no idea how people would react to the sausages."

But the brothers felt Hawaii was a good fit for their spicy pork sausage and ono Korean BBQ galbi sausage. At Eat the Street, the spicy pork was impressively fiery, tempered by a topping of apple-cabbage slaw. The galbi sausage was topped with garlic jalapeño aioli and kim chee relish. Both were delicious, at $10 a pop, but if you can't take heat, go with the galbi.

"We felt like you already eat a lot of Portuguese sausage, eat a lot of Spam."

If you happen to be in L.A. you can get more at their Little Tokyo restaurant, including an chicken-apple sausage banh mi, and their other specialty, Flaming Balls of cheesy kim chi fried rice, modeled after the Italian arancini.

"We just want to make food fun, easy and approachable for most people," Yong said.

The crew at work.

Among Seoul Sausage's local boosters is restaurateur Sean Saiki, who pitched in behind the hot grill. He's wearing one of the company's T-shirts, available at seoulsausage.com for $20.

Naturally, there was a line. In Hawaii, there's always something good at the end of a line.

Seoul Sausage's local connections run deep. This collaboration T-shirt with in4mation is the result of relationships started a decade ago when the Yong said he was one of "four Korean dudes playing punk music."

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


June 21st, 2016

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

BLT Steak's Johan Svensson has moved over to sister restaurant BLT Market as exedutive chef.< The restaurant will open in the Ritz Carlton Residences in Waikiki on June 28.

BLT Market executive chef Johan Svensson says he laughs a little bit whenever he hears people talk about farm-to-table dining as a trend.

"I think it's hilarious. From medieval times (5th to 15th centuries), people have gone to small markets or to their back yards for food."

Corporate farming that arose only in the last century completely changed our relationship with food, such that many children have never eaten a fruit or vegetable fresh from a tree or vine, nor plucked out of the ground.

Svensson said he, too, had forgotten the sweetness and texture of a freshly harvested baby carrot until being on the grounds at Mari's Gardens in Mililani.

"It hasn't been until 2013 or so that we've gone back to recreating these markets. People say it's a trend, but I don't think it's a trend anymore. I think it's the way to go."

The kitchen staff was testing out equipment and recipes, including this seared ahi with edamame purée, lotus root and sea asparagus.

Also in the kitchen with Svensson was celebrity chef, restaurateur and Esquared restaurant consultant David Burke.

There's been some confusion among food vendors since Svensson made the move from BLT Steak in the Trump International Hotel up the street to the Ritz Carlton Residences, where BLT Market is slated to open June 28. Deliveries have been going to his old digs instead of his new one, where the chef has been training staff, testing equipment and recipes.

Where BLT Steak's focus was on steak and a raw bar, BLT Market's focus is on local farm-to-table dining.

A video I made of Svensson in action back in 2011 showed he was already committed to local produce and food products, but the commitment will be even greater at BLT Market. Here's the video:

"What people will need to understand is that it's not like a regular BLT Steak menu, where you can get exactly the same thing, prepared the same way any time. Here, it'll be a menu that's very much alive and completely changing depending on what I can get my hands on," Svensson said. "It's taking me to a new level because I want to be challenged all the time. I never want to be bored."

Svensson, who was born and raised on Torsö (Thor's Island), off Sweden's West Coast, said he grew up with Europe's back yard and market traditions, and moving to New York in 1997 was an eye-opening experience regarding the acceptance of factory farm and global networks necessary to feed American appetites for food on demand.

"I worked 13 years in New York City with a lot of chefs who told me I could get anything, anywhere at all times, and I just thought, 'This doesn't make sense. I don't get this when you can't find this fruit or vegetable anywhere on this continent. It's not a natural thing."

But, he adapted to the American way, and now that he's been running his own kitchens, is able to act on his passion and beliefs.

"All chefs create their own environment," he said.

Referring in part to molecular gastronomy, he said, "It seems that technique has been taking priority. We've gotten to a point where something tastes like food, but it doesn't look like food anymore. We're not taking the time to ask, is it good food? If the answer is no, we should not be putting it on a plate."
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BLT Market will open June 28 in the Ritz Carlton Residences Waikiki, 383 Kalaimoku St.

Sous chef Kevin Corriere puts one of the dishes through the taste test.

Josh Cornatt unpacks the Riedel stemware.

A glimpse of the open-air dining area.

Svensson's duties at BLT Market will extend to providing room and poolside food service for the Ritz Carlton residences, as well as to-go items for Dean & DeLuca, also housed on the property.

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


June 20th, 2016

PHOTOS COURTESY PRESSED JUICERY

Pressed Juicery's all-greens "Green 1" cold-pressed juice is turned into an all-natural, guilt-free frozen dessert that is delicious, sweetened with apple, dates and with coconut meat for added texture.

In the evolution of healthful drinking, there was a time we carried around plastic water bottles, soon replaced by Hydro Flasks and bkrs once we learned the hazards and toll of plastics.

These days, you're likely to see the return of plastic. Only the contents have changed from clear to hues of bright reds to dark green, even cream and black.

Yes, our cups runneth over ... with juice, and the juice bars, they keep a-comin'. The latest is California-based Pressed Juicery, which opened its doors June 12 in Ala Moana Centers Ewa Wing, street level, makai side next to the Bloomingdale's entrance.

In an email interview, co-founder and CEO Hayden Slater said, “Growing up in Los Angeles, I was educated about health and wellness trends, but I rarely practiced them in my own life. In the early days of my career, I constantly felt lethargic and stressed and was living on a diet of fast food.

"It wasn’t until I traveled to Southeast Asia that I tried a juice cleanse—it began as five days and ended up lasting for 30 days. I was amazed at how energized I felt, and after returning home I realized I wanted to share this experience with others.

"I think that juicing was a catalyst for healthier behaviors. I began to start my day with a green juice, and that motivated me to make better decisions every day, ultimately leading me to get in better shape and feel great again.”

Juice delivered by the numbers, allowing people to gauge their flavor compatibility. In the case of Greens and Roots, the No. 1s are the most unadulterated flavors. Higher numbers will have fruit juices blended in for sweetness, and lemon for a bright touch of citrus.

With Pressed Juicery, Slater said, "Our main priority is making high nutrition a realistic option for everyone. To that end, we’re focused on creating blends that appeal to a wide range of customers—whether they’ve been drinking cold-pressed juice for years or are trying it for the very first time. We also love to experiment with unique flavors and ancient ingredients; for example, our Greens 5 is a tropical take on green juice that includes pineapple and fennel, and our charcoal lemonade can provide detoxifying effects."

Pressed Juicery's blends have been tested over time in 40 markets nationwide, and they're all delicious, from the all-greens "Green 1," to unique signature blend of Brazil Nut, with the nuts, kale, spinach, romaine, vanilla bean, dates and sea salt.

Well, actually, I'd probably stay away from Greens 4 just because it contains watercress, and that's the flavor that stands out most because I'm not a big fan of watercress.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

A flight of greens. Greens 1 on the left has the highest concentration of greens. Next to it, Greens 1.5 has sea salt added. Greens 4, counting toward right, tastes greenest, with the bitterness of watercress. Most people will gravitate to Nos. 2 and 3, with the sweetness of apple and a touch of lemon.

Juices are divided into citrus, roots, greens and fruit categories. Each category has three to five different blends. I'm a fan of the greens and roots. Of course I love citrus and fruits as well, but I'm cautious about taking in too much sugar. Prices range from $7.50 to $9 for 16 ounces.

One thing Pressed Juicery has that no other local juice bar is offering is their juice-based Freeze soft-serve that may change the way we enjoy dessert and offers a palatable way for even the most fruit-and-vegetable averse to get their five a day. The six flavors offered are Greens, Roots, Citrus, Fruits, Chocolate and Vanilla. Each starts with the juicery's standard juice sweetened with dates and with coconut meat added for body.

The Freeze is offered in $5 and $6 cups; add $1.75 for your choice of toppings such as fresh fruit, chia seeds, granola, shaved almonds, shredded coconut, cacao drizzle, almond butter, dark chocolate chips and pink Himalayan sea salt.

With the Freeze, it would be nice to have a place to sit down and enjoy dessert with friends. The company is growing fast, and that's something they'll need to consider in planning future stores as today's juice bars have the potential to become tomorrow's soft-serve parlors.
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Pressed Juicery is open 9 a.m.to 9:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Call (808) 949-5272.

Midweek's Rasa Fournier looks forward to her Greens Freeze, which she had topped with cacao drizzle, raspberries, pineapple and shaved almonds.

A diverse line of tourists and locals, young and old, flowed through the juicery all afternoon, four days after its Sunday opening.

The setting, makai side street level next to the lower level of Bloomingdale's in Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing, around the corner from Shirokiya's soon-to-open Japan Village Walk.

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