Archive for April, 2013

Taste of Marukai draws 1,000 to sample Japanese fare

April 12th, 2013

mtoastNadine Kam photos
After a kagami biraki ceremony, Mr. Takemura, president of Tsukasabotan Brewing Co., of Japan, shared a toast with 3660 On the Rise chef Russell Siu, Marukai Corp. executive vice president Richard Matsu, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Marukai Wholesale Mart welcomed food and sake fans to enjoy dozens of dishes along with a variety of sake, shochu and Japanese beer during its annual Taste of Marukai event that took place April 11 at Marukai's Dillingham store at 2310 Kamehameha Highway, which packed in its 1,000 guests easily.

Sure there were lines for sashimi, sushi from Gokujo Sushi and edibles cooked up by 3660 On the Rise chef Russell Siu, but there was plenty to go around, so much so that chances are, most people probably got full before they could sample every offering.

Although there is less emphasis on outside chefs than in past years, in favor of showcasing fresh seafood and products carried by Marukai, crowd pleasers from past events were back, including fresh grilled abalone, platefuls of sashimi, made-to-order handrolls, tempura, yakitori, and more.

The event opened with the traditional Kagami Biraki sake barrel opening ceremony, with Marukai Corp. executive vice president Richard Matsu welcoming chef Siu, the president of Tsukasabotan Brewing Co., and Gov. Neil Abercrombie to crack open the barrel and share a toast.

Elsewhere in the store, highlights included a soba-making demonstration, amezaiku Japanese candy art, and a fish-cutting demo. People seem to be fascinated by the process because a video I made three years ago continues to draw hits and comments.

marukaiGuests started lining up early for Taste of Marukai for a bite of Japanese specialties.

marukai1Marukai executive vice-president Richard Matsu with his wife Jo, right, and Kori Higa.

mcheckMatsu presented a check for $30,000 to representatives from four beneficiaries of the fundraising event: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce, and the Hawaii United Okinawa Association.

mfishlineDiners in line passed a sashimi boat, below, and ahi en route to sashimi plates.


msashimi2Plates full of sashimi; the fade in the photos is due to refrigeration mist.

msashimiThe big three: hamachi, maguro and sake.

m3660Pan-seared, shichimi-scented mahimahi topped with cucumber crab salad, in a dashi-ginger nage, from 3660 on the Rise.

mshortribHoisin-glazed braised shortribs over jasmine rice.

msushiAn event goer shares her wishes with a sushi chef from Gokujo Sushi, which provided made-to-order nigiri and handroll sushi.

mcandyNathan and Chika Tanaka of Candy Art Hawaii were there, demonstrating the traditional Japanese art of amezaiku, shaping hot melted sugar into whimsical lollipop shapes.

mamez (more…)

Rotary's Crab Fest a win-win for diners and students

April 12th, 2013

rcrabNadine Kam photos
Plastic bibs awaited guests at the Rotary Club of Ala Moana's annual Crab Fest.

When West Coast-style crab mania hit Honolulu last summer, in the course of reviewing the restaurants, I mentioned that I missed the East Coast style crab feasts. One reader picked up on that and promised to invite me to the Rotary Club of Ala Moana's annual Crab Fest fund-raiser.

At the time, the event was about nine months away, but she made good on her promise April 6, when the 6th annual event took place at the Kapiolani Community College Ohia Cafeteria. To date, the annual event has raised nearly $35,000 for scholarships granted to 65 students attending the KCC Culinary Institute of the Pacific.

KCC students put their skills to work in feeding the 300 to 400 guests all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab feast (no take homes except for the Rotary Club members who were working the event and didn't have time to eat on the spot), complete with seafood chowder, potatoes, sliced sausages and boiled corn, plus local appetizer extras of fried chicken wings, lumpia, soybeans and potato chips.

Early on, I was warned not to fill up on appetizers and save my appetite for the crab. Couldn't resist the soybeans and homemade chips, though.

The formal part of the dinner began with students serving tossed salad, in a two-tiered system that had sponsor tables dining off china, and the rest of us dining off paper and plastic. But the extra ambience didn't matter when it came down to digging hands on into the crab. Although the students kept coming around to check whether we wanted more crab, for most, a single Dungeness was sufficient.

Mallets were provided, but were unnecessary, except for those who needed to unleash some pent up rage.

What I really missed was the Old Bay seasoning common in the Southeast, and was told that although the seasoning was originally used, diners complained because they wanted their crab plain. It's a taste I acquired while living briefly in D.C., and while the combination of mustard, paprika, celery salt, bay leaf, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, mace, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom and ginger may be too strong for many, I really miss it. In the Chesapeake Bay area, you could find it on popcorn, salads, eggs, fried chicken, french fries, corn on the cob, boiled peanuts and potato chips. Sort of the condiment equivalent of Sriracha, slivered nori or wasabi here.

The club dates back to 1972, founded by Maurice "Sully" Sullivan, who was also the co-founder of Foodland in 1948, and continues to meet from noon to 1 p.m. Thursdays at the Ala Moana Hotel. In addition to assisting local students of all ages by contributing books and supplies to needy children, the club gets involved in international goodwill projects, such as donating kitchen facilities for the poor in Cambodia, medical equipment and supplies to East Timor, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines, setting up micro banks in Malawi Africa, a van to transport orphans to school in Thailand, provide potable wanter to villages in Indonesia and Kenya.

rcrab2One crab was filling for most of the event goers.

rwineBefore heading into the dining room, guests were funneled through a silent auction room that included several bottles of wines and housewares. The top prize was a Las Vegas charter package for two from Vacations Hawaii.

rsoybeanSpiced garlic soybeans were one of the appetizer attraction.

rsaladCorporate tables were served plated salads, while the rest of us dined out of takeout containers.

rchowderOne of the student volunteers delivered chowder to guests.

rtoolsCrab fest necessities.

rdessertHäagen Dazs ice cream for dessert.

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Titus Chan hosts benefit dinner parties at Won Kee

April 9th, 2013

titusNadine Kam photos
Titus Chan leads a Chinatown Cultural Center tour prior to the start of his benefit dinner for Kapiolani Community College.

Titus Chan, among the TV chef pioneer of the 1960s and early ’70s, is sharing his expertise during "Dinner With Master Chef Titus Chan," a program blending cuisine and culture, at Won Kee restaurant.

The program involves a brief guided tour of the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, followed by a 10-course Chinese dinner hosted by the effervescent chef, who still has the personality and sense of humor that made him one of the original celebrity chefs, before Food TV and The Cooking Channel existed.

Chan rose to fame in 1972, when "Cooking the Chan-ese Way" debuted on KHET, followed by a national PBS release in 1973, introducing the art of Chinese cooking across the United States.

During the dinners, which can accommodate six people and up, each table will include a bottle of "Mui Kwai Lu" Chinese white wine, which, at 96 proof, acts more like vodka. Guests may also bring their own libations, with no corkage fee.

The cost is $194.40 per person, including tax and tip, and Chan is able to work accommodate large parties and groups. A portion of the fee will be donated to Kapiolani Community College’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific to help provide scholarships for culinary students.

Below, Chan hosted a preview dinner to show off his menu.

For information or reservations, call 983-1327.

Won Kee Seafood Restaurant is at Chinatown Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St. Call 524-6877.

tsunI've walked or driven by the Sun Yat-Sen monument many times, but never stopped to read it. The words highlight the ideas he stood for, including "loyalty," "filial piety," "peace," "pacify the world" and "study the nature of things."

tsashimiThe dinner started with an appetizers of sashimi, and below, deep-fried shrimp toast.


tsoupTofu and scallop soup was the next course.

tiduckCrisp, thin Peking duck skin and buns were served next. When one of the guests asked about the whereabouts of the duck meat, I knew he wasn't Chinese. We all live in such close proximity here, but food traditions are so ingrained into our respective cultures that unless diners make an effort to go exploring, the most basic aspects of a culinary tradition will remain a mystery. Some of my Japanese friends can't fathom the attraction of a salted duck egg.

tfishTwo spotted sea basses are hidden beneath a pile of ginger, green onion and cilantro. Titus said he searched for these fish for four days and had to fight off two other men early in the morning to get these one-and-a-half pounders with their perfect tender meat. Larger fish tend to be tougher, he said.

ttofuThough served at a time when people were getting full, shrimp-stuffed tofu proved so popular that most enjoyed seconds.

tlobsterThe toasted garlic-and-sweet coconut topped Hong Kong Harbor-style lobster was one of the meal's highlights. Garlic prepared this way can be bitter when browned, but it was perfect here.

Le Guignol to close at the end of the month

April 5th, 2013

Fans of Le Guignol have only a few weeks more to enjoy the French restaurant.

The restaurant announced via email to friends and family today that its last day of service will be the evening of April 30, 2013.

In the email signed Chef Ala & Family, the chef announced, "After over 14 years of serving our loyal guests, my family and I have decided it is time to turn the page. We are closing one chapter of our life and looking forward to new adventures. There are many exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

"We have always considered Le Guignol as an extension of our home and family. The relationships and friendships we have made over the past 14 years will remain a cherished foundation of our past and integral part of our future.

"We have so many loyal guests and friends to thank. We are so honored and humbled you chose to spend your most special moments with us throughout the years. Each and every visit was special, whether it was graduation time, party time, a romantic dinner for two, a reunion with family and friends, a celebration of a milestone, your child’s birthday bash, or just a much needed solace away from the storm.

"We are grateful to all of our loyal and devoted staff who have worked with us over the years. They will always be a part of our Le Guignol family. The love and Aloha that Auntie Leilani brought to Le Guignol will never be forgotten.

"We are eternally grateful to those that have graced our tables and supported us. You ARE what made Le Guignol. Thank you all for the journey.

"We hope to see you the month of April to experience Le Guignol one last time. Please keep in mind that we are booked the following dates for a concert and the opera: April 13th, 26th, 28th, and 30th."

The closure will leave Honolulu with, I believe, just one dedicated French restaurant, Michel's at the Colony Surf.
Le Guignol is at 1010 S. King St. #108. Call 591-1809.

Y. Hata looks forward to next 100 years

April 4th, 2013

hataNadine Kam photos
A dessert flan bears the Y. Hata & Co. logo in white chocolate. The company is marking its centennial.

Y. Hata & Co. is marking its 100th anniversary as a wholesaler of dry, chilled and frozen food products, supplying Hawaii's food industry. As they put it, "Every time you quench your thirst at Jamba Juice of sit down to a meal at Zippy's, a burger at Teddy's or a sumptuous spread at Aulani, you're enjoying Y. Hata products."

Additionally, Y. Hata also supplies schools and military personnel daily.

To mark the occasion and in looking forward to the next 100 years, Y. Hata has undergone a 100th birthday renovation and refresh, with restyling by Cathy Lee Style, and held an open house April 3 with pau hana pupu and drinks showcasing some of the company's products.

Included in the revamp is third-generation chairman and CEO Russel Hata's gift to the company's 200 employees, a Google-inspired employee lounge constructed from a pair of shipping containers, and furnished with flat-screen television, game table, dart board and foosball table.

hata loungeA peek into the new Lounge @ Y. Hata, an employee lounge constructed from two shipping containers and styled by Cathy Lee Designs.

Also foremost in the renovation is the prominent display of the company's core values: Partners first, continuous improvement, ohana empowerment, ohana pride, candid communications, and live aloha, give aloha.

It was nice to see a business with a philosophy of putting people first, and I'm sure a lot of companies could learn from the example. Quite a few guests, after getting the workplace tour, were ready to fill out job applications!

Y. Hata & Co. had humble Hilo origins, starting in Yoichi and Naeko Hata's garage, after the couple immigrated from Japan. The company continues to be run by family. Russell is the son of chairman emeritus Frank Hata, the youngest of Yoichi and Naeko's 10 children.

And the company continues to look forward in ways beneficial to the aina and community, as a supporter of Kapiolani Culinary Institute of the Pacific, sponsor of culinary scholarships and CIP's national teams, and as home to a green, rooftop photovoltaic system.

Also of interest to many people will be the fact that they operate a retail store where anyone can shop for bulk food items, catering-size pans for parties and events, professional knives and cookware.

Among the most popular items are bags of McCormick chicken seasoning ($11.99) for deep-fry chicken and pork, and marinated kalbi, great considerations for your next big back-yard celebration. The shop is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays at 285 Sand Island Access Road.

Congratulations for 100 years of success and the next 100 to come!

hata1Y. Hata's third-generation chairman and CEO Russell Hata, with interior designer Cathy Lee.

hata spaceCathy said both genders were thrilled with the lounge, with the female employees immediately seeing it as a place for bridal and baby showers, and the men looking at it as a place to enjoy the Superbowl and other televised sports events.

hata wallA table for lunch or board games. All areas reflect Y. Hata corporate colors.

hata gamesEmployees can take a break for darts and board games, but they are never far from posters reflecting the company's mission and core values.

hata boardA dry erase board in the lounge provides a place for messages and brainstorming ideas. Outlets provide a place to plug in computers and other personal electronic devices.

hata entryA visitor entry also puts core values up front with retro and shoji-like touches reflecting Y. Hata's history and Japanese heritage.

hata lunchroomSitting area in one of the employee lunchrooms. Most of us wished we could live in such an environment.

hata nextA stairwell wallpaper poster offers encouragement in striving for the next 100 years of success.

On the menu prepared by Y. Hata executive chef Ernest Limcaco:

hatabeefBraised Sterling Silver chuck flat jardiniere with roast baby potatoes. There was also
seared Russian scallops in shellfish oil on mesclun, but I guess I was so anxious to try it I forgot to snap a photo.

hata pork

hata pork2Confit of Sterling Silver pork belly with lilikoi-mango glaze on foccaccia. The pork was so delicious. In spite of all the TV commercials, I never tried it at Times Supermarket but will be looking for it now! The chuck was also amazingly tender.

hata shrimpPil pil shrimp on sourdough crostini. It didn't start out spicy, but when someone else told the chef it wasn't spicy enough, they seemed to double up on the chili pepper flakes, so mine turned out to be extra spicy.

hata studentsThe company is also committed to bringing up the next generation of chefs, and among its interns from Assets School are Louie Coronado, left, and Croix Koenig.

hata dessertsI missed these desserts made from Albert Uster Imports mixes when Y. Hata participated in the recent Hawaii Foodbank "Great Chefs" event. At the time I was too full to sample, so was happy for this second chance. Included were a chocolate pots de creme topped with cubed haupia and toasted coconut, and panna cotta topped with champagne jelly.

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