First Course: MW restaurant
Ahi poke with ikura, uni and crispy rice crackers, $18, at the newly open MW restaurant by Alan Wong alums Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka. — Nadine Kam photos
One of the most highly anticipated openings of Fall 2013 is the arrival of MW restaurant from husband and wife Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka, both long-time alums of Alan Wong's Restaurant, he as chef de cuisine and she as pastry maestro. Both won Rising Star accolades last year from StarChefs.com.
They've set up house in one of the refurbished spaces in the former KGMB building at 1538 Kapiolani Boulevard, with valet or self-parking entrance on Makaloa Street.
Alan Wong has always given those in his kitchen room to shine, putting team members in the spotlight through his Next Generation dinner series, but when someone leaves, there's always a question of how close a protégé's new endeavor will hew to that of his mentor.
In this case, MW appears to a whole different creature, with a casual temperament and novel twists on comfort food.
The Ueokas hosted three days of soft-opening dinners, and quite bravely, invited every food writer in town. I pretty much never get invited to these things because most restaurateurs wisely believe in working out all the kinks before throwing themselves at the mercy of a critic. But, they've prepared well, and I had the opportunity to sample much of the menu. Below are a few dishes you can expect now that the restaurant is open to the public:
MW Restaurant, 1538 Kapiolani Boulevard. Call 955-6505. www.mwrestaurant.com
Alaskan king crab trio: lumpia, lollipop and baked ($14).
Beer-braised pork belly bao, $10. Just a meh for me. I'm just too much a fan of the Chinatown original.
Fried Goose Point oysters, crisp and ono, $12.
Pickled beet salad, $10, just the right blend of old-fashioned, local-style sweet and sour.
Entree of steak and "potatoes" potato gnocchi, topped with kale and onions, $35. Hits the spot.
Shrimp and uni with housemade linguine, $32, one of my favorite dishes.
Oxtail stew and rice, with oxtail roulade over beef stew risotto, $28. Great combination of local flavors.
This mochi-crusted opakapaka over somen wasn't the prettiest dish, but it is so delicious, with the right amount of crackle to the mochi crust, $32. Loved it. Could have done without the shiso. It might be an ethnic preference. I'm Chinese so don't care for some things Japanese, like nishime. I mean, these are all things I can eat, but will never love.
Grilled kalbi shortribs for those who like simplicity, $26.
Seafood gumbo with lobster, shrimp, clams and housemade andouille sausage, $32. Good authentic flavor. One of the best I've tasted locally.
Desserts are $9 each. Tropical "Creamsicle" of guava semifreddo, lilikoi panna cotta and tropical fruits. Divine and refreshing.
Wailea Meyer lemon meringue crème brûlée with candied lemon, kanten, sorbet, custard and tapioca. Creamy delight.
MW Candy Bar with praline crunch, caramel, Waialua chocolate, bananas, kinako marshmallow, and okoshi popcorn ice cream. A chocoholic's dream.
Waialua coffee "affogato" of warm chocolate cake topped with coffee gelato, with aerated coffee granite, dehydrated mousse and espresso. Intense coffee flavor, but the most generic in when compared to the other desserts.
Kula strawberry "cheesecake" with li hing-ume-filled strawberries, strawberry yogurt sorbet, Kiawe Graham crackers and freeze-dried strawberries. Also refreshing, pretty in pink with sweet flavors to match.