Archive for January, 2016

What's cooking on Maui at Rua pop-up

By
January 21st, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.comFriends Jayse Sato, left, and Grant Oura of Rua Catering team up to bring weekend pop-ups to the site of Vineyard Food Co., in Wailuku, Maui.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Friends Jayse Sato, left, and Grant Oura of Rua Catering team up to bring weekend pop-ups to the site of Vineyard Food Co., in Wailuku, Maui.

When faced with a surplus of seafood last summer, the friends behind Rua Catering did what they know best. They threw a party.

Grant Oura and Jayse Sato’s backyard parties in Wailuku, Maui, drew friends family and neighbors to sample nigiri sushi at $1 a piece, which made them the most popular guys in town.

Those popular impromptu bashes soon turned into an occasional pop-up at Vineyard Food Co., in Wailuku town, a space that serves as a commercial kitchen for a handful of small catering companies and food preparers.

With an eye toward testing restaurant feasibility in that space, the friends are now bringing their pop-up to the site from 5 to 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. I was able to check it out Jan. 16.

Japanese noodles with day catch of Hana spiny lobster head broth, topped with salmon belly, with accents of basil oil.

Japanese noodles with day catch of Hana spiny lobster head broth, topped with salmon belly, with accents of basil oil.

Jayse Sato shapes nigiri of snapper in the kitchen.

Jayse Sato shapes nigiri of snapper in the kitchen.

Sato, who worked in Seattle before returning home to work as a sushi chef at Nuka, still provides the sushi on the menu, while Oura tends to the hot entrées.

Trained in the kitchens of Sam Choy, Bev Gannon and Alan Wong’s Amasia, Oura, who also worked at Nuka, prepares some dishes I have yet to see on Oahu, including an oxtail katsu and miso-Buffalo wings.

The two combine their efforts in putting their own spin on local favorites, such as a dish of pastele stew over a gandule rice and crab roll ($12), and lechón roll ($10), made better by adding a few drops of the spicy ponzu from an oyster shooter ($5).

Their focus is on fresh ingredients, with as much as possible made from scratch, including soy sauce, azuki bean paste and kinako ice cream.

For as much work put into the food, a la carte prices are reasonable, starting with that $5 shooter, $6 to $8 for two pieces of nigiri sushi, $10 to $17 for sushi rolls, and $10 to $16 for entrées. Menus will change with availability of seasonal ingredients.

Dishes were accompanied by a light show as a combination of LED ice cubes and sparklers lighted up eyes during the presentation of several courses.

Vineyard Food Co. is at 1951 E. Vineyard St., Wailuku, Maui. No reservations are taken.

Rua's Surf 'N Turf Roll presents the challenge of stuffing this lobster and ginger roll topped with seared rib eye, truffle butter, kabayaki sauce and micro basil into your mouth. Recently, $17.

Rua's Surf 'N Turf Roll presents the challenge of stuffing this lobster and ginger roll topped with seared rib eye, truffle butter, kabayaki sauce and micro basil into your mouth. Recently, $17.

A pastele stew roll was one of the hits of the evening, with the stew layered over gandule rice and crab roll. The stew is more Hawaiian style than Puerto Rican, with more of an emphasis on pork and tomato than green bananas. Made festive with a sparkler; recently $12.

A pastele stew roll was one of the hits of the evening, with the stew layered over gandule rice and crab roll. The stew is more Hawaiian style than Puerto Rican, with more of an emphasis on pork and tomato than green bananas. Made festive with a sparkler candle; recently $12.

A trio of Kobe burger sliders topped with bacon jam, tomato, brie and onion cream sauce, with buns made by Four Sisters Bakery across the street from the Vineyard Food Co. This was presented under glass with LED light and a cloud of hickory smoke. Recently priced at $15.

A trio of Kobe burger sliders topped with bacon jam, tomato, brie and onion cream sauce, with buns made by Four Sisters Bakery across the street from the Vineyard Food Co. This was presented under glass with LED light and a cloud of hickory smoke. Recently priced at $15.

Garlic, Parmesan, truffle fries are a natural complement for the sliders, at $7.

Garlic, Parmesan, truffle fries are a natural complement for the sliders, at $7.

I was a little scared of the aquarium gravel colors of the shrimp tempura roll ($15), until discovering these were the crispy bits that turned sushi of spicy tuna, shrimp and hamachi into a tempura roll.

I was a little scared of the aquarium gravel colors of the shrimp tempura roll ($15), until discovering these were the crispy bits that turned sushi of spicy tuna, shrimp and hamachi into a tempura roll.

Looking down into the glass of an oyster shooter with tomato, onion, green onions, masago and very spicy ponzu, photographed over an LED ice cube glowing red. Don't slurp this down all at once. Tell you why next.

Looking down into the glass of an oyster shooter with tomato, onion, green onions, masago and very spicy ponzu, photographed over an LED ice cube glowing red. Don't slurp this down all at once. Tell you why next.

A lechon roll of pork belly topped with tomatoes and onions, was completed with a dash of the spicy ponzu from the oyster shooter, which was a little too spicy to chug all at once; $10.

A lechon roll of pork belly topped with tomatoes and onions, was completed with a dash of the spicy ponzu from the oyster shooter, which was a little too spicy to chug all at once; $10.

Hamachi carpaccio served in a glass with ginger, green onion, garlic, ponzu and micro cilantro.

Hamachi carpaccio served in a glass with ginger, green onion, garlic, ponzu and micro cilantro.

I've never seen oxtail katsu on Oahu, but here it is on Maui, $16 with limited availability. In the background is tonkotsu-style ramen served with spicy miso. Can't compete with ramen on Oahu, though.

I've never seen oxtail katsu on Oahu, but here it is on Maui, $16 with limited availability. In the background is tonkotsu-style ramen served with spicy miso. Can't compete with ramen on Oahu, though.

Miso Buffalo chicken wings are very assertive, with bold salty, sweet, sour, spicy flavors that explode in your mouth, but if you like strong flavors, these will be very addictive, at $10 per order.

Miso Buffalo chicken wings are very assertive, with bold salty, sweet, sour, spicy flavors that explode in your mouth, but if you like strong flavors, these will be very addictive, at $10 per order.

Dessert of homemade kinako ice cream tempura layered over homemade anko.

Dessert of homemade kinako ice cream tempura layered over homemade anko.

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

ON VIDEO

Chef's choice at Sushi Murayama

By
January 19th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.comBlack tiger prawns were torched and served in that perfect crunchy/sweet state between being sashimi and fully cooked.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Black tiger prawns were torched and served in that perfect crunchy/sweet state between being sashimi and fully cooked.

Sushi Murayama is one of the few restaurants lately, to open as an instant hit, thanks to chef/owner Ryuji Murayama’s sterling reputation at Tokkuri-Tei. His first solo restaurant is therefore packed, so don't expect to get a reservation right away.

The biggest draw may very well be the chef himself. Born in Japan and raised here since 3, he’s more local than Japanese so you don’t have to worry about any language barriers. He spent three-and-a-half years honing his sushi skills in Japan, but in another life, he could have been a comedian as he keeps jokes coming, while welcoming each guest as a long-time friend.

In the age of the celebrity chef, he brings the one thing to the table that others have forgotten in recent years, hospitality. He leaves guests feeling good, and that positive vibe carries over to the entire experience.

Chef Murayama presents the prawns at the sushi counter.

Chef Murayama presents the prawns at the sushi counter.

The restaurant has a decent sized izakaya menu, but it’s the sushi that stands out, and the chef’s $75 per person omakase menu is a good place to start for those game to try anything. At any rate, it will lift you out of ahi mode to try many other types of fish.

Considering that, squeezing in between others' reservations, I had an hour to complete this menu of chef’s selections, Murayama put out 10 selections at a rate of one selection about every 6 minutes. That’s some speedy work. The type and number of selections vary with availability of fish and shellfish, and perhaps your enthusiasm level. If you’re gushing over every dish, chef may just want to keep the praise coming.

Costwise, this broke down to $7.50 per selection. If you were to go the a la carte route for sushi, the range is $5 for tako, $8 for hamachi, ikura or scallop, up to $20 for ootoro and $27 for black tiger prawns.

The presentation is more fish market vendor than artisan, but few would complain about the huge slabs of fish Murayama layers over rice, including a generous cut of premium chutoro, the tuna’s fatty underbelly, the starting dish of the day's omakase.

The presentation is more fish market vendor than artisan, but few would complain about the huge slabs of fish Murayama layers over rice, including a generous cut of premium chutoro, the tuna’s fatty underbelly, the starting dish of the day's omakase.

It was the opposite of my first experience with this chef and chutoro, ordered as sashimi. When he presented a plate with just a pinky finger size portion of fish, my friends and I were like, “What the …?” before realizing he was just toying with us.

It was the opposite of my first experience with this chef and chutoro, ordered as sashimi. When he presented a plate with just a pinky finger size portion of fish, my friends and I were like, “What the …?” before realizing he was just toying with us.

The full-size serving chutoro sashimi, part of another dinner exploring the izakaya menu.

The full-size serving chutoro sashimi, part of another dinner exploring the izakaya menu.

Next up on our omakase was hirame, or fluke, topped with crunchy engawa, or fluke fin, for extra texture. It isn’t often that engawa shows up on the table, so I felt very privileged. Murayama dusted the serving tray with snow-mimicking salt, a reminder that winter fish from Japan are at their most voluptuous state of fattiness, prompting us to try to get in as many visits as we can before warmer weather sets in. That little touch of salt was all this fish needed.

Next up on our omakase was hirame, or fluke, topped with crunchy engawa, or fluke fin, for extra texture. It isn’t often that engawa shows up on the table, so I felt very privileged. Murayama dusted the serving tray with snow-mimicking salt, a reminder that winter fish from Japan are at their most voluptuous state of fattiness, prompting us to try to get in as many visits as we can before warmer weather sets in. That little touch of salt was all this fish needed.

A perfect marriage of sake, or salmon, and ikura. Not a single morsel of the pearl-size roe went to waste.

A perfect marriage of sake, or salmon, and ikura. Not a single morsel of the pearl-size roe went to waste.

For a change of pace, Murayama next introduced skewered abalone that had been marinated four hours in a secret sauce that likely included soy sauce, mirin and awabi kimo, or abalone liver for the stinky brininess prized by true seafood afficionados.

For a change of pace, Murayama next introduced skewered abalone that had been marinated four hours in a secret sauce that likely included soy sauce, mirin and awabi kimo, or abalone liver for the stinky brininess prized by true seafood afficionados.

Also offered was shimaaji, or striped horse mackerel.

Also offered was shimaaji, or striped horse mackerel.

Vinegared saba was presented kobujime style, layered with a thin sheet of translucent kelp for its umami properties, then dotted with sesame seeds. This was my favorite selection of the evening.

Vinegared saba was presented kobujime style, layered with a thin sheet of translucent kelp for its umami properties, then dotted with sesame seeds. This was my favorite selection of the evening.

I spy hotate. Last to arrive were the handrolls, one a grilled scallop simply wrapped in nori, followed by a cone of rice, negitori and minced takuan that brightened the fish.

I spy hotate. Last to arrive were the handrolls, one a grilled scallop simply wrapped in nori, followed by a cone of rice, negitori and minced takuan that brightened the fish.

That negitoro roll could be big or small, depending on whether the chef likes you. Haha!

That negitoro roll could be big or small, depending on whether the chef likes you. Haha!

I left more impressed than on a first visit going the izakaya route and learning fried is not a forte. Shrimp used in tempura ($13.50) is plump and sweet, but more flaccid than crisp. Next time I’ll try the smaller koebi ($7.50).

I left more impressed than on a first visit going the izakaya route and learning fried is not a forte. Shrimp used in tempura ($13.50) is plump and sweet, but more flaccid than crisp. Next time I’ll try the smaller koebi ($7.50).

And for $16.50, serrano poke was no revelation. It was just standard poke sprinkled with the sliced peppers.

And for $16.50, serrano poke was no revelation. It was just standard poke sprinkled with the sliced peppers.

Whet your appetite with an uni shooter that’s almost too much to take in with one gulp, with its layers of fish, negi, ikura and quail egg. At any rate, I prefer to pluck at the morsels one by one for full value, rather than chugging without tasting them.

Whet your appetite with an uni shooter that’s almost too much to take in with one gulp, with its layers of fish, negi, ikura and quail egg. At any rate, I prefer to pluck at the morsels one by one for full value, rather than chugging without tasting them.

I did enjoy mirugai (geoduck or giant clam) prepared two ways, sashimi style ($30), above, and sautéed in butter ($15), below. The former is briny and crunchy, the latter sweet and chewy. Again, true shellfish afficionados will prefer the sashimi. The latter I could keep shoveling in my mouth like popcorn or candy.

I did enjoy mirugai (geoduck or giant clam) prepared two ways, sashimi style ($30), above, and sautéed in butter ($15), below. The former is briny and crunchy, the latter sweet and chewy. Again, true shellfish afficionados will prefer the sashimi. The latter I could keep shoveling in my mouth like popcorn or candy.

murayama mirugai saute

Your dessert options are natto ice cream ($7.50), yuzu sorbet ($5) or black sesame ice cream ($5.50). I was relieved they were out of natto ice cream. The yuzu sorbet runs bitter, so the best choice for me was the goma ice cream covered with its thick double sesame sauce the color of tar. It’s a wonderful thing.

Your dessert options are natto ice cream ($7.50), yuzu sorbet ($5) or black sesame ice cream ($5.50). I was relieved they were out of natto ice cream. The yuzu sorbet runs bitter, so the best choice for me was the goma ice cream covered with its thick double sesame sauce the color of tar. It’s a wonderful thing.

Sushi Murayama is at 808 Center, at 808 Sheridan and 1320 Rycroft sts. #307. Call 784-2100. Open 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 5:30 to 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays.

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

Maui no ka oi for Whole Foods award

By
January 19th, 2016



PHOTOS COURTESY WHOLE FOODSAmong Whole Foods 'ONO Award winners are, clockwise from left, Maui Breadfruit Co.'s Pono Pies, Two Chicks in a Hammock's Backyard Juice Chili Pepper Water, Hawaii Taro Co.'s Maui Taro Burger, and Kumu Farms produce.

PHOTOS COURTESY WHOLE FOODS

Among Whole Foods 'ONO Award winners are, clockwise from left, Maui Breadfruit Co.'s Pono Pies, Two Chicks in a Hammock's Backyard Juice Chili Pepper Water, Hawaii Taro Co.'s Maui Taro Burger, and Kumu Farms produce.

BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com]

Whole Foods Market Hawai‘i named the winners of its third annual 2015 ‘ONO Awards Sunday night at Maui Brewing Co., in Kihei.

The awards were created to honor local companies and growers that embody Whole Foods Market’s mission and core values, and the event took place on Maui because the island is the home of all of this year's winners, though nominees came from throughout the islands.

“The fact that we have a Maui sweep is a real testament to the thriving and exciting local food community there,” said Dabney Gough, metro marketing field team leader at Whole Foods Market Kāhala, who created the awards in 2012.

To be eligible, products must be grown or produced within the state and carried at Whole Foods Market Hawai'i locations.

Winners were selected by the Whole Foods Market Hawai'i team, except for the People’s Choice award winner which was determined by a two-part nomination and final voting process that took place on social media channels.

Since opening its first Hawaii store in 1980, Whole Foods Market has partnered with local farmers and producers that currently number 300. Last year, the stores purchased nearly $12 million in agricultural and value-added products from local farmers and producers, and continue to seek additional local products and producers.

For more information, visit Whole Foods Market Kāhala, Kailua, and Maui, or @wfmhawaii on Twitter.

Maui Breadfruit Co.'s Maui Coffee and Chocolate Pono Pie, is one of several gluten-, dairy- and GMO-free products that earned the company a berth in Whole Foods Market.

Maui Breadfruit Co.'s Maui Coffee and Chocolate Pono Pie, is one of several gluten-, dairy- and GMO-free products that earned the company a berth in Whole Foods Market.

Here are the 2015 winners:

Team Member Pick of the Year: Maui Breadfruit Co. Pono Pies

Sustainability Award: Maui Breadfruit Co. Pono Pies

Innovation Award: Hawaii Taro Co. Maui Taro Burger

Best New Product: Maui Brewing Co. Lorenzini Double IPA

Partner of the Year: Kumu Farms, grower of papayas, kale, and other produce

Hall of Fame: Yee’s Orchard mangoes

People's Choice Award: Two Chicks in a Hammock's Backyard Juice Chili Pepper Water

ono chicks

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

Nordstrom unveils restaurant plans

By
January 12th, 2016



RENDERING COURTESY NORDSTROM

RENDERING COURTESY NORDSTROM

During a media lunch that took place today at MW Restaurant, Nordstrom announced it will open with two new dining concepts when it opens the doors to its new Ala Moana Center Ewa Wing store on March 11.

When I heard about the site of the luncheon—you know a journalist's mind is always roiling and trying to connect dots—I thought it was likely that the MW crew would be involved in some way. But no, it's just that Cafe Nordstrom is too busy to accommodate an extra party of 30.

The new Ruscello Restaurant will mark an evolution of the Cafe Nordstrom concept with casual favorites and a menu of Italian- and Mediterranean-inspired specialties. And we warned them not to ever remove the tomato bisque from the menu.

Also new will be a stylish new Habitant Lounge and Bar offering casual lunches and a full bar with handcrafted cocktails.

The quick-stop Ebar and Gelato Bar will make the move to the new site as well.

Can't wait for a taste!

Stay up to date on social media as follows:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/NordstromHawaii

Instagram: www.instagram.com/nordstromhawaii

Twitter: www.twitter.com/nordstromhawaii

Use the hashtag #NordstromHawaii.

Now, be alert and don't get confused, but the following is what was served up at MW while we listened to this exciting food news:

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.comMW's arancini arrived as one of the family-style appetizers offered.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

MW's arancini arrived as one of the family-style appetizers offered.

With a short list of selections to order from, including grilled kalbi shortribs, I opted for a dish of Kauai shrimp and bacon risotto with Waialua asparagus and kale.

With a short list of selections to order from, including grilled kalbi shortribs, I opted for a dish of Kauai shrimp and bacon risotto with Waialua asparagus and kale.

Rick Blangiardi, general manager at Hawaii News Now, had to leave before entrées arrived, but his grass-fed beef burger with pipikaula and avocado salsa topping did not go to waste, scarfed down by the women of Oahu Publications. Thanks Rick! The burger was so juicy. Don't ask me why there's no bun. Maybe Rick is gluten-free? Maybe they were all bunless. We were too busy devouring fries to notice.

Rick Blangiardi, general manager at Hawaii News Now, had to leave before entrées arrived, but his grass-fed beef burger with pipikaula and avocado salsa topping did not go to waste, scarfed down by the women of Oahu Publications. Thanks Rick! The burger was so juicy. Don't ask me why there's no bun. Maybe Rick is gluten-free? Maybe they were all bunless. We were too busy devouring fries to notice.

The meal was to end with Hawaiian Crown chocolate banana cream pie with strata of Graham crackers, chocolate pudding, kinako-banana ice cream and salted butterscotch shortbread. But MW's Michelle Karr-Ueoka can never put out one dessert.

The meal was to end with Hawaiian Crown chocolate banana cream pie with strata of Graham crackers, chocolate pudding, kinako-banana ice cream and salted butterscotch shortbread. But MW's Michelle Karr-Ueoka can never put out one dessert.

... so diners could also opt for a lilikoi and fruit-filled crème brûlée. Many sampled both desserts.

... so diners could also opt for a lilikoi and fruit-filled crème brûlée. Many sampled both desserts.

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

Morimoto launches new R&D menu

By
January 6th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.comA Fall en Pomegranate cocktail with Absolut Pear and housemade grenadine is $7 on Morimoto Waikiki's new happy hour R&D menu.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

A Fall en Pomegranate cocktail with Absolut Pear and housemade grenadine is $7 on Morimoto Waikiki's new happy hour R&D menu.

Morimoto Waikiki has launched a new happy hour R&D menu, available 5 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays at the bar or in the lounge.

It features a short but sweet menu of eats, craft cocktails and beer at accessible prices of $5 to $10.

The menu will change seasonally as a way of introducing new menu and bar items that chefs and mixologists are considering adding to the menu on a more permanent basis.

Current bites include maki sushi of the day ($8), sticky ribs with tamarind glaze ($10), shishito peppers with sea salt ($6), hamachi tacos ($8), edamame with sea salt ($6), and soba with shrimp tempura ($10).

Bud Light, Heineken and Kirin are $5 each.

The restaurant is in The MODERN Honolulu, at 1775 Ala Moana Boulevard. Call (808) 943-5900.

Here's a look at some of the possibilities:

Scallop in ponzu sauce topped with chili threads was one seasonal special offered during Morimoto happy hour last month. Let's hope for its return!

Scallop in ponzu sauce topped with chili threads was one seasonal special offered during Morimoto happy hour last month. Let's hope for its return!

Wagyu carpaccio finished with hot oil, ginger, yuzu and soy sauce on the main menu at Morimoto Waikiki, was on the R&D menu last month.

Wagyu carpaccio finished with hot oil, ginger, yuzu and soy sauce on the main menu at Morimoto Waikiki, was on the R&D menu last month.

Hamachi tacos with  avocado and nuoc cham in a gyoza skin tako shell, $8.

Hamachi tacos with avocado and nuoc cham in a gyoza skin tako shell, $8.

The chef's selection of sashimi for the day. On this particular day, hirame (fluke), maguro, hamachi, salmon, saba, katsuo (bonito) and tai were on the platter.

The chef's selection of sashimi for the day. On this particular day, hirame (fluke), maguro, hamachi, salmon, saba, katsuo (bonito) and tai were on the platter.

Soba topped with shrimp tempura is $10 on the new R&D menu.

Soba topped with shrimp tempura is $10 on the new R&D menu.

Thirst-quenching Waikiki Mule with lime juice, ginger beer and house-infused cucumber vodka, $7. So refreshing!

Thirst-quenching Waikiki Mule with lime juice, ginger beer and house-infused cucumber vodka, $7. So refreshing!

This blend of Jose Cuervo, vanilla banana and pineapple has the audacious moniker, Can I Have Another? At $7 a pop.

This blend of Jose Cuervo, vanilla banana and pineapple has the audacious moniker, Can I Have Another? At $7 a pop.

A selection of Morimoto-branded Rogue beers.

A selection of Morimoto-branded Rogue beers and Imperial pilsner.

The setting.

The setting.

Chef Masaharu Morimoto's book is featured on shelves behind the reception desk.

Chef Masaharu Morimoto's book is featured on shelves behind the reception desk.

The exterior.

The exterior.

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

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