Archive for the ‘Cuisines’ Category

Blessings at Taste of Taiwan

By
August 23rd, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

A "Tray of Togetherness," assorted fresh fruit, captured the spirit of the "Taste of Taiwan" friendship dinner that brought Taiwanese and local Chinese together at the table.

Can you build friendships through food? That is question and the driving philosophy behind the United Chinese Society's Hawaii-sponsored "Taste of Taiwan" that took place Aug. 22 at Jade Dynasty restaurant.

From what I saw, yes you can. If not through food itself and the cooperation behind the scenes that goes into feeding hundreds, then through the camaraderie of sitting through a five-hour, 12-course meal. In between courses, there was also a lively bit of alcohol-fueled karaoke, for a good cause as friends challenged friends to step up to the mic in exchange for $100-plus donations to UCS.

The Taiwan chefs and crew took their bows following the dinner.

On the menu were homestyle comfort dishes from southern Taiwan, "not restaurant dishes," our hosts made clear. Many dishes looked familiar to anyone versed in local Chinese cuisine, but flavors were not. You don't often find cinnamon, and never find basil stirred into dishes at our Cantonese or Hong Kong style restaurants.

The one thing these cuisines do have in common is that the major ingredients have meanings tied to blessings and prosperity, and dishes presented were intended to bestow all guests with good wishes and abundance, and they sent us all home with a small planter of lucky bamboo.

Co-sponsoring the event were the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Honolulu, the Hawaii Taiwanese Center, China Airlines, Lucoral Museum and Jade Dynasty.

The dinner started with an appetizer of blessings, foods representing abundance, prosperity and all-round success. Plates comprised a shrimp fritter, a sliver of abalone, sea snail, mullet roe and spicy abalone.

Auspicious soup consists of crab meat, shrimp, ham and mushrooms. The Chinese word for crab and harmony are pronounced “xie.” Therefore, the dish reinforces the desire for peace. Shrimp represents liveliness, and mushrooms represent longevity and ability to sieze opportunities.

Lobster is known as the “dragon of the sea” and it represents strength, energy and good fortune. It was served chilled in these individual portions of salad.

The whole fish course was dubbed "Swimming in Prosperity" because the Chinese word for fish has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for abundance or surplus, symbolizing the wish for an increase in prosperity.

Taiwan virgin, or juvenile, crabs were steamed, then cut in two to expose their insides and supposedly make them easier to eat. No having to lift the carapace. It was not as messy as our way, but I found it a little unappetizing because I thought of horror movies in which people are sliced in two.

Thin-sliced braised abalone signals an assurance of surplus, representative of wealth and good fortune.

Cuttlefish was stir-fried with sesame oil, basil and mushrooms, and served with broccoli.

A whole chicken went into this "Happy Family Chicken" soup with mushrooms representing longevity and seizing opportunities. The chicken represents prosperity, joy and togetherness of the family. Sweetened with antioxidant red dates and goji berries, it's also a home remedy for colds.

Serving the chicken and mushroom soup.

Aniseed and angelica were among the medicinal seeds and herbs that went into this dish of herbal shrimp, along with sorghum liquor and shaoxing rice wine. The flavor was light, but complex, not at all the basic salt/pepper shrimp offered at most Hawaii Chinese restaurants. I also detected a celery/celeriac component.

We were most curious about the dish called "Buddha Jumps Over the Wall," a seafood and poultry casserole said to be so good that smelling it would have Buddha beating a path to your door, and have vegetarian monks convert to eating meat. It is traditionally made with 30 ingredients, including controversial shark fin. This one featured dried scallops, crab meat, shrimp, ham and mushrooms. But the soup is the best part, spiced with star anise and cinnamon.

The finale was a "Happy Ending" traditional Taiwanese dessert of warm mung bean and rice porridge with sweet mochi dumplings.


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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.

Chibo moves to Beach Walk

By
August 15th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Negiyaki is one of my favorite dishes at Okonomiyaki Chibo.

Okonomiyaki Chibo has a new address, having moved out of Royal Hawaiian Center and onto Beach Walk Avenue, next to Bill's restaurant. The move into what was formerly Bill's downstairs cafe has meant downsizing from more than a hundred seats to fewer than 50, making it a lot cozier.

With the move, there's also been some menu changes, including making a few "hidden" menu options official, with a permanent spot so that everyone can enjoy them, not just those in the know. These dishes have a lot to do with comfort, such as okonomiyaki-style omelet of egg and slices of pork, and potatoes two ways (hash browned and sautéed) with bacon and onions.

They're still acclimating to the change, but for now, below is a sampling of a few dishes available.

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Okonomiyaki Chibo is at 280 Beach Walk Ave., Suite L-106. Open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. daily. Happy hour from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

This hidden menu combo of pork and egg is now on Chibo's menu for good.

This hidden menu combo of pork and egg is now on Chibo's menu for good.

Salads cut the guilt involved with eating out, and Chibo offers several options, including this tofu salad.

A Korean salad features a spicy dressing and sprinkling of sesame seeds over lettuce, beet strings, carrots, red cabbage, onions and fishcake.

A carpaccio trio of maguro, salmon and tako are part of a new tapas menu.

A carpaccio trio of maguro, salmon and tako are part of a new tapas menu.

Paper thin crispy gyoza is one of the specialties at Chibo. That little bit of sauce packs an intensely salty kick.

Grilled opakapaka is a welcome addition to the menu at Chibo.

Fluffy garlic fried rice and miso soup are staples for accompanying any dish.

Potato lovers will be drawn to this duo of hash browns and sautéed potatoes with bacon, though the bacon was rather flabby. Crisp mo' betta.

Well this is an interesting dish for teppan steak lovers with vegan friends. This is faux steak made with konnyaku, or potato gelatin, known for being high in fiber and low in calories. It looks like steak, but its bounce factor is recognizably konnyaku. It's $8 vs. $38 for Prime New York steak here.

A strawberry or pineapple slush is a refreshing treat on a hot day. There's ice cream on the bottom. It's $8.

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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.

Sea Dragon finally worth a visit

By
August 10th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Sea Dragon Cold Noodle House's namesake cold noodles with ban chan including fishcake, fantastic roasted eggplant, beansprouts and daikon kim chee.

I wasn't very interested in Sea Dragon's various shape-shifting evolutions, from Sea Dragon Table to Chukaya Sea Dragon Table, because I just didn't find the Japan-style Chinese cuisine as good as our own. After one visit, I just never went back. Even when the name changed slightly every few years, that old "once bitten-twice shy" phobia had set in and I wasn't going back until a major rehaul happened.

So I was surprised when a friend wanted to take me there, saying it had changed to Korean cuisine. The Sea Dragon name is still there, but attached to it is Cold Noodle Restaurant. The perfect draw for another hot summer.

And it turns out, the food is the best being offered on this site since the Shanghai dumpling restaurant Jin Din Rou brought this corner to life in 2011. My review is in the paper today.
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Sea Dragon Cold Noodle House is at 1491 S. King St. Call 941-2929.

I've been seeing "L.A. galbi" popping up on more Korean menus lately, which is what this bone-in cut is called in Korea. But it's also been Hawaii's style for years due to the proliferation of Korean fast-food and casual restaurants, vs. the all-meat wang galbi, or "king's cut" galbi available only at high-end restaurants. Sea Dragon's is plenty meaty for our taste.

The start of the spicy pork stone pot bi bim bap, before all the ingredients are mixed together on the skillet to make what is essentially fried rice with nice crispy crust.

One thing I didn't care for here was the steamed mandoo, veggies served in a Chinese-style bao bun. Too much carbs without an equal flavor payoff.

Goat stew is not for everyone because the meat is as gamey as lamb. The goat meat shares the pot with sesame seeds, green onions, chives, water parsley and kkaenip, also called sesame leaf in Korea, although it is more closely related to mint than sesame, and has a strong herbal taste that I liked less than the goat.


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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.

Saturday brunch at Mud Hen

By
August 9th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

A cava bar is at the heart of new Saturday morning brunch at Mud Hen Water in Kaimuki. It starts with sparkling wine for build-your-own mimosas and sangrias with ingredients like mango and lilikoi purées, champagne grapes, sliced strawberries, and simple syrups.

Many of us use weekends for catching up on all the errands we can't get to over the busy week. But, it should be a time to restore a little balance and relaxation to our lives. For me, there are few things more relaxing than a weekend brunch, and Mud Hen Water separates itself from the pack with the offering of a cava bar and dishes that are strictly local in inspiration.

Start with a $12 carafe of sparkling wine for build-your-own mimosas and sangrias with ingredients like mango and lilikoi purées, champagne grapes, sliced strawberries, and simple syrups.

With drink in hand, you can start perusing a menu that follows through on Ed Kenney's philosophy for the restaurant, of delivering a "Hawaiian sense of plate," setting it apart from just about every restaurant in town. Don't expect your basic bacon and eggs here. Instead, your locally inspired breakfast will more likely feature biscuit and mapo tofu gravy, waffle-fried chicken wings with spicy guava sauce, and corned beef hash with kim chee. Here's a look:

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It's always nice to share, and Mud Hen allows you to do that with its popular Sea Board, on this visit comprising smoked a'u ku, preserved akule, walu brandade fritter, cheese, soda crackers, bread, starfruit mostarda and pickles, for $22. I loved the varied flavor profiles of the fish, and liked the walu fritter so much I ordered seconds.

Polenta can be one-dimensional in large quantity and tiresome after a while, but the GoFarm Polenta here is topped with Sweetland Farm goat cheese, stewed fruit and honey to make it more interesting. This dish is $11.

One of my favorite dishes was the waffle-fried chicken wings. The batter was feather light and crisp. It's served with spicy guava sauce and slaw ($12). I'm not that big a fan of sweet sauces. I would love to see this redone with prawn paste, as done in Singapore. Now that would be spectacular!

The Eggs Benedict reimagined as biscuit and mapo gravy, with two eggs and bok choy ($13).

Somewhere under that egg is corned beef hash accompanied by avocado and kim chee ($15). Eat separately or mix it all up bi bim bap style.

Fresh fish and lu'au is served with two poached eggs, roasted roots and inamona dukkah ($18). This was another of my favorite dishes. They have a way with roots.

Fresh fruit offered at the cava bar.


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Mud Hen Water is at 3452 Waialae Ave. Saturday brunch runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 737-6000.

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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.

Roy's Beach House now open

By
August 4th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Roy's Beach House has opened its doors at the Turtle Bay Resort.

Roy Yamaguchi is a busy man on a roll this year, slated to open four Hawaii restaurants. First to debut is Roy's Beach House at Turtle Bay Resort, which opened its doors Aug. 2.

During a preview dinner a day ahead of the opening, I was able to sample some of the resort menu at the beachfront restaurant and bar that replaced Ola restaurant.

Given the beachfront setting, surprisingly the first in Roy's 28-year history in the islands, the chef offers fare worthy of Hawaii's royals who once swam and relaxed at Kuilima Cove, and honors Hawaii's hotelier history with dishes like pineapple upside-down cake and Surf & Turf, that attempted to introduce a little bit of Hawaii's culinary fare to westbound visitors. We've come a long way since then, but those dishes do stir a pleasant sense of nostalgia.

Next up will be his Eating House 1849 restaurant, which pays homage to Hawaii's plantation past, set to open in the revamped International Market Place, followed by openings in Kapolei and on Maui. Can't wait for all of International Market Place to open, but for now, photos below show little of what you can expect from a visit to Roy's Beach House.
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Roy's Beach House at Turtle Bay Resort is open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Call (808) 293-7697.

A glorious beach setting is always a welcome sight.

Another welcome sight after a long drive, Beach House sangria and Just Because cocktail of rum, passionfruit and lilikoi purée and mint, topped with coconut flakes. So ono!

I love that Kualoa Ranch is able to produce oysters, served here with wasabi cocktail sauce, Tabasco-tequila mignonette and jalapeño ponzu.

Island-style poke over your choice of brown or white rice is $20.

TOP 3 DISHES

Here are my dinner picks to date, though I need to go back and reaccess before a formal review.

Maybe because it's summer, and it's so hot outside, this Hau'ula tomato salad ($16) was light and fresh, just what I needed.

Again, because there was so much meat on the table, silky misoyaki butterfish ($38) with sizzled Ho Farms tomato sauce offered respite from heavier dishes.

I loved the idea of retro pineapple upside-down cake and the mellow sweetness of the caramelized pineapple. Not a sour note here.

MORE DISHES

This photo doesn't begin to show how large this Tuscan braised lamb shank is. Let's just say it was shared by eight people and I had enough leftovers for two meals. Beans could have had less salt.

Macadamia nut mahimahi is a stock dish that gets an upgrade from an accompaniment of lobster Pernod essence, like a concentrated lobster bisque.

When the mahi reappeared with braised shortribs on a Surf & Turf plate ($37), we didn't know the sauce was the lobster essence for the fish, so dipped the beef in it. The shellfish-beef combo was a winner with the men at the table.

Thai chicken was layered with curry sauce and a sprinkling of peanuts. Served with pineapple chutney and jasmine rice.

Chocolate souffle cake is always a favorite of chocoholics.

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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.

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