Archive for the ‘Cuisines’ Category

Bozu's dozens of temptations

By
July 27th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Beef in a decadent (and telegenic) appetizer of mountain yam and sea urchin beef roll (currently $15.75 for three) at the newly open Bozu Japanese Restaurant at McCully Shopping Center was rather chewy, but if you're the type who swallows your sushi in one gulp, this should pose no problem. The leaf is shiso. The dab of green on top is wasabi.

Hoshi Katsu has stepped out of the kitchen of other Japanese restaurants around town, most notably Imanas Tei, to open Bozu Japanese Restaurant on the second floor at McCully Shopping Center, and there are a lot of foodies around town who are going to be happy that he did.

His izakaya is a joy, with many a jewel of a dish leaving me with a hunger to try what's next, and next. Portions are small, but mostly reasonable when shared. It's best to try it with at least three friends in tow so you can explore the range of hot-cold, seafood-meat, grill-saute, raw-cooked specialties.

Then there are the things that can't be shared, like chilled chawanmushi or crab miso soup. Get your own.

And, my best piece of advice is, keep your eyes open for what's going out to other tables. It's a little bit like "When Harry Met Sally." "I want what she's having," without the moaning. Chances are you'll see lots you want to try, even if you'd already filled your belly and it means booking your next reservation before walking out the door.

My full review is in the paper today. Here's a snapshot of dishes sampled:

TOP 3 DISHES

Chilled chawanmushi is a refreshing summer treat, with the flavors of the ocean, including bursts of salt from fresh ikura pearls. Currently $7.50 per glass, roughly about twice the size of a shot glass.

Slices of juicy, grilled black pork tontoro. You may need more than one of these $8 servings. Portions tend to be small here, which works for those who want to cover as much of the varied menu as possible.

Chicken liver mousse had us clamoring for more bread to scoop up every delicious bite.

LEAST FAVORITE

Tsukune, tare style, was tasty on the outside, but lacked flavor on the inside, though I appreciated the attempt to make it more interesting with a crunchy mince of lotus root inside.

A special of crab miso soup looked divine but the crab required too much hard work without enough of a payoff.

A crab mayo whitefish roll with avocado seemed promising but it was rather dry and fell

A crab mayo whitefish roll with avocado seemed promising but it was rather dry and fell apart. It was incongruously paired with tomato sauce.

THE REST

I have often mentioned how little I care for rice. What I do love are potatoes, and Bozu's tangy potato salad.

What's better than french fries? Fries sprinkled with garlic and housemade anchovy sauce. Not everyone will appreciate the fishiness, but I do. I wish someone here would make fish paste fried chicken the way it's done in Singapore. Yummers!

For others who don't care for rice, Bozu has a cucumber wrap, riceless "sushi" with a center of ahi, yellowtail, salmon, whitefish, cab and avocado. I loved the combination with crunch, but didn't photograph it. This is the house Bozu Roll with rice, and all of the above plus shrimp.

Chef/owner Hoshi Katsu at work, plating the masterpiece below. Sorry, I don't know what it was. A lot of things were going out to other tables after I ordered, on every occasion. Which is what I mean about wanting more every time you see a dish go by.

bozudisplay

Can anybody ever go wrong with hamachi kama?

A dish of fried chicken and eggplant is Bozu's nod to Chinese cuisine. The sauce was rather heavy and I liked the dish's crunchy zucchini best. It was unscathed by the sauce.

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Someone once told me they missed aku poke. So I decided to see what I was missing and try the aku tataki. Now I know why ahi is the fish of choice. The texture is better.

Mirugai kushiyaki was one of about 20 daily seafood specials. This was $5.75 per skewer.

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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.

Rice Place's fresh take on a basic

By
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.

Brasa cooking the highlight at Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38

By
June 15th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

The view from Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38.

Here's a look at what's on the table at the newly open Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38, built around the concept of brasa cookery.

Its centerpiece is two charcoal- and wood-burning brasa ovens that allow chefs to achieve the flavor of the summer grill, therefore opening with perfect timing.

My full review is in today's paper.
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Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38 is at 1129 N. Nimitz Highway (above Nico’s restaurant). Open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. daily. Copper Top Bar open 3 to 6 p.m. daily. Call (808) 550-3740.

TOP 3 DISHES
From those I've tried so far:

Cracked papper chicken wings are like crack. Smoky, crisp-skinned, juicy inside, with a nice sprinkling of salt and pepper. Yums.

Smoky brasa-grilled Pacific swordfish is served on a Nicoise-style salad; recently $17. I'm usually not a fan of swordfish, but this was delicious.

The bourbon bacon cheddar burger gets extra points for those golden, crispy waffle chips.

The banquet space above Nico's has been transformed, the room expanded to swallow up what had been an outside patio deck.

A seafood paella has the potential to rise to the ranks of top dishes if the seafood weren't so dry and flavorless. The rice itself, with soccarat!, is terrific.

Entrée salads are great for lunch. This one combines shrimp, avocado and cucumbers over a bed of arugula; recently $18.

A delicious appetizer of grilled eggplant topped with garlic and shaved Parmesan.

Spanish grilled octopus is sliced and served over arugula as an appetizer. It's a better option than the Spanish-style poke here.

Breaking into the egg served over brasa-roasted mushrooms with garlic and Parmesan.

Prime rib was as drab as its gray color. This one was cut up pupu style in the kitchen for sharing. Others had a much better experience. Chalk it up to the restaurant's newness. I'm sure they'll get it right consistently in time.

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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.

Chefs on stage at Kapalua festival

By
June 14th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Sautéed Kona lobster with wild mushroom brodetto was one of the dishes prepared by chef Michele Mazza at the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival June 11 at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. This dish was paired with 2011 Il Fauno di Arcanum Super Tuscan.

Chefs and wine experts at the four-day, 35th annual Kapalua Wine & Food Festival that ended June 12, have a strong message for aspiring young chefs: less is more.

Chef Hugh Acheson, the Ottawa, Canada, born chef hailed as the James Beard Awards' 2012 Best Chef, Southeast, said during his June 12 cooking demo that much of the hubris in restaurants today is the result of the rise of molecular gastronomy that set thousands of young chefs on a mission to emulate culinary geniuses like Ferran Adría and Grant Achatz. The problem is, he said, that most of them will never get there because they don't even know how to cook the perfect roast chicken.

"You have to walk before you can run," he said.

Mazza gamely got up from his own meal to pose for photos after his demonstration.

A deconstructed seafood lasagna was another dish presented by Mazza.

A deconstructed seafood lasagna was another dish presented by Mazza. It was paired with 2013 Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico from Tuscany, Italy.

Panna cotta with blood orange granita was dessert, paired with an intense golden and raisony 2013 Tenuta di Castellaro, Malvasia delle Lipari, Italy.

To the audience of culinary geeks, he cautioned, "Be wary of chefs who want to cook for themselves. I want to cook for you. I want to make people happy, not threaten them with the idea that they may not get what I'm doing."

He added that he's noticed young chefs tend to cook on high heat. "I'm like, you guys don't need to do that. It has a dial."

Sharing his knowledge a day earlier, chef Michele Mazza of New York's Il Mulino and Trattoria Il Mulino, also said the biggest mistake home chefs make is to cook on high heat. He believes in roasting over low heat for a long time, and he prefers a wood-burning oven instead of an electric or gas range.

He, too, had a word for young chefs whose penchant is for excess. The tomato sauce for his lasagna was very simple, seasoned only with salt, basil and oregano. Mushrooms accompanying his lobster dish were seasoned only with rosemary and oregano.

He said use of specific herbs for particular dishes is what defines the dish. Echoing his sentiments, host Master Sommelier Michael Jordan said, "Wherever you go in the world, that is what the better chefs are doing."

Both chefs shared some tips for demystifying their craft to get people cooking again, and part of what they had to share included breaking down the process into simple math, such as the vinaigrette ratio of three parts oil to one part acid, and revealing a family secret, Mazza said the perfect pasta involves using six eggs plus six yolks for every pound of flour. "The rest is elbow grease."

When sautéing fish to achieve the perfect crisp, Acheson said most people, including his wife, have a tendency to be impatient and push food around in the pan. "Don't push it around, let it sit."

Acheson will be back in fall for the Hawai'i Food & Wine Festival.

Chef Hugh Acheson served up his new Southern cooking with a hefty dose of humor.

The first of his dishes was a simple grilled corn salad of tender romaine also with chilies, basil and lime.

His second dish was crispy kampachi topped with a field pea ragout and herb salad. The dish was apired with 2014 Heron Chardonnay.

Acheson's seafood stew with fennel-topped crouton, and farro. Paired with 2014 Heron Pinot Noir.

Dessert was an unusual pairing of pepper and strawberries served with vanilla bean ice cream and paired with 2012 Eroica Gold Riesling from Columbia Valley.

Fans lined up for an audience with the chef after his demonstration.


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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.

A peek at Japan Village Walk

By
June 2nd, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

 

Pork ramen is one of the specialties of Kobe-based Gashoken Ramen, among the 30 to 40 eateries that will be a part of Shirokiya's Japan Village Walk, slated to open June 25 on the ground level of Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing.

A handful of restaurants in the soon-to-open Japan Village Walk at Ala Moana Center, were testing the facilities and recipes June 1 and needed a few guinea pigs to dispatch the food. I was happy to do so while getting a sneak peek into Shirokiya's newest food concept.

Shirokiya's former Yataimura was just a warmup act for this colossal food court, set to house about 30 to 40 different food vendors.

The layout is clean and orderly, but will also be a grid-like maze of boxy take-out counters. It will be easy enough for adults to navigate, but parents will have to hold on to their children, who may get confused by the sameness of the setting—sort of like townies driving around Mililani or Kapolei.

God-san will offer a variety of yakisoba dishes, such as these bentos featuring omelet and shrimp, and omelet, bacon and fried egg.

 

So far so good as far as the equipment testing. Deep-fried croquettes and tonkatsu were turning out crisp and light. Ramen from Gashoken was perfection. But with many more vendors set to move in, JVW won't be open until June 25, when everyone is confident they'll be ready.

Vintage Cave Honolulu will be introducing Wagyu Plaza featuring six boutique restaurants; Seafood Plaza featuring eight bistros; and Vintage Cave Bakery. The original Vintage Cave remains at its current location in Ala Moana Center’s Diamond Head Wing.

 

Adding to the foodcentric venue, Vintage Cave Café, is set to open next to JVW in October. The Italian-inspired café will feature an array of seafood dishes, Milan style pasta, Napoli style pizza, Wagyu steak and more, in a room mimicking the look and feel of an Italian Cathedral, complete with dome ceiling, murals, and sculptures from Italy. The 9,000-square-foot venue will seat 150 and include four private rooms.

A sukiyaki bowl from Yakiniku Tamura.

 

A spicy poke and avocado bowl from Hale Mai.

 

Shinogu Sato and Yotaro Takenaka made the most of the tasting.

 

$1 beers will be among the draws.

 

Also from Gashoken, shrimp ramen with intense shrimp broth. Love it!

 

Gashoken's introductory menu.

 

Promising sweet treats to come, these faux fruit-filled and creme brulée crepes were on display at one of the vendor booths.

 

jvw rest

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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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