Archive for the ‘Asian Fusion’ Category

Top of Waikiki marks 50th year

By
October 6th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Foie gras brioche is among the appetizers on the new 50th anniversary menu selections at Top of Waikiki.

Perhaps coinciding with the Space Age that began in fall of 1957 with the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik I, the fascination with technology and the open skies led to the development of spaceship-shaped revolving restaurants in the sky.

The first revolving restaurant opened in 1961 atop Egypt's Cairo Tower, the same year Seattle architect John Graham was tapped to design a revolving restaurant, La Ronde, near the newly opened Ala Moana Center. Then in 1966, came The Top of Waikiki, now marking its 50th anniversary with a recent refresh and a new menu that combines old and new to satisfy both newcomers to the restaurants, as well as old-timers and visitors who return for the classic steak and Bearnaise sauce that owes its existence to a maitre d’ at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The dish dominated menus of the 1960s, right after Julia Child debuted her cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," awakening a fascination with the Gallic table.

It's a chef's dilemma to serve two audiences, but executive chef Lance Kosaka does a great job paying homage to the restaurant's roots while offering up progressive selections at a 21st century pace.

With La Ronde gone, the Top of Waikiki is a treasure that continues to revolve, giving diners a panoramic view from mountain to ocean, east side and west side. Stop by for dinner and enjoy the ride.
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Top of Waikiki is on the 21st floor at at 2270 Kalakaua Ave. Open 5 to 9:30 p.m. daily. Call (808) 923-3877.

Here's a look at dishes from the 50th anniversary menu:

I loved these kalbi and kim chee tacos with crunchy summer squash and zucchini, just $10 on the happy hour menu, offered from 5 to 9:30 p.m. daily at the bar.

Ahi lettuce wraps are also on the happy hour menu.

Goat cheese rangoons on the dinner menu.

Fois gras mousse tops housemade brioche, with dots of guava jelly, on the appetizer menu at Top of Waikiki.

Local-style BBQ half Jidori chicken with warm potato salad and veggies is one of the entrées on the 50th anniversary menu.

Filipino cuisine is coming on strong across the nation, and a dish of slow-roasted porchetta was inspired by lechon kawali features a tomato and onion relish, served over mung bean risotto.

Food history lives with an entree of filet Oscar topped with butter-poached king crab legs, asparagus and served with Bearnaise and veal jus, and a side of roasted tomatoes and red bliss potatoes.

I loved pastry chef Heather Bryan's light dessert of pineapple shave ice with coconut sorbet, vanilla bean tapioca, strawberry syrup and sweetened condensed milk.

Housemade doughnuts filled with ilikoi curd and served with strawberry ice cream.

Haupia-filled eclairs served with dark chocolate sauce and candied macadamia nuts.

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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.

First Look: Eating House 1849

By
September 6th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Chef Roy Yamaguchi was tending to business at his newest Eating House 1849 early in the morning on Aug. 25, opening day of both the International Market Place and his restaurant at the market place's third-floor Grand Lanai.

Not wanting to miss any of the action on opening day, Aug. 25, of the International Market Place, media were among the first people on the property. And chef Roy Yamaguchi was another earlybird, hovering around his newest baby, Eating House 1849, which also opened that morning.

Yamaguchi has been on a roll this year, having opened Roy's Beach House Aug. 2 at Turtle Bay Resort, with two more Eating Houses set to open in Kapolei and Maui.

It's exciting to see him break from his original Roy's Asian fusion formula and explore new territory, even if what's new is inspired by the past. With Eating House 1849, Yamaguchi goes back to the roots of Hawaii's restaurant scene to pay homage to Peter Fernandez, who opened one of Hawaii’s first restaurants in the 19th century, and called it Eating House. Fernandez used ingredients available from local farmers, ranchers, foragers and fishermen, a practice our top chefs are trying to reclaim today, after decades of seeing our palates shaped and restaurants co-opted, by sellers of convenience.

The outdoor patio and bar.

The pork and shrimp gyoza with garlic aioli and spicy XO sauce were so good, we ended up ordering up a second serving because one per person just isn't enough.

Yamaguchi explained that the first food purveyors were likely the equivalent of today's bed and breakfasts, where people seeking room and board were fed simple meals. Entrepreneurs like Fernandez offered an alternative.

Of course, this being Roy, don't expect your great, great, great grandfather's chicken hekka or Porgtuguese bean soup. Though rooted in our plantation heritage and the chef's taste memories of his grandfather's cooking, dishes are thoroughly contemporary to suit today's more adventurous, sophisticated palate. Something like Eating House 1849's "Huli Huli" kim chee pork belly, with its combo of pork belly laced with go chu jang and miso aioli, and draped with kim chee would probably have made your ancestors' heads spin and their eyes pop out of their sockets. The audacity! The explosion of flavors! But for us descendants, it is oh so good.
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Eating House 1849 by Roy Yamaguchi is on the third floor Grand Lana at International Market Place, Waikiki. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner. Call 924-1849.

Most people don't think of vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts as an adequate pupu, but these are fried with toasted pine nuts, Golden raisins and tossed with balsamic vinegar to become the appetizer of your dreams.

Hawaii's Portuguese heritage is celebrated with this dish of Manila clam and Hawaiian tako cataplana with housemade linguica. The mild tomato sauce left something to be desired, as did the sweet bread, though I get the connection. With more Italian restaurants out there, people just assume red sauce = garlic bread.

After doubling up on the gyoza, it was really tempting to do the same with "Huli Huli" pork belly. This dish with go chu jang, miso aioli, kim chee and green onions amounted to a party in the mouth, in a good way, without trashing the premises. Flavors were balanced and got on well together. So awesome!

Sometimes sequence is everything. After the pork belly, Lola's pork adobo lumpia seemed rather staid; served with a small green papaya salad and sambal tomato that wasn't particularly memorable.

Housemade corned beef reuben gets an assist from local Naked Cow Dairy Swiss cheese, Mul kim chi and the brightness of Thousand Island dressing.

It's not local without a loco moco, and the Hawaii Ranchers beef patty with Hawaiian mushroom gravy makes this one outstanding. So juicy!

Kiawe-smoked ribeye + chimichurri sauce. 'Nuff said.

Dessert of molten lava cake and vanilla bean ice cream will make you appreciate the evolution of restaurants since the days of the original Eating House.

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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.

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.

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