Archive for the ‘First course: What's new’ Category

First Course: Inside Fish House, at the new Four Seasons Ko Olina

June 29th, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

It took three to bring this three-tiered Fish House Tower to the table. From left, Four Seasons Ko Olina general manager Sanjiv Hulugalle, Fish House chef Ray German and Fish House general manager Thomas Stone.

I've been so busy keeping my eye on soon-to-open restaurants in Waikik that I overlooked what was going on in Ko Olina, where The Four Seasons Resort Oahu has opened to all in need of an escape from their daily routines.

To celebrate, the resort at Ko Olina is offering Hawaii residents (with valid ID) a 50 percent off best available room rate (about $595 per night to date) from June 29 through Dec. 19, 2016, with complimentary amenities including valet parking and Internet access throughout the resort.

Coinciding with the hotel opening is the debut of dining areas on site, including the Hokule'a Coffee Bar, the luxury Italian restaurant Noe, and the casual-luxe, beach-front, line-to-table restaurant, Fish House.

The restaurants opened to hotel guests yesterday before opening to the public today. A visit to Fish House netted an abundance of seafood and other dishes with chef Ray German's signature Latin flair.

In spite of all the luxury the Four Seasons stands for, this place is far from stodgy. Dishes of burgers, steaks and seafood are presented in a room with a rustic, beachy vibe that suits the location mere steps from sand and sea.

Here's a quick peek that doesn't begin to give a complete picture of the number of dishes and sides available. This being the Four Seasons, sandwiches are $22, 8- to 14-oz. steaks are about $48. Budget accordingly.

A fish scale pattern graces the bar at Fish House.

To the side of this lounge area is a pool table.

To the side of this lounge area is a pool table.

An amuse of cubed mango topped with black sea salt, with lardon and uni.

At a restaurant named Fish House, your first thought may be to get the Fish House Tower, configured to suit your party size, and starting at $35 for four seafood selections for one to two. This is essentially a large ($125 for four to five people) with the addition of two whole Keahole lobsters at $55 each.

The large tower also comes with two kinds of poke, here the traditional ahi with ogo and onions, and one of the specials for the summer's day was ceviche with lime, orange slices and avocado.

Kim Shibata wanted an overhead vantage of the feast.

Libations include many a craft cocktail, beer, wine, kombucha, cold-pressed juices and this Pineapple Elyx-ir of local pineapple juice, pomegranate, hibiscus, champagne, bitters and vodka. Share it with friends, or not.

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The Fish House salad is a cross between a wedge salad and old-fashioned shrimp-and-crab Louie, topped with shaved bonito. Mix in the poached egg.

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As good as all the dishes were, no one could get enough of the spiced-up North Shore corn on the cob with lime, smoked paprika, creamy condensed milk aioli and Parmesan cheese. The corn itself was so fresh and sweet, the perfect texture. A definite OMG moment.

Grilled onaga was served with chili water and flavored vinegar.

A healthful starter of chilled avocado drizzled with quinoa and hazelnut crumble, and cider vinegar.

One of the entrances to the restaurant.

Looking down from the lobby level to one of three pools. Fish House restaurant is next to the pool.

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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

June 28th, 2016
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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

June 15th, 2016
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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.

Juic'd Life opens in Kaka'ako

June 10th, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Mother and son Shannon Benedict and Jaguar Clement have opened Juic'd Life upstairs at SALT, Kaka'ako.

SALT at Our Kaka‘ako is quickly shaping up to be a new dining center. In addition to early tenants such as Hank's Haute Dogs, Highway Inn, Starbucks and Jamba Juice, the latest to open is another refreshment oases, Tea Cafe.

With no relief from hot, sunny days, I'm also looking forward to the opening of Juic'd Life, a raw whole food juice bar that will be offering 12 flavors of cold-pressed juices formulated to help people re-energize, rebuild, repair and maintain their bodies. Each 16-ounce bottle holds the nutrition equivalent of 2 to 4 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The top seller, "Boost," is made with kale, spinach, pineapple, apple and mint. "Absorb" blends carrots, apples, and ginger. One of my new favorites is the "Detox Flush" with apple, ginger, lemon, turmeric, burdock and the spice of cayenne.

Juic’d Life also offers three-, five and seven-day cleanses to help detoxify your body, as well as made to order salads, made to order juices, and four types of made-to-order acai bowls, plus energy bars, protein cookies, bagged granola, fruit and nuts.

Among Juic'd signature blends are Refresh (lemon, strawberry, pineapple, apple and mint), Purify (spinach, kale, cucumber, apple, celery, romaine, ginger and lemon) and Detox Flush (described above).


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Juic’d Life is at at SALT at Our Kaka‘ako, 685 Auahi St., Unit 218.

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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 course: Mahina & Sun's

May 18th, 2016
By



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Deep-fried whole snapper, and salads of root vegetables and pohole ferns are part of the Family Feast at Mahina & Sun's.

Following a zombie apocalypse and cut off from the rest of the world, what would we eat?

If you envision such a future, sustainability makes perfect sense. I'm not saying Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero are thinking in those bleak terms, but with their latest restaurant, Mahina & Sun's, I think they have the opposite in mind—a bright sunny future in which people awaken to caring for the planet and nurturing their bodies in a single move, by choosing foods both healthful and sustainable.

The two have been preaching this concept for about a decade, but takes it even further with Mahina & Sun's, making sustainable seem more palatable than ever.

A "snack" of Sweet Land Farms goat cheese beignets with beet ketchup and arugula.

It all starts with teaching us to love such basics as 'ulu and ugly root vegetables, hairy roots, green tops and all. There was a time I would have lopped off these unsightly ends, but here, they're a joy to pop whole into the mouth, and I was surprised to see my meat-loving friends reaching continuously for the bowls of vegetables and 'ulu.

Kenney would be the first to tell you he could do more, noting that it is still difficult to go without imported oils, beans, grains, Japanese products, pastas and spices, as well as most bar content.

Satisfying kahala (amberjack) crudo with preserved lemon, toasted inamona, purslane and brown butter vinaigrette.

But moreso than most outlets, I see a commitment, not only to the locally grown, but foods basic to the earliest Hawaii settlers. Most chefs, and diners, would find that limiting, but Mahina & Sun's is doing its best to win over a 21st century audience accustomed to getting any foodstuff they want, sourced from all parts of the planet.

It won't be an easy feat bringing diners back to the homestead, but they're committed to trying.

The setting, poolside at the equally new Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club.


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Mahina & Sun's is in the new Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club at 412 Lewers St. Call 924-5810.

Mild, clean-tasting Kualoa Ranch oysters are simply graced with chili pepper water, succulents and slices of kalamansi.

It doesn't get much more local than pa'i 'ai topped with akule. Not for those who don't like fishy fish.

Usually, I would love the Shinsato pork paté, but having so many other good things to eat made it seem less interesting than the alternatives.

The grilled he'e is my favorite dish.

Rigatoni with local wild boar ragu. I don't know how they are able to secure a steady supply of local boar for making this dish.

A pour of smoky bacon broth over swordfish and savoy cabbage. The restaurant is committed to using sustainable seafood based on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, but swordfish has a tendency to be dry and is still not one of my favorites. A dish of monchong, however, was perfection.

A pan-roasted half chicken is tasty, but has been inconsistent, moist one day, dry the next. But I love the coriander chutney on top.

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