Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

First course: Stripsteak

By
August 23rd, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Michael Mina is excited to be opening his first restaurant in Hawaii. Stripsteak by Michael Mina will open its doors Aug. 25 at International Market Place.

Whereas I have heard some imported chefs dissing Hawaii's cuisine lately, Michael Mina embraces it. He clearly loves everything about Hawaii, saying that he has tried multiple times to open a restaurant here.

And why not? He's practically a part-time resident anyway, traveling here about five times a year to vacation because he "doesn't want to be disappointed," as he has been when traveling elsewhere.

The reason is simple. "I need the time to unwind, and here, I can unwind in a day. Otherwise, it's hard for me."

So he's thrilled to be opening Stripsteak by Michael Mina at the International Market Place. His restaurant will open at lunch time, from 11:30 a.m. Aug. 25, the same day as the market place, and he'll be here through early September to make sure the operation is running smoothly.

COURTESY STRIPSTEAK

The restaurant's interior hews closely to these artist's rendering of Strip Steak's bar and lounge, and dining room.

strip int

"I'm definitely nervous, I'm always nervous when opening a new restaurant," he said. But he said because this is a city where many people pass through, his waitstaff is accustomed to dealing with every type of patron, and he's happy with the team he's assembled, starting with executive chef Ben Jenkins, an 18-year company veteran whose held the top posts in the Mina Group.

The restaurant represents a departure from the traditional steak house in that Mina said he's noted that people no longer embrace the stereotypical notion of walking into a steakhouse and being almost too stuffed to walk out. He said people want to eat lighter and cleaner.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Staffers go through a training session in the dining room, during which Mina Group president Patric Yumul offers serving suggestions and demos the tableside presentation of Michael's ahi tuna (poke).

Michael's ahi tuna (poke) calls for first mixing the egg, then tossing the fish with ancho chili pepper, sweet Asian pear and pine nuts before enjoying on toast points. Different, yet still credible for locals steeped in poke knowledge.

With Stripsteak Waikiki, Mina is merging the best ideas from his Bourbon Steak restaurants and izakaya-style Pabu restaurants, a combination that fits in naturally with Hawaii's diverse culinary scene, where we are accustomed to preceding main courses with raw selections, and of course, surf-and-turf combos.

He said obsession over great product and great technique, binds the steak house with the izakaya, and both concepts suit the modern diner, who enjoys sharing dishes as a path to exploring more of what a menu has to offer. Especially with the addition of distinct regional flavors.

As for prices, starters range from $8 and $12 for charred edamame and blistered shishito peppers, respectively, up to $21 for chilled lobster tacos and $31 for Hudson Valley foie gras with roasted pineapple, brioche, coconut and macadamia nuts.

Japanese A5 striploin is $34 per ounce, 10-ounce prime flat iron steak is $44 and 8-ounce filet mignon is $54.
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Stripsteak by Michael Mina is in the International Market Place, 2330 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 330. Lunch 11:30 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, dinner from 5:30 p.m. nightly. Call 800-3094.

A blessing of the 8,600 square foot restaurant took place Aug. 23. From left are Kahu Cordell, chef Ben Jenkins, Michael Mina, Mina Group president Patric Yumul and general manager Ron Bonifacio.

A trio of cocktails including the Black Tie, a mai tai reimagined with black sesame paste. Delicious! And duck fat fries, regular and furikake, served with a trio of sauces: ketchup, truffle and tonkatsu.

The market price "Luau Feast" raw platter featuring king crab legs, whole lobster, six oysters, six clams, six shrimp, six pieces of sashimi, two sushi rolls and two kinds of poke, for four to six.

The feast was almost as big as Krislyn Hashimoto.

A "small plate" of Instant Bacon comprised Kurobuta pork belly topped with tempura oyster and black pepper-soy glaze.

Blistered shishito peppers with slivers of espelette pepper and daikon sprouts are served over watermelon carpaccio, just in case you get the hot one. I did!

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Of course you can't go to Stripsteak and order everything BUT the steak. This market price World Wide Wagyu set features Japanese A5 striploin, American wagyu skirt steak and Australian wagyu shortrib. Yes, the Japanese are hard to beat.

A side of creamed corn with Jalapeño is so ono, $12.

A side of creamed corn with Jalapeño is so ono, $12. At this point, I had to leave for a second dinner, so didn't get a chance to sample dessert. I will make up for it later.


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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.

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.

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