Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Eating SF: Heaven on earth at b. patisserie

April 10th, 2014
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kouign amann
SAN FRANCISCO — When you live in Hawaii, far from any great land mass, you at one point will become a mule. You know the drill. You're getting on an airplane to get off this rock. Friends find out. They tell you beforehand to deliver this to so-and-so, and bring back things. Even if you don't speak to them beforehand, they will find out from Facebook or Twitter posts and text you.

So it is that I received a text while in San Francisco to go straight to b. patisserie and bring home kouign amann. "You have to go! It's orgasmic!!!!"

OK, so it's hard to ignore that many exclamation points, so I made friends with my cab driver and had him at my beck and call on the day of my departure. After dropping me off at the Persian restaurant Maykadeh for lunch, I promised a pear croissant in his future if he picked me up a few hours later and took me to b. patisserie en route to the airport later in the afternoon.

b. patisserie is the work of Belinda Leong and Michel Suas, founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute.

Leong began her career as pastry chef at Gary Danko, before leaving for Europe and working at restaurants and patisseries in Paris, Barcelona and Copenhagen. She seems to have brought back all their secrets because her pastries are divine.

People are particularly enamored by the kouign amann, a caramelized croissant with light candy crunch exterior and fluffy interior, that originated in Brittany, France. The ones I ordered were filled with chocolate, at about $4.50 apiece but soooooo worth the trouble of lugging them onto the plane.

I went straight from the plane to dinner, and they still tasted fantastic 11 hours later as my friends and I surreptitiously gobbled them up after dinner, like drug addicts in the dark parking lot beneath the restaurant.
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If you want to go or have a friend headed to San Francisco soon, b. patisserie is at 2821 California St. @ Divisadero St., Pacific Heights. Call 415.440.1700.

State Bird Provisions: Inside nation's best restaurant

March 26th, 2014
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statebirdlegsSquab leg on pancake at State Bird Provisions, named the James Beard Awards Best New Restaurant 2013.Nadine Kam photos

SAN FRANCISCO — Travel is a great barometer as to where Hawaii stands in the culinary scene, and while the food in our state has improved greatly over the past two decades, there's no such thing as resting on laurels because excellence is a moving target.

I was in the San Francisco area, meeting up with relatives in Fremont for a wedding, so only had one night in the city for dinner and my options were Nopa or State Bird Provisions. Being a bit of a weirdo, I couldn't resist the audacity of the latter, which began life with the premise of serving up the state bird, the California quail, symbolic of hardiness and adaptability.

Now that's something you wouldn't see in Hawaii with the endangered nene!

I'm not that keen about eating small birds that are more bones than meat, so thankfully, the restaurant's chef-proprietors Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski moved on to other local, organic and well-crafted ingredients.

And yet ... the restaurant is known for its savory pancakes, so I ordered the confit squab short stack with maple vinegar and candy cap powder, and it was more than enough to change my mind about the appeal of small birds. It was only after polishing off the thigh that I looked down and realized they were still attached to the bird's gnarled claws!

That's the other thing about this place. I had to inhale my meal. As the nation's Best New Restaurant 2013, as deemed by the James Beard Awards committee, it's one of the Holy Grails of restaurants and therefore, I was told, impossible to get into. People must log onto the restaurant's website precisely at midnight 60 days before their desired reservation date to get a seat.statecartOrder off the menu or dim sum style, off carts and trays bearing many tempting delicacies, from single oysters and up. I really wanted the halibut and avocado atop a nori cracker, but I had to eat and run.

But, parsing the words on the restaurant's website, I learned that they do save room for walk-ins on a first-come basis, and I've never had trouble getting into popular restaurants. It helps to show up early as a single or couple, and be willing to dine at the bar.

The trouble came when a 15-minute rest turned into a three-hour snooze and I missed the 5:30 p.m. opening time. I got there at 6:30 and spotted a single opening at the bar, but they said that was spoken for. They did have a two-top available, but that meant eating and running in 45 minutes when the reserved party was due to arrive. Done!

Having got in, I thought that was easy enough, but later I was told walk-ins regularly wait in line two hours to get in.

If you're curious as to what goes into a restaurant worthy of being called the nation's best, great food is a given. Here, it's casual, and I would say not much different from dozens of great restaurants across the nation. But, restaurateurs also have to get the attention of jaded food writers who have "seen it all."

State Bird Provisions wins points with memorable service, delivering contemporary American cuisine dim sum style. Order off the menu to start, but don't pick up enough for your entire meal. It's worth waiting for waiters to appear with trays or pushing carts provisioned with amazing appetizers and ingredients starting at $2. The small plates command attention and there's nothing froufrou or "arranged" about them. The hearty ingredients are filling and I still marvel about the simple, delicious elegance of a salad of hearts of palm, avocado, yuba and tahini.

I started with three dishes, and it was hard to pass up smoked trout and avocado  dip served with chips. Unfortunately, with time flying by, I didn't have time to try the nori cracker topped with halibut and avocado, king salmon tartare with fermented turnips, or pork belly-blood orange salad. Maybe next time I'll make a real reservation.
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State Bird Provisions is in the Western Addition at 1529 Fillmore St., San Francisco. Open
5:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Call 415.795.1272.

statebirdroomIn addition to table seating, a bar on the right side of the restaurant overlooks the food prep.

 

statecrabSpicy Dungeness crab kimchi with yuba and smoked egg. Unfortunately, I think the kimchi flavors overwhelmed the sweet crab.

statebirdHearts of palm salad with avocado, pomelo and tahini-chili oil, $13. I rarely take food to go when I'm traveling, because there's always an abundance of restaurants to try, but this was worth doggie-bagging and it was just as delicious the morning after.

statechipsChips with smoked trout and avocado dip, $9.

stateplateOn my way out of the restaurant, I passed this artichoke, quinoa and chickpea tabouleh on a tray awaiting delivery.

 

Wake up to breakfast at Taco Bell

March 26th, 2014
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tacotobyToby Tamaye samples Taco Bell's new Waffle Taco filled with scrambled egg and sausage. There's also a bacon version. Nadine Kam photos

Taco Bell Hawaii stores are opening a lot earlier than usual with the launch of an all-new breakfast menu, the biggest roll-out for the brand, with 13 items geared especially toward commuters who need a quick, portable and affordable meal to start their day.

The national launch is March 27, but Hawaii Taco Bell fans could get a taste one day early at select drive-through Taco Bell locations as follows:

Honolulu: Beretania, Kalihi, McCully, Moanalua, Stadium Mall
East Honolulu: Hawaii Kai
North Oahu: Mililani, Wahiawa, Waipio
Leeward: Pearl City, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Waipahu, Waianae
Windward: Kaneohe
Kauai: Lihue
Maui: Kahului, Lahaina
Hawaii island: Kona, Puainako

For morning commuters, the cleanest of the new offerings is the Breakfast Burrito, with scrambled egg and meat (your choice of bacon or sausage patty) neatly folded into a large flour tortilla.

More specific to the brand are such original offerings as a Waffle Taco, with scrambled egg and your choice of bacon or sausage, enveloped in a waffle "shell." They recommend pancake syrup to go with the waffle, but you could also get salsa, ketchup or hot sauce to go with the savory filling.

A favorite during a media preview that took place March 25 was the A.M. Crunchwrap filled with scrambled egg, hash browns and one's choice of bacon, sausage patty or steak. When cooked just right, the hash browns deliver a crunch just as statisfying as that of "Candy Crunch."

For transparency, nutrition information is available at www.tacobell.com

Prices are affordable, at roughly $2.29 to $3.29.
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Select Taco Bell Hawaii drive-through locations is offering the breakfast items from 7 to 11 a.m. daily.

tacowaffleThe Waffle Taco is doused with syrup. Depending on your taste, salsa, hot sauce or ketchup will also work.

tacocrunchThe A.M. Crunchwrap was a favorite of tasters with its center of hash browns, scrambled egg and bacon. There are also sausage and steak options, priced from $2.99 to $3.29. You can also order desserts of Cinnabon Delights with soft frosting centers.

tacoburritoThe steak, scrambled egg and cheese-filled breakfast burrito, priced from $2.29 to $2.99.

Setting Stage for artwork

March 11th, 2014
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stagebwWorks by James Chiew grace the dining room at Stage. The Singapore photographer now makes his home in The Netherlands.Nadine Kam photos

The invitation was cryptic: "In preparation for its new production, Stage Restaurant will go dark for 3 days.  New sets and props will be introduced and placed in our newly inspired Front of House ..."

I had to see what that was about. As it turns out, March 6 was the preview of changes at Stage restaurant, marking the return of executive chef Ron De Guzman and a refreshed look highlighted by larger than life fashion portraits by James Chiew, Jean Raphael, Jordi Gomez and Maximillian Wiedmann.

It's been seven years since Stage opened in the Honolulu Design Center, and after "a long run of 3,100-plus successful performances since opening in 2007," owner Thomas Sorensen spoke of traveling through Europe and walking in Cologne, Germany, and being awestruck by the monumental photos he saw, and wanted to reproduce that feeling in his furniture galleries.

He said he had always envisioned the design center "as a place to come and dream and be inspired." He said he wanted a welcoming space in which people didn't feel pressured to buy something until the time is right.

Changes to the restaurant's menus will be introduced in the coming months to compliment the dining room's new colorblocked style.
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Stage Restaurant is on the second floor of the Honolulu Design Center,     1250 Kapiolani Blvd. Call 808.237.5429.

stagefishAct One: Hamachi sashimi topped with shoyu gelée, orange and wasabi tobiko, with wasabi paint and a salad of crispy radish and ponzu dressing.

stageFrom left, Honolulu Design Center owner Tomas Sorensen, Michele Henry, John Michael White and Qi Marie.

stagegrillAmuse bouche of grilled cheese and truffle sandwich, with dinner roll in the background.

stagescallopAct Two: Caramelized diver scallop over scallion rice cream, with cauliflower duo and caviar.

stagesorbetIntermezzo of wasabi-apple sorbet was a playful and delightful mix of fire and ice.

stagevuittonHow nice that Louis Vuitton's Patrick Gey and his wife Marisa were seated just in front of this work by Jean Raphael. When properly illuminated, drivers will be able to see these works from the street at night.

stageroomInside the dining room.

stagephoto"Mystery woman" with my favorite piece, also by James Chiew. (more…)

Hyatt Regency's SHOR launches Chef's Table

March 11th, 2014
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hyattjarAquarium in a mason jar at SHOR's Chef's Table at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa.Nadine Kam photos

SHOR American Seafood Grill in Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, hosted an introduction March 6 to its new Chef’s Table menu available Thursdays through Sundays, with reservations 48 hours in advance.

The exclusive event puts the services of chef Jake Andrews team at your service to create a five-course menu highlighted by fresh island ingredients purchased from the Hyatt's Thursday Farmers Market, downstairs in the Grand Atrium from 4  to 8 p.m. Five wines are also paired with the dishes and chef will discuss each course and selection throughout the meal.

The aim was to create something special for anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions when people are looking for a combination of memorable venue, food and company.

The cost is $500 for four people, and $150 for each additional person up to 12 people.  Reservations may be made by calling (808) 237-6145.

SHOR is known for offering sustainable seafood and shellfish, as well as beef from the Big Island and many other locally sourced ingredients.

This particular press event started with a handful of pupu at Japengo, before moving on to SHOR.
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SHOR American Seafood Grill is in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, 2424 Kalakaua Ave.

hshooterWe started out with a few appetizers at Japengo that are not on the regular menu, such as this seafood shooter with Kumamoto oyster.

hyattSpicy Singapore crab omelette.

hyattchipSalmon skin rice cracker topped with seafood salad.

hyattbeesAfter the warmup, we were able to visit the Hyatt's beehives, tended by Michael Kliks, owner of Manoa Honey Co. and president of the Hawai'i Beekeepers' Association. While we were safely behind glass, he pointed out the queen bee and didn't care how many times he got stung. Ouch!

hyatttableSHOR's Chef's Table is set in casual, fun style, as if you were setting up a spur-of-the-moment dinner party for friends at home.

hyattplatingJon Matsubara plates the ahi portion of the crudo dish, presented on brown paper in keeping with the casual vibe of the event.

hyattcrudoIsland crudo with smoked bonito and sesame granola. A dollop of avocado and wasabi gelato was added prior to serving. (more…)