Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Beyond burgers at The Counter

May 27th, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Korean BBQ steak fills one of the new sandwiches at The Counter, and it is da bomb!

If you haven't been to The Counter Custom Burgers in a while, it may be time for another visit. The Kahala Mall restaurant specializing in create-your-own burgers has launched a new menu that includes a handful of options to the beef burger, just because many diners want a little more variety in their lives.

New protein options on the create-your-own burger menu include a jumbo lump crabcake, Southern fried chicken and Korean BBQ grilled skirt steak that's a new favorite of mine. In chef Matthew Lindblom's hands, it's true to local expectations. Order these your way with your pick of dozens of toppings and sauces, or order it their way as described in the photos below.

Also new are:

WTF ("Why the Face" sandwich): A ground turkey patty is topped with provolone, applewood-smoked bacon, pickles, and house mustard on a Hawaiian bun, accompanied by salt &and vinegar kettle chips. Currently $12.50.

Crab Encounter: a jumbo lump crab cake sits atop a salad of organic mixed greens, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, applewood-smoked bacon, scallions and chopped egg, with honey dijon dressing.

Loaded tots:

The Counter's loaded tots are rolled in pimento cheese with bits of applewood smoked bacon, sprinkled with green onions and served with buttermilk ranch sauce.

And, although alcohol is served here, it's still a kid-friendly place, with an activity book and crayons for little ones with excess energy.
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The Counter Custom Burgers is at Kahala Mall, 4211 Waialae Ave. Call 739-5100.

Following the flirtation with Korea, it's back to the U.S. and Southern inspiration with this buttermilk-brined fried chicken sandwich with jalapeño jack, coleslaw, fresh jalapeños, and honey dijon on a brioche bun. Recently, $14.

The "Bison & Brie" salad is great for carnivores who want to balance their meat-eating habit with greens once in a while. The brie blankets the organic bison patty that sits atop a kale salad with accents of carrots, cranberries and jalapeño slices.

The "Holy Crab" sandwich comprises a thick housemade crabcake topped with jalapeño jack, tomatoes, pickles, coleslaw, sliced jalapeños and housemade Thousand Island dressing on a sweet Hawaiian bun. Recently, $17.

There's more than one way to drink in one of The Counter's shakes. Brandon Maxwell tackles the "Birthday Cake" that includes confetti cake mix and rainbow sprinkles. Other options include the "Pineapple Upside Down," "Caramel Java Malt," "Apple Crumble" or "Nutella & Salted Pretzel." Spiked shakes are also available, or just make your own from their roster of ingredients.

OLDER FAVORITES

Housemade fried dill pickles are served with apricot sauce, but for those who don't do sweet-sour, request the ranch.

There's a nice spice to grilled wings drenched in a sweet Sriracha sauce, then served with celery and a Sriracha dipping sauce that really isn't necessary. There's plenty of flavor in the wings. There's also a standard Buffalo-style option.

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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.

Arancino at The Kahala makes 3

May 26th, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Arancino at The Kahala adds a charcuterie platter, Affetato Misto, to its new menu marking its third anniversary at The Kahala Hotel, to be offered beginning June 1. The platter features bresaola, coppa, prosciutto di Parma, salamino piccante, mortadella, Parmigiano Reggianno and coccoli, or bread dough fritters.

Arancino at The Kahala is entering its third year with the introduction of a new menu beginning June 1. The menu includes new dishes and three degustation menus, priced at $60, $90 and $120. Prices with wine pairings are $84, $123 and $160.

The $60 Menu Selezione starts with a lobster bisque, followed by a choice of Caesar or caprese salad, then a choice of one of three primi dishes: Tagliolini al Ricci di Mare, uni pasta with a white wine-garlic-tomato cream sauce; wagyu Bolognese with housemade pappardelle; or housemade orecchiette with sun-dried tomatoes, broccolini and garlic olive oil.

On the high end, the menu features caviar, followed by crudités and bagna cauda, carpaccio di manzo of A5 Miyazaki wagyu, and delectable raviolone alla fonduta con tartufo fresco, a decadent ravioli with fontina and a center of creamy egg yolk, topped with truffles and a light butter sauce. These dishes are followed by grilled branzino and sous vide beef tenderloin with foie gras and truffle mashed potatoes, fried maitake and truffle sauce.

I swoon over chef Hamamoto's ravioli with creamy egg yolk center, fontina, truffles and butter sauce. Heaven on a plate!

I swoon over chef Hamamoto's ravioli with creamy egg yolk center, fontina, truffles and butter sauce. Heaven on a plate!

The restaurant had its soft opening at The Kahala Hotel in 2013, followed by official opening date June 18. It initially offered a luxury tasting menu experience that evolved to include several a la carte dishes to give guests much more variety over repeat visits.

In addition to the set menus, the menu now features 34 a la carte selections ranging from pastas to pizzas, plus satisfying entrées ranging from the seafood stew caciucco, to sous vide beef tenderloin, Colorado lamb, A5 Miyazaki wagyu sirloin and pork loin.

The wagyu as served here is exceptional, but I've always had it cooked, never as carpaccio, and during a media tasting I basically inhaled the carpaccio di manzo. Buttery soft, the raw wagyu nearly melts on the tongue. A must for any visit.

Among the stars of the new offerings is the salt-crusted whole branzino for two. For $58, the fish is presented in its salt crust at the table, where it is cut open and the fish served in the form of two fillets accompanied by rosemary potatoes, lemon and herb topping.

And a charcuterie platter of Affetato Misto (at top of page) manages to be a picture- and palate-perfect intro for any meal.
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Arancino at The Kahala is at The Kahala Hotel, 5000 Kahala Ave. Call 380-4400.

Here's a look at more dishes on the new menu:

Carpaccio di Manzo comprises thin-sliced raw Miyazaki wagyu topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, arugula and olive oil-lemon dressing.

Trofie al Pesto Genovese combines the housemade twisted pasta with slices of potato, haricots verts and Nalo Farms basil pesto.

Baked Pesce al Sale, a salt-crusted whole branzino, is presented at the table before being opened and individually plated.

Chef Daisuke Hamamoto presents a serving of the moist and tender branzino, served with rosemary potatoes, herb topping and lemon.

Dessert of a passionfruit-mascarpone cheesecake is topped with citrus sorbetto and candy brittle with accents of silver leaf.

Another view of dessert that reminded me of a kokeshi doll.


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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.

One-woman show at Sara's

May 25th, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Chili pepper lovers can test their endurance with Sara's Cafe's spicy fried chicken wings. The bits of red and yellow are Thai chilis and their seeds in a honeyed shell. Don't even try this if you can't drink in something as mild as Sriracha.

Korean women have a reputation for toughness, and some prove it by being masters of their domain in the restaurant biz. It's a difficult enterprise even when many hands are involved, yet these strong women are willing to go it alone.

Those who miss the Angry Korean Lady behind Ah-Lang, who's now on hiatus, might try heading to Sara's Cafe. There, Sara Kim is similarly a one-woman act, doing all the cooking, waitressing and cleanup. (Now that she knows my newspaper column is coming out, she may call on some extra hands and see how it goes.)

But, unlike Angry Korean Lady, Kim is quite the opposite, doing her best to be accommodating. If she seems to ignore you when you walk in, it's just because she's juggling dozens of other details. It's not only in-house customers who need tending. There are also phone and take-out orders to deal with.

Their cooking styles also differ, with Kim providing more casual, simple home-style Korean dishes, along with the comfort of knowing you won't get yelled at. Whew!

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Sara's Cafe is at 1551 S Beretania St., on the ground level of the Kualana Hale senior housing building. Call 955-1353. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, and 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Look for these street signs on Beretania Street, on the ground level of the Kualana Hale senior housing building.

Look for these street signs on Beretania Street, on the ground level of the Kualana Hale senior housing building.

The living room ambience has the feel of being at your aunty's house.

The living room ambience has the feel of being at your aunty's house.

Sara Kim rules the kitchen.

TOP 3

Here are my top three dishes. Keep in mind that my personal biases have no bearing on these choices that I think best reflect the restaurant's strengths. For instance, I love Korean spicy pork, but it's not a dish that defines this restaurant:

No. 1
The spicy fried chicken wings at the top of the page. Sorry some of you will not be able to withstand the heat.

No. 2
(Tie) Depending on your preference for seafood or veggies, a soft egg-y texture, or crisp flour-based pancake.

Among Sara's specialties are her pajeon, scallion pancakes, including this seafood version. Killer with accompanying sauce of vinegar, shoyu, Thai chilies and pickled onions.

In contrast to the egg-y seafood pajeon, a kim chee pancake had a beautiful crisp finish.

No. 3

Sara's kalbi looks like typical teriyaki-style shortribs, but the sauce is Korean, with shoyu and plenty of chopped onions lending natural sweetness to the sauce.

MORE DISHES

Banchan is limited here, but requests for seconds, and thirds of the zucchini jun were accommodated.

Kim prepares Korean home-style cuisine, but how many people make sone pot bi bim bap at home?. A real treat.

Home-style sautéed garlic shrimp is served with lettuce topped with Caesar dressing.

Korean-style hamburger steak is not hamburger as we know it, but a lighter combo of beef, pork and tofu dipped in egg batter.

A comforting pot of soondubu.

Spicy pork with gochujang sauce.

Shrimp fried rice didn't have much shrimp in it, but was still enjoyable, and a great accompaniment to all the meat on the menu.

I ordered half portions of meat jun and spicy squid that turned out to be least favorites. Some might appreciate the generous slices of ribeye, but it was too chewy, and there was little dimension to the squid. It would be fine for non-tasters.

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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.

Titus Chan still a booster for Chinese cuisine

May 23rd, 2016
By



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Lobster with mochi rice steamed a lotus leaf bowl was among the highlights of a dinner presented at Jade Dynasty by hosts Titus Chan and Kimo Wong.

Once an educator, always an educator. People 40 and older may remember Titus Chan as one of the original television chefs, right up there with "The French Chef" Julia Child, and "The Galloping Gourmet" Graham Kerr.

But few know Chan was a math instructor before finding TV stardom in 1972, when "Cooking the Chan-ese Way" debuted on KHET, followed by a national PBS release in 1973, introducing the art of Chinese cooking to 200 public television stations across the United States.

It was a combination of ease with instruction and being in front of the cameras, as well as his knowledge of Chinese cooking that got him the gig, and more than 40 years after starting to educate people in the "Chan-ese" way of cooking, he's still a proponent of learning more about Chinese cuisine.

One of the origiinal celebrity TV chefs, Titus Chan.

A frequenter of Chinese restaurants, he says he feels he hasn't done his job when he sees people going to the restaurants and ordering the same old, like beef broccoli and sweet-sour pork, when Chinese fare has evolved so much over the decades.

To prove his point, he teamed up with Kimo Wong to host a nine-course dinner at Jade Dynasty Restaurant, showcasing options beyond beef broccoli, in hope that of encouraging people to step outside their comfort zone and perhaps try one new dish at a time.

Now that it's graduation season, most of these festive dishes can be prepared with 24 hours notice.

In addition, the restaurant in the fourth-level Ho'okipa Terrace offers dim sum offerings during the day, mirroring the latest innovations in Hong Kong and China. Call 947-8818 for reservations or information.

The big reveal for the the lobster on mochi rice: www.instagram.com/p/BFidVuPva7a/

Jade Dynasty owners Alan and Sylvia Ho with Bank of Hawaii VP Kimo Wong and Titus Chan.

The first course of crisp, juicy pork in egg crepes, and garlic-marinated cucumbers (also plated below), arrived on this lighted vessel.

jade start

Steamed whole wintermelon soup arrived looking like a flower in bloom or burst of fireworks, with the rim of the melon lined with crab meat.

A baked Pacific oyster was topped with shrimp, scallop, spinach and a Portuguese-style curry sauce.

Peking duck and bun.

Crispy Peking duck skin and bun.

The duck meat was presented in lettuce cups.

Sweet, tea-smoked tiger prawns was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.

Braised pork ribs were presented for viewing before being taken back to the kitchen for shredding for individually portioned buns, below.

jade pork bun

Housemade silken tofu was ladled into bowls with ginger nectar for dessert.

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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.