Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Bozu's dozens of temptations

By
July 27th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Beef in a decadent (and telegenic) appetizer of mountain yam and sea urchin beef roll (currently $15.75 for three) at the newly open Bozu Japanese Restaurant at McCully Shopping Center was rather chewy, but if you're the type who swallows your sushi in one gulp, this should pose no problem. The leaf is shiso. The dab of green on top is wasabi.

Hoshi Katsu has stepped out of the kitchen of other Japanese restaurants around town, most notably Imanas Tei, to open Bozu Japanese Restaurant on the second floor at McCully Shopping Center, and there are a lot of foodies around town who are going to be happy that he did.

His izakaya is a joy, with many a jewel of a dish leaving me with a hunger to try what's next, and next. Portions are small, but mostly reasonable when shared. It's best to try it with at least three friends in tow so you can explore the range of hot-cold, seafood-meat, grill-saute, raw-cooked specialties.

Then there are the things that can't be shared, like chilled chawanmushi or crab miso soup. Get your own.

And, my best piece of advice is, keep your eyes open for what's going out to other tables. It's a little bit like "When Harry Met Sally." "I want what she's having," without the moaning. Chances are you'll see lots you want to try, even if you'd already filled your belly and it means booking your next reservation before walking out the door.

My full review is in the paper today. Here's a snapshot of dishes sampled:

TOP 3 DISHES

Chilled chawanmushi is a refreshing summer treat, with the flavors of the ocean, including bursts of salt from fresh ikura pearls. Currently $7.50 per glass, roughly about twice the size of a shot glass.

Slices of juicy, grilled black pork tontoro. You may need more than one of these $8 servings. Portions tend to be small here, which works for those who want to cover as much of the varied menu as possible.

Chicken liver mousse had us clamoring for more bread to scoop up every delicious bite.

LEAST FAVORITE

Tsukune, tare style, was tasty on the outside, but lacked flavor on the inside, though I appreciated the attempt to make it more interesting with a crunchy mince of lotus root inside.

A special of crab miso soup looked divine but the crab required too much hard work without enough of a payoff.

A crab mayo whitefish roll with avocado seemed promising but it was rather dry and fell

A crab mayo whitefish roll with avocado seemed promising but it was rather dry and fell apart. It was incongruously paired with tomato sauce.

THE REST

I have often mentioned how little I care for rice. What I do love are potatoes, and Bozu's tangy potato salad.

What's better than french fries? Fries sprinkled with garlic and housemade anchovy sauce. Not everyone will appreciate the fishiness, but I do. I wish someone here would make fish paste fried chicken the way it's done in Singapore. Yummers!

For others who don't care for rice, Bozu has a cucumber wrap, riceless "sushi" with a center of ahi, yellowtail, salmon, whitefish, cab and avocado. I loved the combination with crunch, but didn't photograph it. This is the house Bozu Roll with rice, and all of the above plus shrimp.

Chef/owner Hoshi Katsu at work, plating the masterpiece below. Sorry, I don't know what it was. A lot of things were going out to other tables after I ordered, on every occasion. Which is what I mean about wanting more every time you see a dish go by.

bozudisplay

Can anybody ever go wrong with hamachi kama?

A dish of fried chicken and eggplant is Bozu's nod to Chinese cuisine. The sauce was rather heavy and I liked the dish's crunchy zucchini best. It was unscathed by the sauce.

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Someone once told me they missed aku poke. So I decided to see what I was missing and try the aku tataki. Now I know why ahi is the fish of choice. The texture is better.

Mirugai kushiyaki was one of about 20 daily seafood specials. This was $5.75 per skewer.

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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.

Wagyu and Seafood Plazas need to step up their game

By
July 13th, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Wagyu striploin, pictured, and ribeye are among the best offerings at Wagyu Plaza, at a cost of $35/$20 for ribeye, and $32/$19 for striploin. This is the $19 portion. You can guestimate the size by the size of the lemon round and pat of butter. (It's smaller than you'd imagine from the photo.) I asked for medium rare but got well done because it continues to cook on the sizzling platter. It doesn't help much if you order rare. A friend ordered that on another occasion and it turned out well-done.

The idea of $45 steak in a food court setting was so audacious, it had to be good, real good to appeal to people more accustomed to paying closer to $10 or max $15 to eat in such an environment.

So, I had some hope that Vintage Cave's Wagyu Plaza and Seafood Plaza at the new Shirokiya Japan Village Walk would be able to bring some of the mystique and extravagance of the original, exclusive Vintage Cave restaurant to this high-concept food court.

Unfortunately, it doesn't. The only thing high-end about the plazas are their prices, starting at about $19 and running up to $45 in the center of a mass feeding frenzy.

Ugh, for what amounts to about $50 to $100 for two, there are a lot more pleasant places I would rather be, with a lot better food.

Food is one thing; untrained staff and lack of customer service is another. They did not consider that people might not finish and want a to-go container. They did not consider people might not be willing to hunt down drinks then bring them back to be rung up, and many other basics better executed by other outlets offering $8 food service.

My full review is in this week's Crave section. This is just a brief sampling.
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Shirokiya Japan Village Walk Wagyu and Seafood Plazas are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Wagyu katsu is $19 for 100 grams or 3-1/2 ounces, $32 for 200 grams). Even considering the smaller portion, it doesn't look as delicious as in the menu photo below, and is a big meh, not nearly as marbled and juicy as wagyu at other restaurants in town.

plaza meat

Pork katsu fared better.

Wafu burger was plain and undistinctive.

I was satisfied with a $22 tempura bowl with white rice (there's no other starch option). For the price, it included one piece of shrimp, white fish, a mixed fritter of scallops and chopped shrimp, and eel with the muddy taste of lake fish and catfish.

The saffron rice in a dish of paella from Seafood Plaza was delicious, but the shrimp was bland. Mussels and clams were decent. The dish did draw a lot of stares and comments of , "That looks so good," while I was eating. That's how close everyone passes by while you're dining.

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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.

Chefs pop up at Avenue's

By
July 12th, 2016



PHOTO BY SEAN MORRIS

Berkley Spivey, left, and Eddie Lopez, were in the kitchen at Avenue's Bar + Eatery for a one-night only Chef's Pop-up.

The restaurant pop-up invigorated the food scene beginning around five years ago, but as some of the more successful young chefpreneurs have moved into permanent spaces, it's been a little quiet on the pop-up scene.

So Avenue's Bar + Eatery shook things up a bit with the reunion of its executive chef Robert Paik, and his fellow Vintage Cave teammates and alum, Berkley Spivey and pastry chef Eddie Lopez.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Now in between gigs while waiting for Senia to open, pastry chef Eddie Lopez shared some of the beautiful tarts he's been baking on the side, during a preview event.

Lopez said it takes him only 15 minutes to layer the apples in his caramel apple tart, down from one hour when he started making them. He sells them through social media.

Now in between gigs, Spivey and Lopez said they missed the liveliness and "what will they do next?" excitement that marked the pop-up scene, and wanted to bring back some of that energy.

They were right about bringing the excitement because there were 200 on the wait list for their July 11 Chef's Pop-up event, hoping for a last-minute cancellation.

Spivey and Lopez presented four courses featuring ingredients and recipes that showcase their skill as chefs as well as a bit of personal inspiration, based on their roots.

Spivey grew up in the South, while Lopez grew up in Chicago, mindful of his Mexican heritage, and for guests, it was a treat to discover Lopez's work beyond pastry, as he presented a complex 32-ingredient mole served with grilled tako.

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Avenue's Bar + Eatery is at 3605 Waialae Ave. Call (808) 744-7567. Next up for the eatery is Whiskey Wednesday on the 13th. Visit avenuesbarandeatery.com for more information, or see my prior blog post at: takeabite.staradvertiserblogs.com/2016/07/02/boost-your-whiskey-iq-at-avenues/

Here's what was on the menu during the pop-up:

Snacks included zucchini sable and delicious smoked celery root macaron.

The first course was Spivey's Maui Cattle Co. cured beef ribeye carpaccio with buttery squid ink crumbled brioche, micro greens, horseradish, lime and mustard seeds.

Then Lopez presented octopus with burnt onion, black mole and cilantro like a work of abstract art. I could eat a tub of that mole!

Spivey's second dish was pork with variations of cabbage, including cabbage sauce, with white beans and brown butter.

Lopez's dessert comprised butter popcorn ice cream with dehydrated chocolate mousse and peanuts.

The presentation ended with mignardises of a pineapple gummy and strawberry-thyme shortbread cookie. I loved the combination of fruit and herb.

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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.

Boost your whiskey IQ at Avenue's

By
July 2nd, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Avenue's Bar + Eatery bar manager Joseph Arakawa has a lineup of whiskeys, ryes and bourbons he wants you to try.

Whiskey was once man's domain. No more. One more sign women are taking over the world is that whiskey's resurgence is being fueled by females.

It's no coincidence the new face of Jim Beam is Mila Kunis, when over the past few years stars like Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Christina Hendricks have also shared their affection for the spirit.

Since the 1990s, the number of female whiskey drinkers has increased from 15 to 37 percent, due in part to its sweet character, and in part to the allure of crashing the old boys' club, where whiskey has enjoyed a long-standing association with power as the drink of presidents, diplomats, the rich and the mighty.

Full-bodied whiskies are a match for pork.

At Avenue's Bar + Eatery, where chef Robert Paik and bar manager Joseph Arakawa are preparing to host "Whiskey Wednesday" beginning 5:30 p.m. July 13, Arakawa said, "Men love women who love whiskey," and it's no longer unusual to see men at the bar with a fruity drink while women imbibe heavier distilled spirits.

Arakawa will be offering a lineup of 18 American bourbons, whiskeys and ryes, detailing the differences among them while guests enjoy samples with tasting bites Paik created to accentuate the various grain content of the spirits.

Flights will start at $28 for 1/2-ounce pours of bourbon or rye, and $40 for six side-by-side tastings of both. An aged flight, "The Decades," will feature 10-year-old whiskeys.
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Avenue's Bar + Eatery is at 3605 Waialae Ave. Call 744-7567.

Taking his cue from the corn mash-based whiskey, Chef Paik will be baking up some fantastic cakey, griddle cornbread with a light bruléed crust.

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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.

Pastries hot out of the oven

By
July 1st, 2016



PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Neko pan is one of the delightful new pastry selections at the new BRUG Bakery at Ala Moana Center.

Pastry lovers can get more than their share of daily bread now that BRUG Bakery and Kai Coffee have opened new locations.

First up, since the closing of the Shirokiya store on the Diamond Head end of Ala Moana Center, BRUG is now a solo act, moving into the lower level mauka side of the center between Lupicia and the Sanrio store.

It opened its doors June 25, offering a range of sweet and savory options, including fruit danishes, ratatouille cake, sausage rolls and adorable neko pan, complete with bread tails.

The bakery also has plans to open at Pearlridge in November, followed by the addition of a downtown branch.
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BRUG Bakery is on the mauka side street level of Ala Moana Center, next to Lupicia. Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. Call 945-2200 or visit brugbakery.com.

The Japanese name for this pastry translates as "North Country," in honor of BRUG's Hokkaido roots. The foccaccia is topped with fresh local produce that BRUG Bakery Hawaii president Miho Choi said is evocative of the fresh produce Hokkaido is also known for.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^

SECOND SITE FOR KAI COFFEE

Bing cherry and honey ricotta soustenir from Kai Coffee.

Bing cherry and honey ricotta soustenir from Kai Coffee.

Once downtown, the bakery will find company. On the same day of Brug's opening, Kai Coffee opened the doors to its second location in downtown Honolulu's Arcade Building.

In addition to serving craft-brewed coffees ranging from cortados to lattes, the new café also marks the debut of a menu featuring Kai Coffee's own in-house baked goods, which produces dozens of savory and sweet pastries.

In addition to cafe basics such as croissants, scones and cakes, those hungry for a quick breakfast or lunch bite will find items such as banana bread and soustenirs—ciabatta and focaccia breads baked with toppings such as pastrami and onion, Black Forest ham and cheddar cheese, or baked fruit. A few salads and stew selections will round out the menu.

A sampling of peanut butter, honey and chocolate croissants.

Responsible for producing all these baked goods is Antonio Domingo who spent 26 years as executive pastry chef at the Hawaii Prince Hotel, while simultaneously working as a pastry chef at the Hilton Hawaiian Village 24 years, learning on the job after moving here from the Philippines.

"I always liked cooking and baking," he said, knowing it was unusual in the macho culture of the Philippines for a little boy to prefer helping his mom in the kitchen than playing outside.

Coffee love, inside the new Kai Coffee in downtown Honolulu.

Samples of Domingo's work were in abundance during a grand opening celebration ahead June 24, where it looked like a wedding day when local founders Samuel and Natalie Suiter cut into a congratulatory cake baked for the occasion. Only this time, it wasn't Natalie who got splattered by cake. Frosting flew around the room as Sam hacked away, saying, "I always wanted to do that."

Sam and Natalier Suiter made the grand opening celebration look like a wedding day as they cut the celebratory cake.

The couple opened the first Kai Coffee in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa two years ago to showcase the best Hawaii regional and international coffee.

Now with its own in-house bakery, what started as a coffee bar is well on it's way to becoming a full-fledged dining café.
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Kai Coffee's new location, at 207 S. King St., will be open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Call 537-3415 or visit kaicoffeehawaii.com.

A view of Kai Coffee from the street.


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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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