Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Fête draws a crowd downtown

April 14th, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Bacalao fritters served with a mild harissa aioli are among the highlights on the evening menu at Fête, the newest addition to the ever-growing Downtown food scene. Chicken liver mousse was another favorite.

I have eaten at so many poorly managed restaurants in the past year that I feel a little gun-shy when visiting an eatery for the first time. If I walked into a new establishment with no expectations in years past, I now walk in with skepticism.

A restaurant run by professionals has become a rarity as barriers to entry have been broken down by food trucks and popups, and so many who graduate to bricks and mortar appear to be winging it.

But, sitting down to dinner at downtown Honolulu’s newest restaurant, Fête, and speedily plied with greetings, menus, ordered drinks and pupu in spite of the full house, I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes! Obviously, professionals at work, and diners are responding. Barely a month old, it's packed, making reservations a must.

Even though Fête is a first-time effort from the husband-and-wife team of Chuck Bussler, who serves as general manager, and Robynne Maii, executive chef, the two have lengthy backgrounds in food service.

Maii’s extensive culinary métier starts with such local restaurants as 3660 on the Rise and Padovani’s Grill, leading to New York’s Waldorf Astoria. She’s also been an educator and worked for Gourmet magazine as a research assistant and "Truth in Labeling" columnist. The couple met in New York, where Bussler worked at several restaurants over time, including Savoy, Blue Hill and Prune.

PHOTOS BY CRAIG T. KOJIMA / ckojima@staradvertiser.com

I’m already a sucker for Chinatown’s brick walls and picture window storefronts, but the additions bring warmth and a modern sophisticated grace to the early 20th century space. It’s a restaurant that could fit in easily in San Francisco’s or Brooklyn’s food scene, but we’re the lucky ones.

Bussler, who also worked with “Top Chef’s” Hugh Acheson to open 5&10 in Athens, Ga., designed Féte’s interior, which included tasking local artists to create glass lighting fixtures, a living wall and other unique details.

Fête’s artisanal menu is short and sweet to keep service manageable for the kitchen. In spite of its brevity, there’s no shortage of good ideas, so you’ll probably be hungering for all 11 lunch dishes and 16 dinner items, plus a handful of sides and desserts. This is a place where it’s just as pleasant ordering a few small grazing bites before a night at Hawaii Theatre, as it is sitting down for a full meal.

The bar is similarly curated with a handful of old-fashioned cocktails, predominantly local craft beers, and an eclectic roster of small production wines from around the globe.

At the bar, Mari Maffioli created a Clover Club cockktail, that includes Brooklyn Gin, a shout-out to the city the owners' once called home.

Owner Chuck Bussler takes a hands-on approach in running the restaurant, and to date, the staff has been equally capable. This should be a given, but alas, so rare in this town.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Marinated olives accented with orange zest was a delicious amuse bouche. I could have eaten these all night.

There wasn't enough foie gras to be satisfying in a foie gras gyoza appetizer.

Kabocha squash risotto (recently, $23) isn't very sexy, but delivers a healthier take on the rice dish, with curly kale and shiitake, shimeji and maitake mushrooms that also give the dish texture.

Maii shows her Korean heritage with a dish of grilled kalbi-marinated bavette ($28), the steak flavored with a mild touch of kochujang sauce and layered over flavorful fernbraken and mungbean sprout fried rice. The dish is topped by an overeasy egg and cucumber namul.

If you can get past an unusually hard shell, you might enjoy the juiciness of Fetê's fried chicken. I think a lot of people would appreciate a change in the batter.

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Fête is at 2 N. Hotel St. (corner of Nuuanu Avenue). Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays, and 5 to 11 p.m. Saturdays. Call (808) 369-1390.

Exciting things cooking on Maui

April 6th, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Rosemary panna cotta with kumquat marmalade and chocolate bark dessert at Hana Ranch Provisions in Paia.

On Oahu, it's easy to develop a myopic view of the Hawaii dining scene, putting Honolulu at the center of the universe in terms of progressive ideas.

But on Maui, where resort restaurants have received the most attention in mainstream media, the food scene is being transformed by a new generation of chefs and collaborators.

Earlier, I popped into a Wailuku popup presented by Rua Catering.

A followup visit found "Top Chef Seattle" fan favorite Sheldon Simeon putting the finishing touches on his new Tin Roof restaurant in Kahului, which opened Monday.

When I was on Maui a few weeks ago, Sheldon Simeon was putting the finishing touches on his new Tin Roof eatery in Kahului.

In the spot that was formerly home to Ko Ko Ichiban Ya, Simeon said he hated to see another mom-and-pop close, "so this is the next generation mom-and-pop," he said. "I hope it'll be a hang-out spot for everyone."

Much more casual than what he had been offering at Migrant, a sample menu included rice bowls, poke bowls, ramen and "kau kau tins" of such local favorites as mochiko chicken, garlic shrimp and chop steak.

Customers will be able to dine in at communal tables or pick up food to go. He also plans to create Chef's Table events that will seat 12.

The setting at Mill House Restaurant on the grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu.

Next up, a peek at the new Mill House restaurant on the grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu, on the day of its grand opening celebration, March 17.

Housed in the plantation's former banquet hall, the restaurant and surrounding grounds and farm are envisioned as the hub of an ambitious development plan that will include several residences.

On the lunch menu there were small plates of root vegetables sourced from the plantation's own farmland, gnocchi ragu, and a range of burgers and sandwiches.

But what I loved most were desserts of "Milk and Honey" olive oil cake and chili-spiced doughnuts with thick chocolate cremeaux.

A coffee-roasted beet salad at Mill House Restaurant.

But the main attraction on that day was a drive to Paia to visit Hana Ranch Provisions, a sustainable restaurant started by Hana Ranch as an experimental key to survival in the 21st century as the ranch moves beyond the commodity business into value-added pursuits.

You can read all about it in our new Crave food section that launches today. Here are the links:

Review: staradvertiser.com/food/simple-local-fare-stars-at-hana-restaurant/
Some background: staradvertiser.com/food/hana-ranch-enlists-help-to-pursue-sustainability/

Forget all that you imagine a sustainable restaurant is. The vibe is more sophisticated than rustic, but it's nevertheless a place that embraces a philosophy of honoring the work of farmers and food producers, respecting nature, and eating food that is certified organic, sustainable and nurturing for body and soul. If successful, the venture could serve as a template for other farmers across the globe.

Hana Ranch Provisions is at 71 Baldwin Ave., Paia, Maui. Daily hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Its to-go shop offers coffee and pastries from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily. Call (808) 868-3688.

Here's a look:

Your destination.

Pickled vegetables are among the value-added products produced by Hana Ranch.

Great bread is hard to find in Hawaii, and here it's well worth the $5.50 for a bowl of crusty, tender-crumbed house-baked bread served with fresh-churned cultured butter sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt.

A curry kabocha squash soup ($11.50/$12) warms the heart with its creamy texture and a balance of natural sweetness and touch of spice. It's topped with an ulu chip, pipitas and a drizzle of cilantro oil.

The menu changes with the seasons and availability of ingredients. This wonderful beet carpaccio ($14 day/$14.50 evenings) featured yellow striped Chioggia beets sliced as thin as sashimi and was just as satisfying in their silkiness. Topped with mustard greens and dill, then accented with the sweetness of sliced kumquats. A great introduction to farm freshness.

More salads are available, but you're likely to get your day's ration of vegetables no matter what you order, even with Vietnamese beef meatballs ($15) seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass and chili peppers, served over a Thai-style salad of green papaya slaw, graced with chopped peanuts, cilantro and basil leaves.

Both lunch and dinner menus feature the restaurant's signature Hana burger ($16/$16.50) made with Hana Ranch grass-fed beef, and served on ulu brioche that is comparable to a pretzel bun. The juicy burger is finished with caramelized onions, lettuce, cheddar and horseradish aioli, with more greens on the side.

Kauai shrimp tagliatelle ($32) is a simple, satisfying dish, with the shellfish beautifully arranged, heads on but otherwise shelled—the best of both worlds—over the housemade pasta, all tossed with a Hawaiian chile-spiced tomato sauce.

My favorite dish during a dinner visit was the seared ahi ($35). Again, not a typical favorite because many restaurants also overdo the searing so the ahi often ends up cooked through. Here, the ahi is in block form so stays rare inside. The blocks are arranged with stalks of Kula cauliflower around a bed of braised chicories topped with a soft-poached egg. Every bite felt like magic.

Samples of Magnolia Bakery chocolate banana pudding await

March 31st, 2016
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PHOTO BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Magnolia Bakery's chocolate banana pudding debuts tomorrow, with free samples while supplies last at the Ala Moana Center shop, no foolin'.

Fans of Magnolia Bakery's classic banana pudding will find a new treat awaits on April Fool's Day. A new chocolate version features layers of chocolate pudding, OREO wafers, banana slices and chocolate shavings.

The chocolate banana pudding launched earlier this month at Magnolia Bakery locations in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicaco, and to mark its arrival in Hawaii, the Ala Moana Center Ewa Wing bakery kiosk will be offering free samples April 1 to 3, while supplies last.

The chocolate banana pudding will be available at the bakery café in small ($3.50), medium ($5), large ($6.50) and 64-ounce party bowls ($35). For more information, call (808) 942-4132.

Kiosk hours are 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Cafe hours are 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Hula Grill shows its support for farms and the community

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

Makaweli Ranch tenderloin tartare with pickled ho'io, pecorino, Ululoa amaranth and truffle was my favorite dish of the evening at the "Hula Grill Digs Farmers" farm-to-table event, paired with Ocean Vodka.

Hula Grill Waikiki paid tribute to Hawaii’s ranchers and paniolo during "Hula Grill Digs Farmers," a farm-to-table event that took place at the restaurant on March 23.

Chef Matt Young's menu highlighted the Kauai-based Makaweli Meat Co., with five stations offering food and drink pairings at $65 per person.

A portion of ticket sale proceeds will be donated to the Royal Order of Kamehameha, which supports the Paʻu Riders of the King Kamehameha Floral Parade. June 11, 2016, marks the 100th anniversary of the parade that will begin at Iolani Palace and continue down Kalakaua Avenue to concludes at the Waikiki Bandstand.

Guests included several pa'u riders, including pa'u queen Gayle Fujita Ramsey.

The event is part of Hula Grill’s charitable Legacy of Aloha program, supporting local non-profit organizations that foster sustainability in our communities and/or preserve the Hawaiian culture and the culinary arts.

The view from Hula Grill.

For this paniolo-themed event, even the Lanikai Brewing Co. bottles dressed for the occasion. Excuse the spelling of "paniolo" on the inset caption. I was playing with Snapchat and the booboos are impossible to fix!

A snap of Ocean organic vodka. I promise to get a stylus so my handwriting is better!

A different kind of loco moco, made with burger topped with roasted Hamakua mushroom and bordelaise sauce, with 146-degree poached Ka Lei egg and rosemary arancini. Paired with Deep Island Hawaiian Rum.

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Red curry-marinated Makaweli skirt steak was accompanied by coconut-braised taro, Ho Farms cherry tomatoes, and toasted peanuts. Pairing: Lanikai Brewing Co. Imperial Red Ale with Ginger.

Niihau lamb ragu with handmade pappardelle, tomatoes, melted leeks and Naked Cow Dairy feta. Pairing: Lanikai Brewing Co. Pillbox Porter.

Dessert came in a paper bag, accompanied by a Lanikai Brewing Co. Haupia Imperial Stout and Okole Maluna chocolate gelato milkshake. I promise to get a stylus so my handwriting is better.

hula bag2

'Libations' toasts Moana's 115th

March 23rd, 2016
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HISTORIC PHOTOS COURTESY MOANA SURFRIDER, A WESTIN RESORT & SPA

The Moana Hotel after its completion in 1901.

The Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, celebrated 115 years since its opening on March 11, 1901, with a March 11 concert by Makana on the Banyan Courtyard stage, where guests have been entertained for more than 100 years.

And, taking place on the Diamond Lawn that night, a peek at the hotel's future with an enhanced edition of "LOL: Love of Libations," with food and drink pairings by the Beach Bar at the Moana Surfrider, RumFire from the Sheraton Waikiki, Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop, The Pig and the Lady, Koko Head Café, MW Restaurant, MAC 24-7 and Square Barrels. Part of the proceeds from the event will benefit the Life Foundation Hawaii Chapter.

Gathering around the Moana's banyan tree in the early 20th century.

Gathering around the Moana's banyan tree in the early 20th century.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Party 2016 style, during "Love of Libations" on the Diamond Lawn.

In a friendly competition among participants, with guests voting by dropping one coin each for their pick of best dish and best drink, Koko Head Cafe's lemongrass pork, by chef Lee Anne Wong was voted as best dish, and "Ode to 1989" from Jesse Suderman from Beach Bar at the Moana, won the best cocktail honor.

“Ode to 1989” toasts the year the Moana Surfrider reopened after a renovation project. The cocktail will continue to be offered for $12 at the Beach Bar, and is similar to Moana Sands, a signature cocktail that was served in 1989.

The Moana's Beachhouse restaurant will continue to offer, through the end of the month, a $115 Birthday Dinner Special for two that includes a baby romaine Caesar salad and a wagyu tomahawk steak with the choice of two side dishes.

Koko Head Cafe chef Lee Anne Wong's lemongrass pork belly was named best dish via the evening's popular vote.

On the drink side, Koko Head Cafe served up a light and refreshing Moana 2.0 Ocean Vodka cocktail.

The Beach Bar's "Ode to 1989" cocktail earned best drink honors by popular vote. Based on the hotel's 1989 Moana Sands cocktail, it's made with Ocean Vodka and modeled after a piña colada.

The Beach Bar's food offering was a crowd-pleasing poke of ahi, hamachi, salmon and ikura, with crispy ogo and spiced guacamole.

Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop's 40-hour sous vide shortribs over aged cheddar grits with red eye gravy, and below, the restaurant's kim chee bloody Mary.

lol bloody

MAC 24/7's Ocean vodka-cured kiawe hamachi with ginger-lime vodka quinoa, fried shallots, micro shiso and vodka popcorn glaze.

Vodka tom yum sauce in pipettes that accompanied MAC 24/7's dish, which I thought was the most inspired of the evening.

Square Barrels was serving up a Bishop Sunset cocktail of Ocean Vodka, California Common, Aperol, simple syrup and lemon juice with mint and grape accent.

MW Restaurant's poisson cru-inspired coconut ceviche.

MW Restaurant's poisson cru-inspired coconut ceviche.

Also marking the anniversary, the Moana Lani Spa is offering a 45-minute $115 “Birthday Special” treatment that includes a macadamia nut scalp treatment with additional focus on the neck and shoulders, followed by a warm stone foot massage. The “First Lady of Waikiki” package includes a head-to-toe experience with an express hydra facial, pedicure, shampoo, style and champagne for $240. Reserve at (808) 237-2535.

Sometimes referred to as The First Lady of Waikiki, the hotel was built with an investment of $150,000 and well-heeled guests at the time paid $1.50 per night for a room.

To mark the anniversary, guests who stay at the Moana Surfrider at least four nights will get the last night at $115. Guests who book this package will also receive a $115 resort credit (applicable toward dining or spa services), as well as a welcome basket with a Moana Surfrider historical book and other gifts. The package is good through Dec. 25. To book, visit moana-surfrider.com and book rate plan 115AN. Or, call the hotel at (808) 922-3111.

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