Archive for the ‘Fine dining’ Category

Taste of Tuscany at Halekulani

February 23rd, 2016
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PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Osteria Di Passignano executive chef Nicola Damiani, right, and sous chef Nearco Boninsegni enjoy conversing with guests following their "Evening with Osteria di Passignano" dinner at the Halekulani.

Halekulani welcomed Osteria Di Passignano’s Michelin-star executive chef Nicola Damiani and sous chef Nearco Boninsegni for a taste of Tuscany at the Hau Terrace on Feb. 19.

Osteria di Passignano is housed in the Abbey of Passignano within the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. The monastery dates back to 395, when it was established by the archbishop of Florence, and it is still inhabited by monks of the Vallombrosian Order.

The restaurant is relatively young, founded in 2000 by Marcello Crini, a connoisseur of Tuscan cuisine and wine culture; and Allegra Antinori, whose family owns the vineyards around the Abbey, from which the Chianti Classico Reserve wine “Badia a Passignano” is produced, and which is aged in the cellars beneath the monastery.

"An Evening with Osteria di Passignano" highlighted Damiani's cuisine paired with Antinori wines.

PHOTO BY ALESSANDRO MOGGI A long way from home, this is a look at the interior of Osteria Di Passignano, housed in a more than 1,600-year-old Tuscan abbey.

PHOTO BY ALESSANDRO MOGGI

A long way from home, this is a look at the interior of Osteria Di Passignano, housed in a 1,600-year-old Tuscan abbey.

Transported across both Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and in an environment of coconut trees and sand instead of 1,600-year-old stone, we experienced the delicacy of the chefs' work, and assumed they brought some of their own specially ground flour for pillowy gnocchi and other dishes. But no, they used only ingredients sourced from here, once again dashing the myth that some Hawaii chefs try to perpetuate, that they are limited by climate (baking) and ingredients available to them. Oh no, no. After savoring beautiful, light tomato sauces made from local tomatoes that the chefs say are sweeter than ones back home, no one can use that excuse with me anymore.

I was particularly captivated by cacciucco accented with thin ribbons of cuttlefish, or ika, noodles, and asked Boninsegni how they're made. It turns out to be an eight hour process that starts with a good cleaning, sous vide cooking, freezing and shaving the frozen ika with a mandoline. The seafood "pasta" is then rolled up to prevent curling of the edges. The texture was amazing.

Here's what was on the menu:

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Redfish cacciucco with cuttlefish tagliatelle and crispy quinoa. Paired with Tenuta Guado al Tasso, Vermentino Bolgheri D.O.C. 2014.

Heavenly lemon-scented potato gnocchi with fennel, squid and clams. Pairing: Castello Della Sala, Cervaro Della Sala 2012.

Wine and roses. The Cervara. Look at them legs!

Fresh pasta tortelli stuffed with pappa al pomodoro over basil sauce. Pairing: Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. "Gran Selezione" 2009.

By the time the breaded veal sirloin arrived, over red pepper fondant with eggplant and zucchini, I was full, but really didn't want the meal to end. Pairing: Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri 2010 and Marchesi Antinori Solaia 2012. I liked the Solaia best in this matchup.

By the time the breaded veal sirloin arrived, over red pepper fondant with eggplant and zucchini, I was full, but really didn't want the meal to end. Pairing: Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri 2010 and Marchesi Antinori Solaia 2012. I liked the Solaia best in this matchup.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Dessert of chocolate clafoutis was paired with Tenuta Marchesi Antinori, Vinsanto del Chianti Classico D.O.C. 2010.

W

When the mignardises arrived, a tablemate said he knew which one I would pick. I was like, "You don't know." So he said he would write it down and darn he was right! I'm not telling you so you can guess too and I might fill you in on a later date.

After dinner, the empties.

First course: Plenty to savor at Sushi Ginza Onodera

February 12th, 2014
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onoyellowSushi of yellowtail that was marinated five hours in a light blend of soy sauce, shiitake, mirin and sake and lightly seared. Topped with daikon and aged negi. True bliss, at Sushi Ginza Onodera.Nadine Kam photos

Honolulu has always been a great city for sushi lovers because of our access to great catch and resulting numbers of sushi bars. But Sushi Ginza Onodera is a game-changer in this town because nothing else is comparable. Sushi here is exceptional, accented here and there with a bit of yuzu, ginger, seasoned salt or a brushstroke of soy sauce and fresh grated wasabi to bring out the seafood's best attributes.

For that, you'll pay a price. Onodera's omakase meals are set at $160, $200 and $250. For $160, you get one appetizer and 13 pieces of nigiri sushi. The $200 menu features four appetizers and about 11 pieces of sushi. For $250, you get five appetizers and about 13 pieces of sushi. The $200 menu seemed like a happy medium for the variety of appetizers that are subject to change on a daily, seasonal basis. On the plus side, as in Japan, you don't have to pay a gratuity.

The experience could prove to be a life changer as well. For myself:

Fallacy No. 1: I would rather spend money on fashion than food. Most of us are not millionaires, so we make sacrifices to acquire and do the things we want, whether to travel, take classes, dine out or acquire the latest shoe or handbag. To eat here again, friends tell me I have to sacrifice buying one new handbag, and I find myself willing to do just that.

Fallacy No. 2: I don’t like uni. My late husband loved uni, so it was great when we ordered nigiri sets. He could claim the one piece that I wanted no part of. He often urged me to try it, and I would take a nibble. I never changed my mind. It was always too strong and pungent to be palatable. After trying it in Tokyo last year, I realized not all uni is created equally. There, it was mild and sweet. A local fisherman friend suggested it may be because of the urchins' diet. The purple and bafun uni here are also sweet and creamy, both with distinctive flavor. I ate up every single bit of both, and may have finally become a true believer.

Here is an array from the $200 omakase:

onoyamAmuse: Yamaimo with a touch of soy sauce, okra and shaved bonito, over a layer of delicate cucumber froth.

The appetizers:

onosashimiSashimi of sea bass and yellowtail, marinated as sushi at top.

onoappWhole, thumb-size firefly squid from Kyoga prefecture, Japan, and steamed Big Island abalone at its most delicious, sweet and tender. With fresh grated wasabi.

onosacWaxy shirako, or cod sperm sac with a pinch of scallop-shiitake salt.

onocrabHokkaido hairy crab chawanmushi.

The nigiri+:

ononigiriBig-eye tuna and gizzard shad. (more…)

New menu at Oahu Country Club

July 9th, 2013
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Nadine Kam photos
Roasted New Zealand chazuke with steamed rice, baby bok choy, bubu arare, nori, and dashi being poured.

Oahu Country Club recently debuted a new lunch menu, and I had the opportunity to sample a few dishes during a meeting of the Bon Ton Girls June 19. I've been an honorary member since writing a story about them in 2008: http://archives.starbulletin.com/2008/05/29/features/story01.html

The women worked together at downtown's Bon Ton and Bon Marche stores in the 1930s and  '40s, and the few remaining Bon Ton Girls are now in their 80s and 90s, but still manage to get together from time to time, following a 68-year tradition of camaraderie.

They initially started getting together for private socializing in 1945. According to group historian Gladys Goka, it happened because the big group of high-profile girls couldn't help but make a commotion everywhere they went, and if they got too wild, their boss would hear about it the next day, so they started meeting in each others' homes to avoid prying eyes and gossips.

It's good to know they remain friends to this day.

Here's a look at some of the new dishes on the plate that day.

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Amuse bouche of fresh tomato and mozzarella.

occfish

Pan-roasted Kona kampachi a la Grenobloise was fabulous, with its lemon-caper sauce, braised broccolini and other summer vegetables.

occsbacon

An 8-ounce Kobe burger is topped with blue cheese, seared tomatoes and bacon on a toasted Kaiser roll, with housemade onion rings.

occthai

Crisp Thai-style wok-fried snapper was served in a light red curry sauce with stir-fried vegetables and steamed rice.

occpau

The dessert tray.

Best chefs gather at The Cave

February 26th, 2013
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vchefsNadine Kam photos
Vintage Cave chef Chris Kajioka, left, welcomed chef Blaine Wetzel, right, of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, Washington, and pastry chef Baruch Ellsworth of Canlis, Seattle, into his kitchen for a collaboration event Feb. 23 and 24.

By Nadine Kam

The Vintage Cave welcomed Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn, Lummi Island, Washington, during a collaboration event also featuring resident chef Chris Kajioka and pastry chef Baruch Ellsworth of Canlis, Seattle.

Wetzel was one of 10 Best New Chefs recognized by Food & Wine magazine last year, and came prepared with his regional sockeye salmon and alder wood, while also making time to go foraging with local chef Mark Noguchi for such ingredients as He'eia seaweeds and yam shoots.

The collaboration dinners took place Feb. 23 and 24, with 10 courses involving 15 dishes, including three desserts created by Ellsworth, also deemed "one of the best new pastry chefs in the country," by Food & Wine.

It was a great opportunity to sample their fare in such an intimate setting, and always so wonderful to see the creative work being done in the Cave.

As I told Chris later, it takes a lot of hard work and thought to reinvent the way we perceive, prepare and present food, and I appreciate the effort and out-of-the-box thinking.

The hard work starts with top chefs before trickling down to change the way we all eat. That's why we now can enjoy farm-fresh Hawaii regional cuisine plate lunches for about $10 to $12, where 20 years ago it was only available in high-end restaurants.

At our table someone joked that it's just a matter of time before we see truffle fries at McDonald's.

Here are the dishes presented:

vkaleToasted kale leaves with black truffle and grated soy, so light and brittly crisp with satisfying umami effect.

voystersPresentation of the Kona Kumamoto oysters with sake, elderflower and cucumber ice.

voyster2One per diner.

vmacVanilla-bean macaron sandwiching sturgeon caviar. One per person.

vkampachiKona kampachi topped with charred scallion, hearts of palm and cilantro, accented with tapioca pearls.

vbriocheThis dish was not on the menu, but added during the course of dinner, brioche topped with Golden Ossetra caviar and creme fraiche.

vcressOrganic greens and watercress with lightly salted rye and seared Hawaiian abalone. The rye had the snap and fluffiness of wild rice.

vpokeSmoked bigeye tuna with He'eia seaweeds and their broth with crunchy toasted quinoa.

vsalmonLummi Island sockeye salmon smoked over alder wood.

vfoiegrasThis was so amazing. Shaved foie gras over banana, parsnip, macadamia nuts and spiced meringues. The powdery foie gras simply melted on the tongue, bursting with full flavor. Later, Chris explained the "simple" process of making a traditional foie gras torchon, passing the mixture through a fine tamis, or sieve, then deep-freezing it and later shaving it on a micro plane. (more…)

A meal to remember at Vintage Cave

December 1st, 2012
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cave3Nadine Kam photos
The epic triptypch "Hiroshima," by Adron Mordecai, holds a place of honor at Vintage Cave, depicting the city in its glory, the tragedy and the aftermath of the atomic bomb's destruction.

A peek inside Vintage Cave Honolulu Oct. 23 made me eager to see what would be on the menu when it opens Dec. 10 with the ambitious goal of elevating art and cultivating pleasure in Honolulu.

Inspired by the anthropological and artful discoveries within the Lascaux and Altamira caves, Vintage Cave is in what was originally storage space and offices in Shirokiya. The 15,000 square foot space has been transformed by the laying of 150,000 bricks from the Pennsylvania Brick Co., custom Swarovski crystal chandelier crafted in Czechslovakia and assembled in Japan, installation of Neolithic to fine art by Picasso, Michelangelo, and glassware by Lalique and Daum.

It was envisioned as a private wine cellar and art society, before the decision was made to go public. But how public? Considering a prix fixe meal will cost $295 per person, throw in $100 more per person for wine pairings, tax and tip, and you're looking at a bill of about $1,000 for two.

What will this get you? On a test run Nov. 30, dinner comprised 26 amazing dishes with a light touch in quite a few combinations I had never tried before in more than 20 years of reviewing restaurants, presented in 16 courses over 3-1/2 to 4 hours. It's best suited to those who like the idea of dining as theater.

The menu won't be the same every time, and chef Christopher Kajioka, an alumnus of Roy's, New York's Per Se and San Francisco's Aziza, said he may present different dishes to each table on any given night.

During the actual food service, there will be wine pairings for each course, but on this preview night, two wines were served by beverage manager Randy Uyechi: La Follette Chardonnay, North Coast, 2010, and Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2010. And you will also see the familiar face of general manager Charly Yoshida, formerly with Alan Wong's and Stage restaurant.

You don't have to be a member to dine here, but members will have access to private wine cellars, priority reservations and wine discounts. Regular membership is $5,000, special membership is $50,000 and charter membership is $500,000.Visit vintagecave.com for more information.

cavediningroomOne of the semi-private dining rooms.

cave loungeOne of the lounges, with artwork by Picasso at left.

cavepicassoMore Picassos.

cavechefMaster chef Christopher Kajioka worked at Thomas Keller's highly praised Per Se in New York City, and with Mourad Lahlou at Aziza in San Francisco before coming home to Vintage Cave. Here's what he and his team, and executive pastry chef Rachel Murai put on the table:

Amuse bouches:

cave oysterOyster with hibiscus, shiso and ginger with sweet smoked pain au lait in the background.

cave1Fish skin cracker topped with black bean clam and lime. I didn't care for the cracker with the texture of a pork rind.

cave2Vanilla bean macaron with caviar center.

cave3These meringues were light and snappy meringue with the savory flavor of sun-dried tomato and basil. Amazing!

Courses:

cave6Sashimi platter featured, clockwise from top right, Kona kampachi topped with lemon, radish and shiso; amaebi with fennel; cold-smoked toro with red onion; aji with smoked onion and pear, and uni with ham film and black truffle.

cave7After failing to note that this dish featured a layer of Hakkurei turnip over Asian pear with yogurt sauce and eating them separately when they were made to be eaten together, we finally started paying more attention to chefs' recommendations on how best to enjoy the dishes.

cave8We were invited to mix the Golden Osetra caviar, smoked tuna gel and white turnip cream at right, to coat the wakame cracker.

cave9Hokkaido ikura over potato puree, green apple, and cress, topped with sliver of bonito.

cave10This dish was also amazing. I'd never seen cabbage given such respectful treatment before. It arrived looking like a potato gratin or potato lasagna. Poured into the dish holding the charred cabbage leaves  was a light konbu broth, and on the side was miso creme fraiche. An unbelievable, decadent combination. (more…)