Archive for the ‘Fine dining’ Category

New menu at Oahu Country Club

July 9th, 2013


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:

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.

Amuse bouche of fresh tomato and mozzarella.


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


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


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


The dessert tray.

Best chefs gather at The Cave

February 26th, 2013

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

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 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!


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…)

A taste of Chaîne menu at Oahu Country Club

October 13th, 2012

occahiNadine Kam photos
The first course from Ryan Manaut's Chaîne des Rôtisseurs' Jeune Commis International Competition menu at Oahu Country Club: ahi tartar with tempura asparagus tips, prawn ceviche, lime gelee and wasabi foam. Guests were to mix the accompanying ogo, green onion, white onion and kukui nut in with the fish. This was paired with Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc, 2011.

Ryan Manaut, a young chef that joined the staff of executive chef Alfred Cabacungan at Oahu Country Club, was a winner in the prestigious Chaîne des Rôtisseurs' Jeune Commis International Competition, and tomorrow is the last day members can sample the menu he presented in Berlin—with a few tweaks, considering chefs are constantly trying to improve their work— along with fantastic wine pairings by sommelier Randy Ching.

After winning the Hawaii competition, followed by the national competition in May, he traveled to Berlin last month, and in his first international competition, placed 4th among entrants from 22 countries. This marked the first time that any young chef from Hawaii has competed in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs' Jeune Commis International Competition.

Like the cooking shows "Iron Chef" and "Chopped," chefs in the competition were presented with mystery baskets full of ingredients from which they were to create their meals. After winning the Hawaii competition, Manaut was coached by Kapiolani Community College Culinary Arts associate professor Alan Tsuchiyama, who also sent him several lists of ingredients weekly to prepare Manaut for anything that might come up.

At the competition, chefs—working alone in the kitchen—had a half hour to come up with their menus, and three hours to cook. Manaut said Tsuchiyama had tried to stump him with ingredients like sauerkraut, Jerusalem artichoke and pike, but in practice, he said he was able to come up with a menu in less than half an hour each time.

In competition, the ingredients may have stumped other chefs, but most turned out to be daily fare for any local chef. All chefs were given the same ingredients, and they had to incorporate all in a three-course meal: two racks of Irish lamb, 12 shrimp, 600 grams of ahi, raspberries, blueberries, kalamansi, baby spinach, Thai asparagus, mini carrots, mini zucchini, snow peas, Kenya beans, 12 eggs, 11 Tablespoons of cream, and chocolate. Typical pantry ingredients were also made available to them.

Before entering the competition kitchen, all chefs' belongings were checked to ensure no one sneaked in any secret ingredients.

occryanRyan Manaut in the Oahu Country Club kitchen with his dessert of chocolate-raspberry layered cake with blueberry semifreddo, candied kalamansi and Chambord whipped cream.

The challenges, he said, were that "all the stove top burners were electric, not the standard gas burners we use. That made temperature controls very hard when trying to make my dessert. I ended up overcooking the semifreddo once, wasting valuable time doing it again.

"I also wasn't used to their little combi-ovens. These are great little ovens that can both bake and steam your product. However, all the directions for the oven were in German so I had to just press buttons and hope for the best. That tactic resulted in burning my cake, so once again, I had to waste time remaking it. Even retrieving spices from the pantry was a chore since they were all labeled in German. I had to open each container to see what was inside."

But, it all turned out well, and considering that prepping and completing the competition has filled three-quarters of his year, he said he's taking a break from thinking about any more contests for now.

In the meantime, I was fortunate to be able to sample the menu as a guest of Chaîne Honolulu chapter Vice Charge de Missions Dr. Thomas Sakoda and his wife Ryuko.

occamuseThe OCC dinner began with pork gyoza with kabayaki glaze.

occlambFollowing the appetizer at top of page, we were presented with the entree of roasted balsamic crusted rack of lamb roulade with lamb jus, roasted peppers and basil, and mashed potatoes, baby courgette (zucchini) and carrot. This was paired with Gigondas, Les Pallieres "Les Racines," 2008.

occplatingRyan plates the semifreddo. The experience of the chocolate-raspberry layered cake and blueberry semifreddo were enhanced by Randy Ching's pairing of Banyuls, Domaine La Tour Vieille, 2010.

occgrandRyan's grandmother Alison Manaut said she was always happy to be one of the guinea pigs for his cooking experiments when he was growing up.

occchocolateDinner ended with OCC's Belgian chocolates.


The dinner marked my second visit to OCC in a week. Earlier, I'd been invited to lunch by a member, and we tried one of the newer items on the menu, a lobster-avocado sandwich.

occamuse2Amuse bouche of fried prosciutto with avocado puree.

occpastaPasta with mushrooms and basil.

occlobsterThe lobster sandwich.

'Ilima Awards 2012: The way we dined

October 11th, 2012

ikissNadine Kam photos
PR woman Kristin Jackson, left, in her other life as Kiss My Grits restaurateur, with Kim Oswald. Kiss My Grits was a double winner in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's 'Ilima Awards. The public voted it "Best New Restaurant," and critics gave it one of 22 Critics Choice Awards.

Work on the annual Diamond Head Theatre and Honolulu Star-Advertiser 'Ilima Awards officially begins in June, but the work actually continues all year as we eat our way through many, many restaurants and take notes on what was memorable and what we liked best.

June is when I and fellow food and entertainment writers—Joleen Oshiro, Nina Wu, Elizabeth Kieszowski, Jason Genegabus and Betty Shimabukuro—start comparing notes in advance of the October announcement of award winners, and soon after, we start fanning out to make sure the restaurants are continuing to perform well.

ilimaWe try to include mix of restaurants high, low and spots in between for diversity that reflects the entire dining scene. Of course, for the restaurants, it helps to have a visible profile throughout the year to remind us who's out there. There are many more restaurateurs who go about running their restaurants in a low-key way, and I admit we always miss a few of these. I already have a few in mind that didn't make the book this year but deserve another look next year. And, of course, it helps to open before August, when our decisions are finalized.

Click book for a look inside.

If you're wondering why I disappear from Facebook and Twitter all summer, it's because of the extra task of helping to write the book. The reward is the annual 'Ilima Awards ceremony that took place Oct. 8, a benefit for the theater, that begins with cocktails and a DHT song and dance performance honoring the award winners.

This year marks the 17th annual awards, which started in partnership with the Honolulu Advertiser before our papers merged.

On stage, Loretta Ables Sayre—straight from her star turn in "South Pacific" on Broadway—joined the cast and cracked up the audience with a particularly suggestive number sung to the tune of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," which had her getting up close and personal with a few of the representatives from Kiss My Grits, Prima, Lahaina Grill and Amasia, which included the Lahaina Grill rep burying his head in her bosom.

Other highlights included "Funny Girl" star Isabelle Decauwert singing about food to the tune of the musical's "Don't Rain on My Parade," and Tricia Marciel bringing hilarity to the otherwise bittersweet tune of "The Way We Were," sung as "The Way We Dined."

And, a representative from 3660 on the Rise provided one of the most entertaining moments of the night during the finale, when the members of the youth ensemble Shooting Stars got him to his feet and he joined in, rather well, on matching their dance moves.

Then, it was all about tasting, and the ultimate reward was hearing from guests that they enjoyed sampling from restaurants that they hadn't heard of prior to that night.

isouthernKiss My Grits offered a generous combination of catfish, okra and black-eyed peas, along with grits and hush puppies, below, that all threatened to fill a diner up before hitting any other booth. I missed the bread pudding that came later.


ibistroAlan Takasaki, left, is the chef-owner of this year's Critic's Choice of Best Restaurant, Le Bistro. He was cooking up shortribs, below:


imatsubaraAzure executive chef Jon Matsubara with his inspired sambal clam banh mi and liquid brandade.

iazureDiners accustomed to grabbing a plate were caught off guard when Matsubara placed the cracker-style "banh mi" in their hands, instructing them to take a bite, then follow with a sip of the chowdery salt cod brandade.

icupsThe stack of small brandade cups caught the eye of our 'Ilima Awards book page designer Joe Guinto, who admired their architectural form. (more…)

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