Archive for the ‘Hawaii regional’ Category

First course: Goofy Cafe embraces local

February 6th, 2014

goofyfishGrilled mahimahi with chardonnay butter and local vegetables. — Nadine Kam photos

In the old model of national invasions, the conquerors would plow over native cultures and instill their own set of values and traditions. The current tide of Japanese investment in our islands is much more respectful. It would seem they like us, they really do, and many, like Goofy Cafe—which I reviewed Feb. 5 in the Star-Advertiser—are doing what they can to help us negotiate a changing world to preserve what we can of our land, sea and culture.

I feel a similar protective instinct toward China. If I had the proper global standing, I would have told their leaders 20 years ago, look at us and learn from our mistakes. Don't promote the automobile. Don't build super highways. Keep your bikes; promote public transportation. They did the opposite to the detriment of their air and quality of life.

At the front of executive chef Keigo Yoshimoto's menu is Goofy's Traceability Report, as well as its food policy, which is "Local first, organic whenever possible." About 80 percent of its food and condiments are sourced locally, from the basics of Kunia tomatoes, Ewa onions and Big Island Kulana Ranch beef, to rum from Lahaina, and honey and vanilla from the Big Island.

The surf-themed cafe is very comfy, done up in rustic style with a warm wood interior. "Goofy" is a surf/skate/board sport reference to that small proportion of goofy-footed boarders who lead with their right, instead of more common left, foot.

These right-footed folks are viewed as being more artistic and rebellious, terms that reflect nicely on the cafe. Here's a look at a few of the dishes.
Goofy Cafe is at 1831 Ala Moana Boulevard, Suite 201, in front of the Grand Waikikian Hotel. Call 808.943.0077. Open 7 to 11 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch, and 4 to 11 p.m. for dinner. Also

goofykaleKale namul.

goofyajilloA special of Big Island abalone ajillo, with plenty of garlic cloves. There is also a Hamakua mushroom version available daily. The textures are similar.

goofycornKahuku corn penne with cream sauce. (more…)

First course: Kaiseki returns to Hiroshi

February 5th, 2014

hitakoBraised island tako was the second course served up during the inaugural New Age Kaiseki dinner at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas. — Nadine Kam photos

The kaiseki dinner has long been a draw at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, but the concept was put on hold after namesake chef Hiroshi Fukui's departure last August.

With the new year, the kaiseki dinner returned on Jan. 28, now showcasing the work of executive chef John Iha, exec sous chef Axelrod Colobang, and pastry chef Cherie Pascua, a former James Beard nominee.

The trio honed their skills in Hiroshi’s kitchen, and are moving beyond “Eurasion”— a fusion of European and Asian aesthetic, opening the menu to a world of flavors and ingredients. Even so, the menu is rooted in local meat, seafood and produce in the belief that helping local producers enriches the entire community in terms of sustainability and livelihood.

The nine-course "New Age Kaiseki" dinner was priced at $75 per person, with six-course wine pairing set at $25.

To get on the mailing list for future dinners, email

Here's what was on the inaugural menu:

carpaccioFirst course: Mekajiki carpaccio with sesame oil-chive relish, chili pepper water vinaigrette, micro greens and truffle oil. Accompanied by Birichino Malvasia Bianca. (more…)

First Course: Chai's open on Kapiolani

March 12th, 2013

chai barNadine Kam photos
Restaurateur Chai Chaowasaree at the bar of his new restaurant with some of his crew, from left, Cody Kalua, Kevin Malama and Anthony Murata.

Chai Chaowasaree marked the grand opening of his new restaurant, Chef Chai, with a celebration that took place March 9 at Pacifica Honolulu, 1009 Kapiolani Boulevard.

The restaurant has elegant, sophisticated appeal, and though it looks just as spacious as his former Chai's Island Bistro digs at Aloha Tower, he said it's an illusion. The new restaurant seats 100, but appears larger because of its horizontal layout.

There's also a private dining room that seats about 16 to 18, though if you have a couple more guests, where there's a will there's a way I always say.

The menu makes a more healthful departure from his previous menu, as the chef acknowledges Honolulu's graying population. I grew up with the original "name" chefs who got their start in the late '80s, so we're all in the same boat and looking for food that tastes great, with less salt, sugar and fat than the typical restaurant menu.

That doesn't mean there's any lack of flavor, and anyone walking in cold would not miss a thing, as the dishes he served that night proved.

This particular stretch of Kapiolani is rapidly becoming Health Row, with the raw vegan Greens & Vines leading the charge at 909 Kapiolani, and organic-oriented Blue Tree Cafe also in the Pacifica building. They make it easier to start eating healthier.

chai heaterSpace heaters outside keep diners toasty when the mercury dips.

chai roomGorgeous interior.

chai privateThe private dining room.

chai salmon2Gravlax salmon roulade with cream cheese and crab meat on cucumber.

chai pokeAhi tartare in mini waffle cones.

chai escargotEscargot in pastry cups.

chai chickenChicken satay.

chaioysterOysters with lemongrass-garlic mignonette.

chai rollGarlic gochujang shrimp and apple kimchee summer rolls.

chai hamachiHamachi!

chai kataifiChai's signature kataifi-wrapped shrimp with pineapple.

chai seabassMiso Chilean sea bass over steamed coconut milk-ginger brown rice.

chai wontonSun-dried tomato and Puna goat cheese wontons with spicy relish.

chai crabcakeAlaskan king crab leg crabcakes were presented with roasted garlic aioli. The full dish also features tomato-mango salsa.

chai chopsGrilled Mongolian lamb chops.

chai bottleHave bottle will travel! A passerby just stopped in to check out the new restaurant en route to a party at one of the Pacifica condos.

chai oxtailThai-style oxtail soup with lemongrass broth.

First Course: Monkeypod Kitchen open at Ko Olina

February 6th, 2013

monkeypod merrimanNadine Kam photos
Chef Peter Merriman, right, with Aloha United Way marketing director Jay Park, and Monkeypod Kitchen manager Erica Dunn.

Chef Peter Merriman and his business partner Bill Terry celebrated the opening of Monkeypod Kitchen at Ko Olina, with a blessing and benefit party on Feb. 1.

Guests could help themselves to all the food they wanted while their drink purchases throughout the evening benefited Aloha United Way.

Although it's never easy to get townies to drive out to Ko Olina at rush hour, the room was packed with foodies, restaurateurs and farmers eager to see Merriman's newest project. I believe that he and Roy Yamaguchi are now the only big name Hawaii chefs with restaurants on four islands.

The first Monkeypod Kitchen opened in Wailea, Maui, so named, Peter explained when addressing the crowd, because the monkeypod tree is a non-native that has nevertheless thrived in Hawaii, just as he has, as a transplant from Pennsylvania who arrived on Hawaii Island in 1983 and went on to become a leader in the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement. Monkeypod also fixes nitrogen in the soil so is good for the land and sustainability, and is versatile as a wood used prominently for craft. As an artisan in the kitchen, Merriman said he could identify with that as well.

The restaurant covers two stories at Ko Olina Station, 92-1046 Olani St., in Kapolei, and is a welcome addition to the resort community, where there are few stylish places to simply hang out. (Is this a no-brainer or what?) The Monkeypod Kitchen bar is huge, no doubt in anticipation of great happy hour business, when drink specials include $6 Ocean Vodka cocktails, $6 white and red wines by the glass and $4.75 drafts for beers originally $9 or less, and $7 for those more than $9, and food specials include 50 percent off most appetizers, and $9 pizzas (except the lobster-topped Bourgeois).

You can take a look at some of the dishes here, as presented at the opening:

monkeypod blessingPeter is blessed by kahu Neddy Tiffany, with his business partner Bill Terry looking on after his own blessing.

monkeypod pizzaWood-fired Hamakua wild mushroom pizza with white sauce, truffle oil, Parmesan and thyme. It's $17.95. Add chunks of Big Island lobster and it becomes the Bourgeois, at $24.95.

monkeypod friesGarlic truffle oil fries with a quarter burger in the background.

monkeypod bulgogi tacoBulgogi pork tacos were really spicy, and not just because of the jalapeños, so you couldn't just pull them out and leave unscathed.

monkeypod saiminA different kind of saimin, with dashi soy broth, kalua pig, broccoli, green beans, bean srouts, red onion, cilantro, mint, peanuts and tofu over Iwamoto family noodles.

monkeypod dumplingOne of my favorite dishes of the evening: Pumpkin Patch Ravioli with kiawe-roasted squash, chevre, spinach and sage brown butter. Butter good!

monkeypod gnocchiGnocchi with Swiss chard, sauteed mushrooms, tomato coulis and chevre.

2's company, 3's@ brilliant collaboration

October 23rd, 2012


Nadine Kam photos
Root fall vegetables (carrots, turnips, radish and winter squash) from Otsuji and MA'O Farms, prepared and plated by Prima, on earthenware by artist Steve Martin, was among the dishes served at the 3@the Table event at Fishcake.

How much more beautiful would your table and meal be if you were able to eat off works of art? That was the question proposed by architect Wendy Tsuji, the woman behind "3@the Table," which aims to bring together artist, farmer and chef. It's her hope that more restaurants, especially those in Waikiki, will pick up on the idea to enhance the visitor dining experience and promote more of Hawaii's talent.

We already know what can happen when farmers and chefs collaborate, and at an introductory event that took place Oct. 18 at Fishcake, an art and furnishings gallery, chef Peter Merriman said 3@the Table reminds him of the start of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement that began more than two decades ago, in which he was also involved.

Those who came of dining age after that time probably don't remember a time when chefs were held hostage to the handful of ingredients farmers knew how to grow. It took a group of about a dozen chefs to take their requests to farmers, suggesting produce they would like to introduce to their tables, which led to the explosion of flavors we have today.

He said that chefs believed people would pay more for locally sourced products, not just because they want to help support farmers, but also because the ingredients taste better, and people just may want to see art at the table because a beautiful visual aesthetic can also enhance a meal.

3onatableArtist Mary Mitsuda, left, with Wendy Tsuji, architect of 3@the Table.

This is something already seen at the Japanese table, most strongly at Nanzan Giro Giro on Piikoi St., a collaboration between a restaurant company and the artist Nanzan, who creates all the earthenware that provides the backdrop for the restaurant's seasonal and nature-inspired kaiseki. The artist  is rooted in the way of tea, rituals encompassing all of tea's history, philosophy and implements. The restaurant also houses a mini ceramic museum.

If diners are to become more mindful of what they are eating, this is one path. It is easy to get caught up in the flavors, intensity and beauty of a meal in a place like Nanzan Giro Giro, which encourages focus.

Honestly, at Fishcake, where the mood was celebratory, such focus was in short supply. It was hard to get people to stop socializing for a while and listen to what Tsuji was saying.

Toward that end,  3@the Table brought together three teams, each with a potter, a chef and a farmer, for a collaboration that mixes food with art. Daven Hee was paired with MA‘O Organic Farms and chef Ed Kenney of town, while ceramist Steve Martin teamed with Otsuji Farms and Prima. Big Island artist Clayton Amemiya teamed with Hirabara Farms and chef Peter Merriman. Also featured was work by artists Jered Nelson, Trent Burkett and Scott Parady.

Then the beauty of dishes prepared that night, and the scent of pork cooked up by Ed Kenney, encased in clay by Hee, was too irresistible to focus on the plates and platters beneath them. It's only when I got home and looked at the pictures I'd taken that I experienced that aha! moment.

Funds raised from ticket sales and ceramic sales will benefit Hawaii Potters' Guild's youth ceramics program at Palama Settlement, to help bring the concept to a new generation and the community.

Fishcake is at 307c Kamani St. Call 808.593.1231.


Ed Kenney's kiln-fired Shinsato Farms pork, prepared with the help of ceramist Daven Hee, below, with the pork encased in clayware. The process wasn't easy, and also included a scary, stinky moment as you can read in a story by Joleen Oshiro that appeared in the paper.


3heeMore of Daven Hee's work for the table.

3octoGrilled local octopus with lima beans and citrus, in ceramic-plated version above, and self-serve portion on aqua platter, below.

3aquaThe same octopus dish served for mass consuption on an aqua platter evoking the ocean. (more…)