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I prefer my abalone wriggle-free

August 7th, 2012

abaloneiiNadine Kam photos
Live abalone on the plate at Sushi Ii.

New at the wonderful Sushi Ii, in the Samsung Plaza, is a generous and decadent amuse bouche of fresh abalone.

When I dropped in to see what's new on his chalkboard, sushi chef/owner Garrett Wong asked me if I liked raw abalone, I said, "Sure!" I was thinking a few pieces of sashimi and wasn't paying much attention to the prep going on behind the counter.

So I was surprised when he presented a bowl of about a half dozen of the living, writhing mollusks. I thought a little about the possible foot action of the abalone as it slipped down my throat, then gamely took a bite of one of the crunchy creatures ... then another, noting the still wriggling half that remained.

Talk about omnivore's dilemma. Like most of us in a constant state of food denial in some form or other, I have no problem eating meat, seafood and poultry—especially poultry because I hate the neighborhood chickens who dig up my garden—but I don't want to do the killing myself, particularly if it's by my own teeth.

I don't like to boil lobsters or crabs, because I grew up crabbing almost every weekend and can still remember the sound of their clawing at the pot of boiling water over my mother's stove. Yet, I enjoyed visits to Kickin' Kajun and Raging Crab.

I think if society ever reached a point when the only conscionable way to eat meat is to personally kill an animal, as writer Michael Pollan attempted in his seminal book, we'd have a lot more lacto-ovo vegetarians.

After devouring the single abalone, I apologized to Wong, saying I was too squeamish to finish the rest, but I guess that's true of many people, so he's always prepared to cook them up, when the baby abalone become soft and tender and you can't stop at one.
Sushi Ii is toward the back of the Samsung Plaza, 655 Keeaumoku St., Suite 109. Call 942-5350.


Not long afterward, I was invited to the Aug. 3 grand opening of AirBuggy, a jogger stroller and infant shop at Waikiki Beach Walk, where second-floor neighbor Kaiwa catered the event, offering up more grilled Kona baby abalone, and other specialties:


air shrimpKaiwa's Mitsue Momoi with shrimp crostini.

airbeefDuck-wrapped asparagus and rare Washugyu beef.

airribeyeGrilled garlic wagyu over bean sprouts.

airpokePipikaula, ahi and salmon poke.

On the table: Lucky Belly

June 27th, 2012

bellybowlNadine Kam photos
Lucky Belly's savory Belly Bowl with pork belly, smoked bacon, sausage and onsen egg, in what else but a pork broth accented with sesame and miso.

Got a chance to stop for lunch at what is sure to be the Chinatown Arts District's newest foodie destination, Lucky Belly, now open at Smith and Hotel, in place of Mini Garden.

The brief menu comes in groupings of three: a trio of ramen options, a trio of appetizers, salads and sandwiches for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, with dinner service to start up around mid-July. I'm waiting for that before I do a full review.

Right now, it looks like they're off to a good start.

luckyninaNina Wu holds up her giant Lucky Bowl, Lucky Belly's basic ramen, at $8. The broth now is pork, but a vegetarian bowl is on the way.

lgyozaShrimp gyoza with Chinese won ton flavor, edmame and avocado puree and ponzu sauce.

loinkAfter lunch, a thank you on the receipt.

luckystThe new sign on the corner of Smith and Hotel streets.

Aloha from Château Aiguilloux

June 27th, 2012

alohatastersNadine Kam photos
Among the first in Hawaii to sample the Aloha Wines of Chateau Aiguilloux's Anne Lemarié and Mattheiu Arbouin, center, were, from left, Randy Kuba, Michael W. Perry, Dr. Glenn Miyataki and Robin Campaniano.

It was a treat to run away from the office at midday June 26 for a gathering of wine lovers to introduce a boutique line of Aloha Wines, a collaboration between oenophiles Randy Kuba and Dr. Glenn Miyataki and Château Aiguilloux from the Languedoc region of Southern France.

The gathering at Alan Wong's Pineapple Room was hosted by Dr. Miyataki and Robin Campaniano, with the Anne Lemarié, second-generation winemaker from Château Aiguilloux in town to present their Aloha-branded Rose 2011, Tradition 2010, Les 3 Seigneurs 2010, and Anne-Georges 2009.

The project has been six years in the making, starting when Dr. Miyataki, then president of JAIMS (Japan-America Institute of Management Science) was teaching a class in management in China. Anne was one of his students and asked if she could interview him for a project she was working on. He learned of her wine roots and before you know it, he was in France, staying with her parents, who purchased Château Aiguilloux in 1982.

Wine was then a new endeavor for François and Marthe Lemarié. He had been working as an engineer in Africa and she was a teacher on the Ivory Coast when they met. They started small, with the philosophy of sustainability and conviviality maintained to this day.

During the lunch, Anne told me they never approached winemaking as a vast commercial endeavor. "It was always about sharing, to sit down with friends and nice food."

She said that when she started talking to Glenn, she learned about the similar Hawaiian values of hospitality and aloha. "He talked about welcoming people, opening doors and enjoying food together, and we started thinking about how we could bring these ideas together."

With the wine part taken care of, here in Hawaii, Kuba and Miyataki have launched the Aloha Wine Club to work with winemakers who put heart and soul into their endeavors, and share their wines and spirit of aloha and giving with local wine aficionados, many of whom happen to be movers and shakers in the community.

Kuba said, "Our mission is to learn about wine and how it pairs with food because it brings us together, spreads the concept of aloha within our businesses and extends to the world."

Bottles of the Château Aiguilloux wines will be available to members for now, but in time, they hope to make them available to the larger wine community. Visit to join.

aloharoseChateau Aiguilloux's Aloha rose served with Pineapple Room's seared ahi tataki with lemon aioli and Castle Vetrano olive tapenade. The refreshing rose comprises 40 percent cinsault, 30 percent grenache, 10 percent syrah, 10 percent carignan and 10 percent mourvèdre.

alohaahiIt was noted that roses are not particularly popular in Hawaii, but I find it perfect for summer. In France, Anne said, they are a popular with fish, salads and fruit.

alohaStudent and teacher, Anna Lemarié and Dr. Glenn Miyataki, are now working together to promote the spirit of aloha and conviviality.

alohaaAnne-Georges is the wine named after Anne and her brother by their parents. It's a Concours des Grands Vins de France Macon 2012 gold medal winner comprising 50 percent carignan from 60-year-old vines, 30 percent syrah from 25-year-old vines and 20 percent grenache from 18-year-old vines. It is aged two years in new oak barrels. Described as having the rich hues of cherries and plum; nose of dark fruit, currants and blackberries; hints of black olives, vanilla and licorice with a touch of black pepper; plus soft velvety finish, I enjoyed this best with the shortribs below.

aloha shortrib
The other two reds were paired with braised shortribs and baba ganoush were the Aloha Tradition 2010 and Aloha Les 3 Signeurs 2010. The Tradition is made in the traditional method of vat aging with no wood. My favorite drinking wine was the Les 3 Seigneurs, "Wine of Three Kingdoms," with 65 percent carignan, 25 percent grenache and 10 percent syrah, aged in third-generation oak barrels to give it a smoky nose to balance its bright cherry and berry flavors. It is a Concours des Féminalses de Lyon 2012 silver medal winner and Concours des Grands Vins de Corbières 2012 bronze medal winner.

alohadessertWe chose our own desserts, and most of us opted for the strawberry tiramisu because we'd never tasted a strawberry tiramisu before. It was comparable to strawberry shortcake.

Breakfast and desserts at the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong

April 26th, 2012

pearl towerNadine Kam photos
While in Shanghai from April 11 to 18, I spent my first two nights acclimating at the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, with its stunning views overlooking the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, one of Shanghai's Top 10 landmarks.

Every time I return from a fashion week, people ask if it was fun. "Fun" is never the right word. "Exciting, calamitous, busy, crazy," would all be better. They also ask if I ate a lot, but it's hard to do both because fashion weeks are so demanding.

That made the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, a good starting point for acclimating to the city, not only for leisure, but for anyone doing business in the area. I could get up and go, with a full breakfast ready and waiting at a buffet at Scena Italian restaurant. It's geared in equal parts to Western and Asian travelers with regional hot dishes, congee and a few dim sum and dumpling options, but for me it was hard to pass on such at-home favorites as bacon and eggs.

And I'm not much into congee because of experiences of traveling to Hong Kong when I was a kid with no control over the table. I had to eat congee every day for breakfast when visiting my grandfather, so now that I do have control, it's easy enough to avoid it.

For about 300 RMB (recently about $48) per person, here's just some of what I ate for breakfast at Scena. If you plan on going, the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, is at Shanghai ifc, 8 Century Ave., Lujiazui. Call +86 21 20201128 or visit

If you do go, find a Chinese friend who can write down the address for you in Chinese characters. The cabbies don't speak English and don't even recognize the names of the major international hotel brands. I found out the hard way very late on a rainy night, spending 100 RMB more than I should have on a very long cab ride. Luckily, cab rides are the most affordable aspect of Shanghai living, where cost of living matches Hawaii, though typical salaries are half to a third of what we earn.

rviewThe view from Scena by day.

rdimsumSpinach dumplings and juicy pork hash.

rnoodlesThick, chewy Shanghai noodles, the way I like 'em.

rcookThe restaurant was busy, busy, busy and the kitchen was full. I didn't realize the chefs had cleared out of the space when I took this photo of one of the cooks preparing eggs to order.

rsoupWith soup popular as breakfast in Asia, diners could opt to have any of these noodles, veggies and dumplings prepared in soup to order.

rsalmonA whole lotta lox.
rbaconWhat's breakfast without bacon?

reggsBroiled salmon and eggs.

rpotatoesRoasted potatoes and tomatoes.


Many of the breakfast items were also available in the VIP Lounge, with the addition of some regional specialties including roast duck, crisp sweet baby shrimp and roast pork, and below, somen topped with smoked ahi, wasabi cream sauce and tobiko.



Returning to the 52nd-floor Scena later for an Italian lunch, I found most people couldn't resist the variety of appetizers, salads and mostly, desserts that awaited those who picked the buffet that came with a choice of entree. Here's some of what was offered with my choice of the squid salad entree, which was so ono. The squid had plenty of flavor where it typically has none here and the braised purple cabbage was wonderful, making me wish we had more options like this on local menus.


rappA buffet appetizer of pumpkin puree with shrimp, vegetables and capers.

rbreadAn assortment of breads meant there was also a bountiful cheese and jam selection nearby.

rfishSmoked, peppered white fish.

rmushroomMushroom salad.

rsaladsPasta and green salads also awaited.

rsalamiThere was also a selection of cured meats.

rmeringueA meringue tree with sugar-flocked strawberries was among the dessert selections.

rdbruleeCreme brulee too perfect to disturb.

rdfruitFresh fruit is an important dessert option in Shanghai, and at the Ritz-Carlton, an array of berries, melon and dragonfruit top a custardy tart.

rfruitMore fruit. I was told dragonfruit has been more popular than usual during the Year of the Dragon

rdessertsIndividually portioned desserts.

rdchocoI had a small piece of this delicious chocolate bomb, with a rich mousse interior.

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