Tuesday, June 21, 2016

First Look: Peek inside soon-to-open BLT Market



Nadine Kam photos
BLT Steak's Johan Svensson has moved over to sister restaurant BLT Market as exedutive chef.  The restaurant will open in the Ritz Carlton Residences in Waikiki on June 28.

BLT Market executive chef Johan Svensson says he laughs a little bit whenever he hears people talk about farm-to-table dining as a trend.

"I think it's hilarious. From medieval times (5th to 15th centuries), people have gone to small markets or to their back yards for food."

 Corporate farming that arose only in the last century completely changed our relationship with food, such that many children have never eaten a fruit or vegetable fresh from a tree or vine, nor plucked out of the ground. Svensson said he, too, had forgotten the sweetness and texture of a freshly harvested baby carrot until being on the grounds at Mari's Gardens in Mililani.

"It hasn't been until 2013 or so that we've gone back to recreating these markets. People say it's a trend, but I don't think it's a trend anymore. I think it's the way to go."

The kitchen staff was testing out equipment and recipes, including this seared ahi with edamame purée, lotus root and sea asparagus.

Also in the kitchen with Svensson was celebrity chef, restaurateur and Esquared restaurant consultant David Burke.

There's been some confusion among food vendors since Svensson made the move from BLT Steak in the Trump International Hotel up the street to the Ritz Carlton Residences, where BLT Market is slated to open June 28. Deliveries have been going to his old digs instead of his new one, where the chef has been training staff, testing equipment and recipes.

Where BLT Steak's focus was on steak and a raw bar, BLT Market's focus is on local farm-to-table dining.

A video I made of Svensson in action back in 2011 showed he was already committed to local produce and food products, but the commitment will be even greater at BLT Market. Here's the video:


Video link

"What people will need to understand is that it's not like a regular BLT Steak menu, where you can get exactly the same thing, prepared the same way any time. Here, it'll be a menu that's very much alive and completely changing depending on what I can get my hands on," Svensson said. "It's taking me to a new level because I want to be challenged all the time. I never want to be bored."

Svensson, who was born and raised on Torsö (Thor's Island), off Sweden's West Coast, said he grew up with Europe's back yard and market traditions, and moving to New York in 1997 was an eye-opening experience regarding the acceptance of factory farm and global networks necessary to feed American appetites for food on demand.

"I worked 13 years in New York City with a lot of chefs who told me I could get anything, anywhere at all times, and I just thought, 'This doesn't make sense. I don't get this when you can't find this fruit or vegetable anywhere on this continent. It's not a natural thing."

But, he adapted to the American way, and now that he's been running his own kitchens, is able to act on his passion and beliefs.

"All chefs create their own environment," he said.

Referring in part to molecular gastronomy, he said, "It seems that technique has been taking priority. We've gotten to a point where something tastes like food, but it doesn't look like food anymore. We're not taking the time to ask, is it good food? If the answer is no, we should not be putting it on a plate."
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BLT Market will open June 28 in the Ritz Carlton Residences Waikiki, 383 Kalaimoku St.




Sous chef Kevin Corriere puts one of the dishes through the taste test.

Josh Cornatt unpacks the Riedel stemware.

A glimpse of the open-air dining area.


Svensson's duties at BLT Market will extend to providing room and poolside food service for the Ritz Carlton residences, as well as to-go items for Dean & DeLuca, also housed on the property.

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pressed Juicery's Freeze makes it easy to get all your fruit & veggies

Photos courtesy Pressed Juicery
Pressed Juicery's all-greens "Green 1" cold-pressed juice is turned into an all-natural, guilt-free frozen dessert that is delicious, sweetened with apple, dates and with coconut meat for added texture.

In the evolution of healthful drinking, there was a time we carried around plastic water bottles, soon replaced by Hydro Flasks and bkrs once we learned the hazards and toll of plastics.

These days, you're likely to see the return of plastic. Only the contents have changed from clear to hues of bright reds to dark green, even cream and black.

Yes, our cups runneth over ... with juice, and the juice bars, they keep a-comin'. The latest is California-based Pressed Juicery, which opened its doors June 12 in Ala Moana Centers Ewa Wing, street level, makai side next to the Bloomingdale's entrance.

In an email interview, co-founder and CEO Hayden Slater said, “Growing up in Los Angeles, I was educated about health and wellness trends, but I rarely practiced them in my own life. In the early days of my career, I constantly felt lethargic and stressed and was living on a diet of fast food.

"It wasn’t until I traveled to Southeast Asia that I tried a juice cleanse—it began as five days and ended up lasting for 30 days. I was amazed at how energized I felt, and after returning home I realized I wanted to share this experience with others.

"I think that juicing was a catalyst for healthier behaviors. I began to start my day with a green juice, and that motivated me to make better decisions every day, ultimately leading me to get in better shape and feel great again.”

Juice delivered by the numbers, allowing people to gauge their flavor compatibility. In the case of Greens and Roots, the No. 1s are the most unadulterated flavors. Higher numbers will have fruit juices blended in for sweetness, and lemon for a bright touch of citrus.

With Pressed Juicery, Slater said, "Our main priority is making high nutrition a realistic option for everyone. To that end, we’re focused on creating blends that appeal to a wide range of customers—whether they’ve been drinking cold-pressed juice for years or are trying it for the very first time. We also love to experiment with unique flavors and ancient ingredients; for example, our Greens 5 is a tropical take on green juice that includes pineapple and fennel, and our charcoal lemonade can provide detoxifying effects."

Pressed Juicery's blends have been tested over time in 40 markets nationwide, and they're all delicious, from the all-greens "Green 1," to unique signature blend of Brazil Nut, with the nuts, kale, spinach, romaine, vanilla bean, dates and sea salt.

Well, actually, I'd probably stay away from Greens 4 just because it contains watercress, and that's the flavor that stands out most because I'm not a big fan of watercress.

Nadine Kam photosA flight of greens. Greens 1 on the left has the highest concentration of greens. Next to it, Greens 1.5 has sea salt added. Greens 4, counting toward right, tastes greenest, with the bitterness of watercress. Most people will gravitate to Nos. 2 and 3, with the sweetness of apple and a touch of lemon.

Juices are divided into citrus, roots, greens and fruit categories. Each category has three to five different blends. I'm a fan of the greens and roots. Of course I love citrus and fruits as well, but I'm cautious about taking in too much sugar. Prices range from $7.50 to $9 for 16 ounces.

One thing Pressed Juicery has that no other local juice bar is offering is their juice-based Freeze soft-serve that may change the way we enjoy dessert and offers a palatable way for even the most fruit-and-vegetable averse to get their five a day. The six flavors offered are Greens, Roots, Citrus, Fruits, Chocolate and Vanilla. Each starts with the juicery's standard juice sweetened with dates and with coconut meat added for body.

The Freeze is offered in $5 and $6 cups; add $1.75 for your choice of toppings such as fresh fruit, chia seeds, granola, shaved almonds, shredded coconut, cacao drizzle, almond butter, dark chocolate chips and pink Himalayan sea salt.

With the Freeze, it would be nice to have a place to sit down and enjoy dessert with friends. The company is growing fast, and that's something they'll need to consider in planning future stores as today's juice bars have the potential to become tomorrow's soft-serve parlors.
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Pressed Juicery is open 9 a.m.to 9:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Call (808) 949-5272.

Midweek's Rasa Fournier looks forward to her Greens Freeze, which she had topped with cacao drizzle, raspberries, pineapple and shaved almonds.

A diverse line of tourists and locals, young and old, flowed through the juicery all afternoon, four days after its Sunday opening.

The setting, makai side street level next to the lower level of Bloomingdale's in Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing, around the corner from Shirokiya's soon-to-open Japan Village Walk.

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

Friday, June 10, 2016

Icing lessons at Magnolia Bakery Hawaii

Nadine Kam photos
Magnolia Bakery celebrated the launch of its new rainbow-colored Aloha cupcake June 9.

A class in how to ice a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery Cafe turned into confirmation that I should never work at a bakery.

Coinciding with the bakery's launch of its Hawaii-only Aloha cupcake, a coconut cream-filled lilikoi confection topped with rainbow-colored meringue, a bunch of writers and photographers were tasked with recreating the signature buttercream swirl that tops the cupcake.

Pastry sous chef Alison Yokouchi led a session in how to ice a cupcake with an icing spatula she referred to as her "magic wand."

Our initial results were mostly disastrous, and pastry sous chef Alison Yokouchi assured it took her about 20 hours to perfect her skills.

Maybe golfers will appreciate that one also has to be pretty flexible and limber to perfect the swirl that calls for a nearly 360-degree flick of the wrists.


Video link

I ended up digging too deep in the icing and scalping my cupcake. Oh well, with Magnolia here, I have no reason to ever do such work myself.

For those who want to try their hand at the task, Magnolia is offering icing classes for private parties, with a minimum of six participants. Each participant will take home six cupcakes they have created, plus recipes for Magnolia’s best-selling vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream frosting. The cost per person is $75.

If you can't get a group together, public classes for set days and times are being planned.
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Magnolia Bakery Cafe is at Ala Moana Center. For more information on the classes, call 942-4132.


This is the swirl we were aiming for.

Yotaro Takenaka with his cupcake finished with candy sprinkles.

Emi Hart was pleased with her creation, after four tries.

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

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A peek at Japan Village Walk

Nadine Kam photos
Pork ramen is one of the specialties of Kobe-based Gashoken Ramen, among the 30 to 40 eateries that will be a part of Shirokikya's Japan Village Walk, slated to open June 25 on the ground level of Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing.

A handful of restaurants in the soon-to-open Japan Village Walk at Ala Moana Center, were testing the facilities and recipes June 1 and needed a few guinea pigs to dispatch the food. I was happy to do so while getting a sneak peek into Shirokiya's newest food concept.

Shirokiya's former Yataimura was just a warmup act for this colossal food court, set to house about 30 to 40 different food vendors.

The layout is clean and orderly, but will also be a grid-like maze of boxy take-out counters. It will be easy enough for adults to navigate, but parents will have to hold on to their children, who may get confused by the sameness of the setting—sort of like townies driving around Mililani or Kapolei.

God-san will offer a variety of yakisoba dishes, such as these bentos featuring omelet and shrimp, and omelet, bacon and fried egg.

So far so good as far as the equipment testing. Deep-fried croquettes and tonkatsu were turning out crisp and light. Ramen from Gashoken was perfection. But with many more vendors set to move in, JVW won't be open until June 25, when everyone is confident they'll be ready.

Vintage Cave Honolulu will be introducing Wagyu Plaza featuring six boutique restaurants; Seafood Plaza featuring eight bistros; and Vintage Cave Bakery. The original Vintage Cave remains at its current location in Ala Moana Center’s Diamond Head Wing.

Adding to the foodcentric venue, Vintage Cave Café, is set to open next to JVW in October. The Italian-inspired café will feature an array of seafood dishes, Milan style pasta, Napoli style pizza, Wagyu steak and more, in a room mimicking the look and feel of an Italian Cathedral, complete with dome ceiling, murals, and sculptures from Italy. The 9,000-square-foot venue will seat 150 and include four private rooms.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Beyond burgers at The Counter

Nadine Kam photos
Korean BBQ steak fills one of the new sandwiches at The Counter, and it is da bomb!

If you haven't been to The Counter Custom Burgers in a while, it may be time for another visit. The Kahala Mall restaurant specializing in create-your-own burgers has launched a new menu that includes a handful of options to the beef burger, just because many diners want a little more variety in their lives.

New protein options on the create-your-own burger menu include a jumbo lump crabcake, Southern fried chicken and Korean BBQ grilled skirt steak that's a new favorite of mine. In chef Matthew Lindblom's hands, it's true to local expectations. Order these your way with your pick of dozens of toppings and sauces, or order it their way as described in the photos below.

Also new are:

WTF ("Why the Face" sandwich): A ground turkey patty is topped with provolone, applewood-smoked bacon, pickles, and house mustard on a Hawaiian bun, accompanied by salt &and vinegar kettle chips. Currently $12.50.

Crab Encounter: a jumbo lump crab cake sits atop a salad of organic mixed greens, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, applewood-smoked bacon, scallions and chopped egg, with honey dijon dressing.

Loaded tots:
The Counter's loaded tots are rolled in pimento cheese with bits of applewood smoked bacon, sprinkled with green onions and served with buttermilk ranch sauce.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Arancino marking third anniversary at The Kahala

Nadine Kam photos
Arancino at The Kahala adds a charcuterie platter, Affetato Misto, to its new menu marking its third anniversary at The Kahala Hotel, to be offered beginning June 1. The platter features bresaola, coppa, prosciutto di Parma, salamino piccante, mortadella, Parmigiano Reggianno and coccoli, or bread dough fritters.

Arancino at The Kahala is entering its third year with the introduction of a new menu beginning June 1. The menu includes new dishes and three degustation menus, priced at $60, $90 and $120. Prices with wine pairings are $84, $123 and $160.

The $60 Menu Selezione starts with a lobster bisque, followed by a choice of Caesar or caprese salad, then a choice of one of three primi dishes: Tagliolini al Ricci di Mare, uni pasta with a white wine-garlic-tomato cream sauce; wagyu Bolognese with housemade pappardelle; or housemade orecchiette with sun-dried tomatoes, broccolini and garlic olive oil.

On the high end, the menu features caviar, followed by crudités and bagna cauda, carpaccio di manzo of A5 Miyazaki wagyu, and delectable raviolone alla fonduta con tartufo fresco, a decadent ravioli with fontina and a center of creamy egg yolk, topped with truffles and a light butter sauce. These dishes are followed by grilled branzino and sous vide beef tenderloin with foie gras and truffle mashed potatoes, fried maitake and truffle sauce.

I swoon over chef Hamamoto's ravioli with creamy egg yolk center, fontina, truffles and butter sauce. Heaven on a plate!

The restaurant had its soft opening at The Kahala Hotel in 2013, followed by official opening date June 18. It initially offered a luxury tasting menu experience that evolved to include several a la carte dishes to give guests much more variety over repeat visits.

In addition to the set menus, the menu now features 34 a la carte selections ranging from pastas to pizzas, plus satisfying entrées ranging from the seafood stew caciucco, to sous vide beef tenderloin, Colorado lamb, A5 Miyazaki wagyu sirloin and pork loin.

The wagyu as served here is exceptional, but I've always had it cooked, never as carpaccio, and during a media tasting I basically inhaled the carpaccio di manzo. Buttery soft, the raw wagyu nearly melts on the tongue. A must for any visit.

Among the stars of the new offerings is the salt-crusted whole branzino for two. For $58, the fish is presented in its salt crust at the table, where it is cut open and the fish served in the form of two fillets accompanied by rosemary potatoes, lemon and herb topping.

And a charcuterie platter of Affetato Misto (at top of page) manages to be a picture- and palate-perfect intro for any meal.
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Arancino at The Kahala is at The Kahala Hotel, 5000 Kahala Ave. Call 380-4400.


Here's a look at more dishes on the new menu:

Carpaccio di Manzo comprises thin-sliced raw Miyazaki wagyu topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, arugula and olive oil-lemon dressing.

Trofie al Pesto Genovese combines the housemade twisted pasta with slices of potato, haricots verts and Nalo Farms basil pesto.

Baked Pesce al Sale, a salt-crusted whole branzino, is presented at the table before being opened and individually plated.

Chef Daisuke Hamamoto presents a serving of the moist and tender branzino, served with rosemary potatoes, herb topping and lemon.

Dessert of a passionfruit-mascarpone cheesecake is topped with citrus sorbetto and candy brittle with accents of silver leaf.

Another view of dessert that reminded me of a kokeshi doll.
 
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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

One-woman show at Sara's Cafe

Nadine Kam photos
Chili pepper lovers can test their endurance with Sara's Cafe's spicy fried chicken wings. The bits of red and yellow are Thai chilis and their seeds in a honeyed shell. Don't even try this if you can't drink in something as mild as Sriracha.

Korean women have a reputation for toughness, and some prove it by being masters of their domain in the restaurant biz. It's a difficult enterprise even when many hands are involved, yet these strong women are willing to go it alone.

Those who miss the Angry Korean Lady behind Ah-Lang, who's now on hiatus, might try heading to Sara's Cafe. There, Sara Kim is similarly a one-woman act, doing all the cooking, waitressing and cleanup. (Now that she knows my newspaper column is coming out, she may call on some extra hands and see how it goes.)

Sara Kim rules the kitchen.

But, unlike Angry Korean Lady, Kim is quite the opposite, doing her best to be accommodating. If she seems to ignore you when you walk in, it's just because she's juggling dozens of other details. It's not only in-house customers who need tending. There are also phone and take-out orders to deal with.

Their cooking styles also differ, with Kim providing more casual, simple home-style Korean dishes, along with the comfort of knowing you won't get yelled at. Whew!
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Sara's Cafe is at 1551 S Beretania St., on the ground level of the Kualana Hale senior housing building. Call 955-1353. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, and 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.


Look for these street signs on Beretania Street, on the ground level of the Kualana Hale senior housing building.

The living room ambience has the feel of being at your aunty's house.

TOP 3

Here are my top three dishes. Keep in mind that my personal biases have no bearing on these choices that I think best reflect the restaurant's strengths. For instance, I love Korean spicy pork, but it's not a dish that defines this restaurant:

No. 1
The spicy fried chicken wings at the top of the page. Sorry some of you will not be able to withstand the heat.

No. 2
(Tie) Depending on your preference for seafood or veggies, a soft egg-y texture, or crisp flour-based pancake.

Among Sara's specialties are her pajeon, scallion pancakes, including this seafood version. Killer with accompanying sauce of vinegar, shoyu, Thai chilies and pickled onions.

In contrast to the egg-y seafood pajeon, a kim chee pancake had a beautiful crisp finish.

No. 3

Sara's kalbi looks like typical teriyaki-style shortribs, but the sauce is Korean, with shoyu and plenty of chopped onions lending natural sweetness to the sauce.