Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lokomaika'i for Japan a Princely affair

Nadine Kam photos
Edwin Hawkins, president of the Japan-America Society of Hawaii, center, with former Gov. George Ariyoshi and Jean Ariyoshi.

Event dining is something of a sport to me because it's work, and to sample as much as possible, I have to have a strategy. When 30 chefs are involved in an event, forget it. There's no way I could sample 30 different masterpieces, no matter how small the portions.

So, Prince Resorts Hawaii's “Lokomaika‘i for Japan” event, which took place May 27 in the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki’s Mauna Kea Ballroom seemed reasonable in scope, bringing together four chefs from the Prince's Big Island and Oahu properties: George Gomes, Jr., executive chef of Mauna Kea Resort; sous chef Kirby Wong filling in for Khamtan Tanhchaleun, executive chef of Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki; Masami Shimoyama, of Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki’s Hakone Restaurant; and Peter Abarcar, Jr. of Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.

Each showcased multiple signature dishes that really added up to the point where once again, I wasn't able to try everything.

The chefs were joined by special guest chef, company president Donn Takahashi. He wasn't just a token cook serving up dishes with loads of staff help. While guests were enjoying the party, he was hard at work, sautéing the shrimp that went into his dish of garlic sake shrimp served over bow tie pasta.

Na Hoku Hanohano 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award winners Kalapana on stage.

Guests were also treated to the music of Willie K, Palolo and Kalapana, sounding as good as ever. Just one night later, Kalapana picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards ceremony at Hawai'i Convention Center. Other recipients of the 2011 award were Jacqueline “Skylark” Rossetti, Napua Stevens-Poire, Bill and Ernie Tavares, and Bill Tapia.

I'd left my video camera in the car, so recorded two of Kalapana's performances on my iPhone. If I can figure out how to get it out, I may post it at a later.

I was seated next to Japan-American Society of Hawaii (JASH) president Edwin Hawkins who said that Hawaii has raised about $6 million for Japan relief, with $3 million going through his organization for donation to the Japanese Red Cross Society. In addition to funds coming in from big companies like Hawaiian Electric, Marukai and 7-Eleven, he says people often show up at his office with funds in hand, including school children offering up their change.

With a population of about 1.3 million, that amounts to a little more than $4.50 for every person in the state, and the Prince's event will add even more to the coffers.

From Hakone, each guest was welcome to one or more helpings of a nigiri assortment featuring two kinds of ahi, hamachi, ebi, spicy tuna and California roll.
Prince Resorts Hawaii president Donn Takahashi was enlisted as honorary chef for the event, assisted by Lexi Hada.
Donn was cooking up selections of Steak Diane with shiitake and rice pilaf, and garlic sake shrimp with herbs on bow tie pasta.

Sous chef Kirby Wong filled in for Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki executive chef Khamtan Tanhchaleun, whose offering was Chinese-style braised, smoked pork belly, one of my two favorite dishes of the evening. Maybe it was my favorite because I went back for seconds! The pork, also shown below, was like melt-on-your-tongue candy.

The Royal Seafood Soup of Australian king salmon, crab leg, Manila clam, mushroom and daikon, from Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki Hakone chef Masami Shimoyama, was my other favorite dish. The soup was ladled in just before serving so each piece, including the crab, retained its flavor. So pure and simple.

Mauna Kea Resort executive chef George Gomes Jr. serves his Big Island wild boar braise with hand-cut ribbon pasta in organic carrot agro dolce. He's with the resort's director of food and beverage, Rossana Berkoff.

Oysters Rockefeller with Kamuela spinach, tarragon and a Parmesan crust created by Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel sous chef Peter Abarcar Jr. Very yummy.

The most unique dish was Mauna Kea Resort executive chef George Gomes Jr.'s Korean pear gazpacho with smoked almonds and surprising bits of salted lemon mui. To taste that bit of sour in the otherwise sweet soup was initially shocking, but I found myself fishing for more of the Chinese-style lemon-peel bits.

Desserts of mango chiffon layered cake, tiramisu and mac nut pie.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dinner and a movie (producer)

Fox Searchlight
George Clooney stars in "The Descendants," filmed here last year. The film will debut Dec. 16.

The SMEI (Sales and Marketing Executives International), Honolulu chapter, will present “Hollywood in Hawaii,” a June 21 dinner meeting taking place at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, featuring guest speaker Jim Burke, producer of upcoming Fox Searchlight films, “The Descendants” and “Cedar Rapids.”

The event, entitled "Hollywood in Hawaii," will take place 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., focusing on the many facets of film production, the multi-level marketing of feature films and the economic opportunity production brings to Hawaii. Burke will also address his experience working here.

Jim Burke will be the guest speaker at the next SMEI, Honolulu chapter, dinner meeting, "Hollywood in Hawaii."

Admission is $55 (pre-paid) for members, $65 (pre-paid) for non-members; the cost at the door will be $65 and $75 respectively.

Burke recently served as executive producer on Tamara Jenkins’ Academy Award nominated film, “The Savages.” In 2004, Burke, along with "Descendants" director Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor, formed the production company Ad Hominem.

Prior to Ad Hominem, he was a founding member of the independent film and television company, Rysher, whose diverse film slate includes Sundance audience award winner, “Big Night,” as well as “Primal Fear,” “Kiss the Girls,” “Private Parts” and “The Saint.”

Burke also co-produced, “2 Days in the Valley,” directed by John Herzfeld, “Kingpin,” directed by the Farrelly Brothers, and “Election,” directed by Payne. Earlier in his career, Burke served as vice president of Warner Bros. Television Domestic Distribution.

To make a reservation, please visit www.smeihonolulu.com or call 942-7000.

Watch the trailer, below:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sharing a glass with vintner John Kolasa

Nadine Kam photos
Rani Shigemitsu welcomes John Kolasa with a pour of his Château Canon Clos Canon 2007. One glass was mine.

About 150 oenophiles were treated to a very special event hosted at Mariposa May 24. William Gladstone Imports and R. Field Wine Co., were co-presenters in a wine tasting featuring special guest John Kolasa, former managing director of Château Latour, and now gérant of the House of Chanel-owned Château Canon and president directeur general of Château Rauzan-Ségla.

Guests were treated to reception samplings of Segla 2002 and 2006, and Clos Canon 2007, followed by a first flight of recent vintage Château Rauzan-Ségla (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux) 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2003 and 1998, and second flight of older vintage Château Rauzan-Ségla 2001, 2000, 1996, 1990 and 1983, and Château Canon (France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru) 2002, 2002 and 2000. Château Rauzan-Ségla only produces 10,000 cases a year, and Château Canon produces 4,000 cases.

The tasting was informal, with a buffet meal set up by chef Marc Anthony Freiburg and his staff in keeping with Kolasa's mission of sharing the wine experience in a friendly, non-snobby way. While the community of wine lovers can appear to revel in exclusivity, Kolasa said, "People think the chateau and vineyards are a snobby, closed place, but anyone can come up with a rucksack on their back. If you knock on the door, we will share our wine with you."

Yielding to chef brings surprise and pleasure

Nadine Kam photos
Diners at Nanzan GiroGiro sit around the cooking station where kaiseki meals are prepared, the menu set by the chef. In the foreground are the implements of tea including the powdered matcha served at the meal's end.

By Nadine Kam

Control freaks beware. To enter Nanzan GiroGiro is to surrender to the chef and the moment.

There is no food menu to peruse. In fact, the staff would rather not share the menu, lest it spoil the surprise that accompanies any dramatic production. So, it's just as well that my visit to the kaiseki restaurant comes at the end of the month, just as the restaurant is about to unveil June's seasonal menu.

I've often spoken of dining as live theater, and Nanzan GiroGiro takes this concept to new heights. The meal starts with set "show times" with first seatings at 6 or 6:30 p.m. and second seating at 8 or 8:30 p.m. The time you choose depends on whether you're the eat-and-run type or whether you like hanging around over drinks after a meal. Staffers have stayed in place till 2 a.m. to accommodate the latter group.

There is a drink menu listing a range of sake, shochu, wine, soft drinks and teas. Once you've chosen, sit back and enjoy the performance.

Diners are seated around a large cooking and service station, so you can watch the prep when you're not wholly absorbed in the dish before you. There's precedent for this style of seating in the teppanyaki style popularized by Benihana, as well as the open-kitchen phenomenon that started in the late 1980s. But diners have rarely relinquished so much control of their meal. When I was there, one man asked for ginger to go with his ahi poke. Alas, with the kaiseki, the chef's exacting preparation, presentation and promise is that each dish is perfect as is. To veer from the chef's vision with a dash of condiments here and there would be insulting. So the man was told, in a gentle way, there was no ginger available.

Nanzan GiroGiro marks a partnership between a restaurant company and Kyoto-based ceramist. All the dishware is the work of the artist Nanzan, and a small gallery in the restaurant pays homage to his family's ceramic tradition. Many of the sake cups and dishes feature the little man, "ikan jin," or man of leisure, hanging onto the rims as a reminder to relax and hang out for a while.

Those familiar with the work of the Urasenke Foundation here might know that its home base is in Kyoto, where the ceramic tradition grew alongside Urasenke's practice of chanoyu, or the way of tea.

The ceremonial aspects of chanoyu are evident in Nanzan GiroGiro's kaiseki, which brings chanoyu's Zen principles and focus to the meal. It is the chef's task, as an artist, to express through his work the essence of the ingredients and dishes presented, and the task of diners to immerse themselves in the experience, toward fully acknowledging, understanding and appreciating the meal set before them. It's a tall order for those accustomed to talking through a meal and wolfing down food without a moment's hesitation or meditation.

Many of the sake cups and dishes are decorated with a ceramic "ikan jin," or man of leisure, created by the Kyoto-based ceramist Nanzan, a partner in the restaurant.

May's $50 seven-course meal started with vivid green chanwanmushi topped with a dollop of uni and shimmering brown gelee of bonito with a dot of wasabi for heat.

Next up was shredded sesame chicken presented in a small, palm-size lacquered seashell with side offerings of yellow squash, smelt in a green bean sauce and miso-chirashi sushi. Kaiseki and prix fixe meals tend to be a boon to restaurants because of small portions. Here, for example, I calculated that the entire room of about 36 was probably fed with only four chicken breasts. But the value of art can't be measured in the cost of raw materials.

The next dish was a relaxing bowl of a single piece of monchong in ginger broth. Thin strings of daikon and baby bok choi added to the dish. Each flavor was so distinct, one could easily taste the small dot of ume floated on top of the dish.

Ahi poke received a makeover with the next course. The ahi was presented plain with a side dipping sauce of shoyu with mountain potato, green onion, radish sprouts, slivered daikon and asparagus slices. When poured and mixed with the ahi, the potato, daikon and asparagus brought a delightful crunch to a usually entirely squishy dish. It was quite wonderful.

An entree of braised beef, pork and lotus root patty was one of the most substantial dishes but also my least favorite. It was engulfed with clam broth and flavorless yuba, or soy bean paper.

The next dish made up for it — delicious smoky grilled eggplant gelee in a crunchy sauce of pulverized dried shrimp of the sort used frequently in Chinese cooking, topped with okra. This was my favorite dish, so much so, I devoured it before I could take a photo.

Closing the meal was a simple dish of uku, or gray snapper, chazuke with nori and pearls of micro arare. On the side was a delicious kinpira of slivered beets, and tsukemono with small squares of konbu that had been marinated in soy sauce and sake and pressed.

For those who need more drama at the end of the meal, dessert is an $8 add-on. May's offering was mound of lilikoi souffle accompanied by a petite almond macaron.

A finale of powdered matcha green tea sent early diners out the door on a happy note.

Ceramics on display.
Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Advertiser.

Friday, May 13, 2011

He’eia Pier General Store & Deli hosts Sunday celebration

Nadine Kam photos
Chef Mark Noguchi, formerly of Chef Mavro’s and Town, will celebrate the grand opening of his He’eia Kea Pier General Store & Deli partnership on May 15.

Guests at the Blue Planet Foundation’s Solar Lounge event at Fishcake May 11 learned ways to live stylishly and sustainably with solar energy, while being treated to sustainable cuisine courtesy of the new He’eia Kea Pier General Store & Market, which is celebrating its grand opening at 2 p.m. May 15.

There will be a blessing by Pastor Toby from Windward Nazarene, and “small kine” pupu will be served.

It’s an endeavor started by Vertical Junkies and ex-Chef Mavro and Townie, chef Mark Noguchi, who are working closely with Mahuahua Ai o Hoi and He’eia Fishpond toward revitalizing the Kaneohe landmark with naturally productive kalo fields and other agricultural production, while raising awareness of sustainable food practices.

All dishes served at the event were sourced as close to the area as possible, including kalua pig smoked in Kaneohe, o’io and ahi from local fishermen, kalo comes from the Reppun lo'i, and ho’io from Mahuahua ‘Ai o Hoi.

Look for them at 46-499 Kamehameha Highway. Call 235-2192.

The Solar Lounge, at Fishcake.

Ho’io, or fern, salad was also on the menu.

O’io fishcake was also on the menu, as well as smoked kalua pig “inna blanket,” below.