Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A taste of spring at Bernini

Nadine Kam photos
Linguine with mussels, clams and rapini in lemon cream sauce, $28. The light lemon cream sauce was a hit at a recent tasting.

Bernini has a new addition to its menu. Chef Kengo Matsumoto’s menu primavera celebrates the best of seasonal ingredients, with a full range of appetizers, salad, entreés, pizza and desserts.

Diners can opt to pair a few of the new a la carte items with favorite dishes off the regular menu, or go all in to sample the new menu in entirety.

If you’re curious at all, better get there fast because a new summer seasonal menu arrives in June.

 Marinated Kona abalone with sugar snap peas and black olives, $24.

Blanched catch of the day carpaccio with watercress and sherry vinegar sauce. In this case, the catch was uhu, $19.

Risotto Parmigiano with Parma prosciutto and hearts of palm, $26.

Bismarck bianco pizza with housemade pancetta, white asparagus and soft-boiled egg, $22.

The Bismarck bianco after the egg is broken. Click here for a quick video.

Colorado lamb with fresh artichokes and artichoke sauce, $46.

Rhubarb tart with rhubarb compote, $12.

Citrus terrine with mascarpone and Hawaiian honey cream, $10. Very refreshing.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Stage Restaurant set for low tea

Nadine Kam photos
Delectable petit fours await at the soon-to-debut Afternoon Low Tea at Stage restaurant.

Tea at 1024′s Michele Henry has partnered with Stage executive chef Ron de Guzman and pastry chef Canin Sabey to create Afternoon Low Tea every Wednesday at Stage restaurant’s Lime Lounge, on the second floor of the Honolulu Design Center.

The first seats for the elegant afternoon tea service will begin May 14 (the official start day, May 7, is already booked).

Michele said that when HDC owner Thomas Sorensen suggested starting the tea service, she was excited by the possibility of creating “the quintessential tea service, with the best of whatever I want.”

His only condition? That the china be orange, to match the design center’s exterior!

Tea lover Michele Henry with Stage executive chef Ron de Guzman, right, and pastry chef Canin Sabey.

The search took about a year, but Michele found her Shelley bone china service in the birthplace of low and high tea, terms that confuse the heck out of Americans.

Everyone here refers to afternoon tea as high tea but it’s actually low tea. In England, where the ritual originated, low tea was served at 4 p.m. to tide people over until supper at about 8 p.m. Sometimes, in place of dinner, people enjoyed high tea, an evening tea with heavier fare, served at about 6 p.m. The “low” in low tea referred to parlor coffee tables where the casual afternoon teas took place, vs. high teas that took place at regular dinner tables. This particular tea will be served at low tables across the bar near the entrance to Stage.

The tea can accommodate 30 people. Advance reservations and a deposit is required for parties of 10 or more. Details are not yet finalized, but the cost will be approximately $34.95 per person, or $54.95 per person for Tattinger champagne service, with one glass per person; additional glasses will be available for about $14.95 or $15.95.

The service will feature tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, yuzu lilikoi curd, strawberry preserves, marmalade and vanilla bean-honey butter lightened with cream. Petit fours include chocolate decadence cake, Greek yogurt panna cotta, macerated strawberry-elderflower tartlette, mixed berry coulis, vanilla bean and cookie butter macarons, and honey lavender creme brulee.

And the big plus is that there are alternative options for the gluten-free set. Instead of sandwiches, those who are gluten-intolerant will enjoy an assortment of vegetable and savory canapes, and their own platter of desserts. (The chocolate decadence cake is also gluten-free.)

And fans of Tea at 1024 need not worry. Michele will continue the downtown tea room she started before tea—high or low—became cool.

Guests will have a choice of ETP-rated (ethical trade partnership) White Passion or Blue Lady teas. White Passion is a pai mu tan enriched with pear, peach and other fruit. Blue Lady is a Chinese green tea enriched with rhubarb, strawberries, figs and cherries.

A platter of gluten-free selections.

Tea sandwich selections include crab with bacon and avocado, black truffle egg salad, Madras curry chicken, smoked salmon with dill cream cheese, prosciutto and brie paté choux, and cucumber namasu with dill cream.
Seatings for Afternoon Low Tea will begin May 14 at Stage Restaurant, 1250 Kapiolani Boulevard. Call 237-5429.

New dishes to come to Nobu Waikiki

Nadine Kam photos
Onaga with cucumber-shiso salsa.

Changes are underway at Nobu, where new executive chef Matt Raso invited a handful of foodies to sample a few experimental dishes created by himself and sushi chef Ono Yoshio, that may eventually make it onto the menu.

It’s interesting to see the creative process at work, with Raso already contemplating tweaks to dishes that aim to surprise and delight at fall’s Hawaii Food and Wine Festival.

Nobu was already known for adding the spice of jalapeño to hamachi sashimi, and some of these dishes amp up the heat. I particularly liked one of the dishes Raso brought over from Nobu Dallas, onaga sashimi warapped around avocado-shiso guacamole, and topped with a paste of dried miso and shichimi with the contrasting crunch of bits of garlic chips, shown just below, along with other dishes shared.
Nobu is in the Waikiki Parc Hotel, 2233 Helumoa Road. Call 237-6999.

Grapefruit and onaga ceviche.

Manila clams with miso togarashi butter, asparagus and oyster mushrooms.

The clams were a no-can-do for stylist Tyson Joines, who I learned doesn’t eat shellfish and other foods. The dinner was an eventful one as I urged him to try the scallops, foie gras, and crab, all firsts, that he actually enjoyed. I told him if he could eat foie gras, he could eat clams. But that’s for another day. Erika Kauffman playfully turned his scarf into a bib.

Hokkaido scallop with kiawe-smoked foie gras.

Lomi lomi wasabi salmon layered with onions, caviar and tomatoes, served with taro chips.

Alaskan king crab leg with black truffle crust. The crab meat was cut into inch-size bites so we could easily pick them up with chopsticks.

 Drunken cherry tobanyaki with mochi sponge cake.

Lemon sesame with candied shiso and spiced carrot cake crumble.

Kona coffee macarons.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Crab Fest raises funds for worldwide charities

Nadine Kam photos
Before: Dungeness crab with potato, sausage and corn, the highlight of the Rotary Club of Ala Moana's annual Crab Fest.

The Rotary Club of Ala Moana hosted its popular Crab Fest April 5 at Kapiolani Community College's Ohia Cafeteria.

The event raises funds to support culinary scholarships at KCC, as well as Rotary's community and international projects in a most delicious way, with all-you-can eat Dungeness crab and all the fixings.

There's a lot of strategizing that goes into devouring a meal like this. Everyone has their own way of eating crab. I like it just fine with the drawn butter that was served, but I also like it with Old Bay seasoning, a taste I picked up in the South, and someone there knew that, so delivered two batches of the seasoning to my table.

Others came prepared by bringing their own ponzu or spicy sauces.

Then there was the matter of "to eat or not to eat" side dishes that included lumpia, deep-fried pork wontons, potato chips, edamame, clam chowder, dinner rolls, corn, sausage and potatoes. The ones who wanted to maximize the crab experience didn't touch those and managed to polish off two to three whole Dungeness crabs.

I had some of the sides, but one crab proved to be plenty for me.

Some people pulled out all the meat so they could devour one whole pile at once, though most shelled and ate as they went along. The work is tiring, so by the time you finish shelling and eating bit by bit, your stomach has messaged your brain that you're full.

Funds raised go to good causes locally and internationally, from the KCC scholarships to helping those in need in Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Kenya with everything from wheelchairs and medical supplies, to kitchen facilities to feed the hungry, establishing micro banks and providing villages with potable water and sanitary facilities.

The club meets noon to 1 p.m. Thursdays at the Ala Moana Hotel.

Diners were able to help themselves to chips, spicy edamame and pork wontons, below, before the main event.

A bevy of beauty queens were there to help move raffle tickets.

Non-flash video: The delivery, via iPhone.

Dave and Tamae Erdman prepare to dig in!

Dave came prepared for the mess, bringing a towel he brought back from an onsen in Japan.

After: This is what was left of the crab at the top of the page, at the end of the evening.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Eating SF: Heaven on earth at b. patisserie

SAN FRANCISCO — When you live in Hawaii, far from any great land mass, you at one point will become a mule. You know the drill. You're getting on an airplane to get off this rock. Friends find out. They tell you beforehand to deliver this to so-and-so, and bring back things. Even if you don't speak to them beforehand, they will find out from Facebook or Twitter posts and text you.

So it is that I received a text while in San Francisco to go straight to b. patisserie and bring home kouign amann. "You have to go! It's orgasmic!!!!"

OK, so it's hard to ignore that many exclamation points, so I made friends with my cab driver and had him at my beck and call on the day of my departure. After dropping me off at the Persian restaurant Maykadeh for lunch, I promised a pear croissant in his future if he picked me up a few hours later and took me to b. patisserie en route to the airport later in the afternoon.

b. patisserie is the work of Belinda Leong and Michel Suas, founder of the San Francisco Baking Institute.

Leong began her career as pastry chef at Gary Danko, before leaving for Europe and working at restaurants and patisseries in Paris, Barcelona and Copenhagen. She seems to have brought back all their secrets because her pastries are divine.

People are particularly enamored by the kouign amann, a caramelized croissant with light candy crunch exterior and fluffy interior, that originated in Brittany, France. The ones I ordered were filled with chocolate, at about $4.50 apiece but soooooo worth the trouble of lugging them onto the plane.

I went straight from the plane to dinner, and they still tasted fantastic 11 hours later as my friends and I surreptitiously gobbled them up after dinner, like drug addicts in the dark parking lot beneath the restaurant.
If you want to go or have a friend headed to San Francisco soon, b. patisserie is at 2821 California St. @ Divisadero St., Pacific Heights. Call 415.440.1700.