Nadine Kam photos
Halekulani executive chef Vikram Garg and visiting chef Bruno Ménard share a laugh in the kitchen before service begins.
During a special dinner at Halekulani’s La Mer restaurant Sunday night, Chef Bruno Ménard gave diners a taste of the work of a three-star Michelin chef, one of the most prestigious designations in the culinary world.
In the kitchen before guests arrived, Ménard prepped the staff on the ins and outs of each dish and exacting details of service, including just a small pour of red wine and truffle Perigueux sauce that would accompany a filet of beef tenderloin prepared in the style of venison.
“And we should leave the extra sauce on the table?” one waiter asked hopefully, knowing that Hawaii diners love a good sauce.
A sharp “No!” was Ménard’s response, feeling the beef would stand on its own.
And so went the dinner, complex but spare, using the finest ingredients requested by the chef, with some local ingredients — such as Maui onions and Kona lobster — swapped for their French counterparts. Flavors were clear, clean and crisp, with dishes balanced throughout, every ingredient accounted for on the plate and nothing extraneous.
Each dish was paired with wine from Young’s Market Co., selected by Master Sommelier Patrick Okubo.
At the end of the meal, the chef asked me which was my favorite dish, which was hard to say. My first thought was of the lobster Parisienne layered over beautiful tomato and hibiscus gelée. But the Maui onion soup over truffle custard royale with textured surprises of fresh sweet peas, fava beans and yuzu skin confit hidden within, was heavenly. I couldn’t help but note the classic French dish is similar in concept to Japanese chawanmushi, which the chef might have also noted during his time at L’Osier in Tokyo, where he earned the Michelin stars.
I also loved the lightness of the non-pasta cabbage, potato, foie gras and black truffle canneloni.
At the end of the meal, many a guest, who had paid $295 per person, asked, “When’s the next dinner?”
The idea is planted, so time will tell.