Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On the table: Lucky Belly

Nadine 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.

Nina 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.

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

After lunch, a thank you on the receipt.

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

Aloha from Château Aiguilloux

Nadine 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.

Chateau 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.

It 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.

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

Anne-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.

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.

We 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.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ikemen brings Hollywood style to Yataimura ramen

Nadine Kam photos
Ikemen CEO Max Kawabata with his Back Draft dip-style (tsukemen) ramen, $11 at Shirokiya's Yataimura through July 4. Chewy Sun noodles are served with char siu pork and tonkatsu broth stirred with green onions and ground beef chili paste. The close up is below.

Max Kawabata already has six restaurants in Japan, with cuisines ranging from izakaya fare to barbecue.

It would have made sense to repeat one of his successes when he made his move to Los Angeles, but why go the easy route? Not one to repeat himself, his Hollywood debut came via ramen, and Lady Gaga, among other celebs, is a fan.

You can check it out firsthand during the two weeks Ikemen has set up shop at Shirokiya's Yataimura.

Although Ikemen offers the soup ramen most familiar here, its specialty is tsukemen, or dip-style ramen, in which the noodles are served at room temperature and dipped into a warm Ikemen pork broth.

Back-draft ramen.

The tonkatsu au jus, as it's called, is then enhanced with other ingredients in variations of the basic ramen. Inspired by the change of address—right at 1655 N. La Brea and Hollywood Boulevard—names of dishes are inspired by Hollywood. These would include the Johnny Dip (a basil-enhanced, pesto-style broth), the fiery Back Draft, and most amusing, the Ghost Buster, a cream of mushroom broth with a marshmallow reduced in flames and stirred into the broth on the spot in an homage to "Ghostbusters" Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!

Bring your friends so you can try the various broth selections. They were all good, I finished every last noodle, which is amazing considering I've never been able to finish a bowl of ramen anywhere else. I'm hoping they pick up so many fans here that they'll have to open an Ikemen outpost here, though with Kawabata at the helm, it may morph into some other restaurant entirely!

The stylish Ikemen team will be at the Yataimura through July4.

Zebra dip ramen ($9) is Ikemen's top seller in Hollywood, with the tonkatsu au jus spiked with roasted garlic flavor.

Jimmie Heabea, a k a Jimmie Heaven, torches the marshmallow that gets stirred into the Ghost Buster ramen ($12) in front of him.

Who you gonna call?: The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man goes from benign to evil in "Ghostbusters."

Dipping broth options, from left, are the Johnny Dip (pesto), Zebra and basic Ikemen dip of tonkatsu au jus with green onions and loaded with fresh-shaved bonito, made from the stacked fish below. A side order bowl of Adachi bonito flakes is $3.

Ikemen general manager Takashi Adachi prepares, smokes, ferments and dries the fish through a process passed down through his family for more than 200 years. Before serving, the fish is passed through a katusobushi machine, reducing it to fine shavings.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hazzard of food sharing

Nadine Kam photos
Alaska Airlines found tag attached to my camera.

It's almost a miracle that I got my camera back this week, 10 days after leaving it on the Alaska Airlines, the last leg of three flights en route home from Bradley, Conn.

I had my camera out to take photos of the first-class meal to share here and with my friends on Foodspotting. There was a little camera-size niche in the arm rest, and I kept thinking I'd better not forget it there. But, after 15 hours of traveling, my only thought when we landed was, "I've got to get out of here," and scooted out of there as quickly as possible, even though the flight attendants had reminded, "Check your seats for anything you may have left behind."

One day later, I was out eating again and dug around in my purse for my camera and thought I'd simply left it at home. But at home when I couldn't find it, I realized I never did grab it out of the plane niche.

Alaska Airlines has an "Ask Jenn" feature on its website that allows you to report items "Lost on Board." I figured it would be turned in because any finder would likely have no use for an inexpensive, already out-of-date Panasonic Lumix that requires its own battery charger. But I described the camera as being silver, and was amused upon its return to find it's actually black!

Appetizer of smoked pork tenderloin with mango salsa. Northwest and California wines were complimentary. On planes I tend to drink water only.

Luckily, I had described some of the last photos taken, including the dinner, and clouds over Seattle.

I guess I never looked at the front of the camera, because I'm always looking at the screen in the back!

I laughed about it with the person I picked it up from at the airport, and she said, "That's OK, people don't even know what their bags look like."

So, before you leave on your summer vacation, take note of what your possessions look like, and maybe take a few photos of them before you leave, just in case!

I had been a little miffed to find myself on Alaska, when I had booked through Delta and expected to be on a Delta plane with the plushy first-class section, and not the commuter style. But I was happy to note Alaska's meal was better than Delta's and I'm not sure whether they would have gone out of their way to return my camera.

Entree options included a grilled chicken breast with sesame teriyaki sauce served with pineapple-coconut rice and asparagus, or this delicious potato-crusted cod with pineapple-curry sauce, red skin mashed potatoes and julienned vegetables.

Dessert of chocolate brownie and vanilla bean ice cream.

Pedal power goes into Manoa Chocolate

Nadine Kam photos
Manoa Chocolate Hawaii founder Dylan Butterbaugh, with Megan Gallagher, left, and Tia Apilando.

Manoa Chocolate Hawaii hosted the grand opening of its Kailua factory on June 16, from afternoon through evening, with no shortage of chocolate aficionados clamoring for a taste of its 60 to 72 percent premium chocolate bars.

Founder Dylan Butterbaugh became fascinated with the process of making chocolate in small batches with friends about two years ago, and after much trial and error and invention, created his boutique chocolate with aims of raising Hawaii's profile as a producer of upscale chocolate.

Non-flash video link

The operation is as green as can be, with people power going into the winnowing process that separates the husks from nibs of the roasted cacao beans. Now that it's summer, Dylan is something of a Tom Sawyer or Pied Piper for friends of his younger brother Carson, who are gladly putting their muscles to work grinding the nibs and pedaling the Dora the Explorer tricycle that powers the winnower. Their reward is a taste of the remnants of the chocolate tempering process.

I got a chance to try my hand at grinding, and it was interesting to note the vast difference in flavor of the nibs and the first pass at the freshly ground chocolate, which was sour, fruity and bitter. The grinding releases the cocoa liquor, a complex combination of more than 300 chemical compounds that give a particular region's chocolate its particular flavor profile. This is the essence of the cacao and Manoa Chocolate celebrates the differences by importing beans from all over the world, producing single-origin chocolate bars for our side-by-side comparisons.

In store that day were chocolate bars made with cacao beans from Samoa, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Peru. Hawaii regions currently being represented are Waiahole and Hamakua, and Dylan has high hopes that with his operation, more growers will be inspired to plant cacao trees and contribute to a viable industry in the islands. He has access to an acre on the dry side of Waimanalo that he intends to plant with cacao.

Nothing could be sexier than the combination of Hawaii and chocolate, he said, and I agree!
Manoa Chocolate Hawaii is on the second floor at 315 Uluniu St., in Kailua, above Cinnamon's restaurant. Call 343-3040.

On display: A cacao pod and cacao beans in various stages of production.

 The chocolate is conched and tempered before it can be molded into chocolate bars.

Lisa-Marie Tam was among the first customers of the day. Her chocolate necklace pegged her as an aficionado.

A chalkboard showed the origins of chocolate available that day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hard Rock asks you to pick next Legendary Burger

Nadine Kam photos
Mark Marble, AccesSurf President and CEO and Heidi Putnam, Hard Rock Cafe sales manager, are encouraging people to vote on Facebook for the burger they want added to the cafe's Legendary Burger menu. Tuesday is the deadline to "Like" one of the four entries.

Yesterday marked the launch of Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu's charity burger promotion that gives burger fans a say as to which new burger—all starting with a 10-ounce Certified Angus Beef patty—will be added to the local cafe’s Legendary Burger menu.

Burger lovers can visit Hard Rock's Facebook fan page at to "Like" their favorite. The burger with the most “likes” will be added to the Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu menu on June 23, 2012, at the yearly AccesSurf fundraiser and will be featured on the menu for one year.

A dollar of every winning burger sold will benefit AccesSurf, an Oahu-based, non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the physically challenged and wounded veterans to enjoy the ocean through adaptive surf instruction and water recreational programs.

AccesSurf was started by Mark Marble, a therapeutic recreation specialist who saw the need for such a family-oriented program while working at Shriners Hospital for Children.

He said he'd worked with Hard Rock on smaller projects before, and the restaurant's move to its new location at 280 Beachwalk Ave., provided a good reason to team up again on a fundraiser to benefit families.

Malia Andrews delivers the Hawaiian Pizza Burgers, one of four vying to be the next Hard Rock Cafe Legendary Burger.

AccesSurf Fundraiser
Featuring a performance by Jake Shimabukuro
Where: Hard Rock Cafe, 280 Beachwalk Ave.
When: 4:30 to 7 p.m. June 23, 2012
Tickets: $60 general; $500 for VIP package for four; $3,000 for title sponsorship and seats for 10. RSVP by June 15.
Call: 744-0352 or email

During a media preview yesterday, we had a chance to meet the candidates. I don't want to influence the vote or anything, but the two favorites among the media group and AccesSurf members, family and friends, were the Spicy Mango Burger and the Loco Moco Burger.

There's nothing NOT to like about a juicy loco moco burger with the added flourish of Portuguese sausage. I liked the originality and novelty of the Spicy Mango Burger topped with banana pepper slices, mango cream cheese and jerk mayo, but it's one the average eater may not appreciate. I also thought it could have been more mango-ey, but considered it may be difficult to get good mangos throughout the year, so in the end I cast my vote for the more obvious, democratic Loco Moco Burger.

Meet the candidates:

Loco Moco Burger: The 10-ounce Certified Angus Beef patty is topped with Portuguese sausage, a fried egg over easy and brown gravy. This was the crowd pleaser. You won't be able to keep your hands clean with this one. Note that all these photos reflect half size tasting portions, not what the full burgers will be.

Spicy Mango Burger: I loved the concept of this burger topped with rings of banana peppers, mango cream cheese sauce and jerk mayo, for its creative combination of spice and sweetness. I think it could be more of a contender if the cream cheese were replaced by a mango chutney. The only problem is that while 50 percent of diners will be able to take the heat of the peppers, restaurateurs need to consider the other 50 percent who are wimps.

Hawaiian Pizza Burger: This burger is supposed to be topped with sliced ham, mozzarella, pineapple, tomato and marinara sauce. When I tasted it, it wasn't even in the running. But now that I'm reading the list of ingredients, I realize whoever was in the kitchen forgot to put in the ham and cheese. That might have made all the difference. The marinara needed more herbs to taste more like pizza sauce. It was rather bland.

Hawaiian BBQ Burger: Ah yes, bacon makes everything better, and it sure worked here with a caramelized onion BBQ sauce and blue cheese crumbles. It's right up there with the Loco Moco Burger, but you could get a bacon burger anywhere.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Make No. 9 your No. 1 stop in Millerton

Nadine Kam photos
No. 9 restaurant is located in the back of the B&B Simmons' Way Village Inn.

It's very quiet in the Berkshires, which drives me crazy. I need a certain amount of noise because countryside and nature scare me. They always make me think of serial killers lurking in the woods and every news story about strangers rolling into town and killing families in their homes.

Here in the solitude of the northeast countryside, I can understand where Stephen King gets the inspiration for his horror stories. Yet, many people who long for peace and quiet are willing to spend millions of $$$ to live here and drive hundreds of miles from New York to vacation here in the land of gentleman farms and movie star/artist/interior designer hideaways.

Of course, with the thriving farm-fresh market, the food is incredible everywhere I go.

One of the places I missed last summer when I was here was the highly rated No. 9 restaurant in the back of Simmons' Way Village Inn, a nine-guestroom bed & breakfast in the heart of Millerton, New York.

Sebastian, with innkeeper Martha Reynolds.

The inn is run by Jay and Martha Reynolds, who were just hanging out on the porch after we had dinner there, and coincidentally are heading for a monthlong stay in Hawaii in fall.

The inn is named after Edward W. Simmons, a businessman, educator, statesman and lawyer who built the original manse in 1854. The modest home was transformed into an elegant Victorian residence in 1892 by Edward H. Thompson, who was president of Millerton National Bank.

From 1903 to 1983, the house served as doctors' offices and residences. It was transformed into an inn by Carol and Robert Sadlon in 1984, and the Reynolds purchased the estate in 2003. Learn more at

The restaurant is run as a separate venture by chef Tim Cocheo and his wife Taryn, with a farm-to-table philosophy. Here's a look at what was on the table:

Crispy black sea bass that was among dishes enjoyed at No. 9.

Fresh pea soup with mint and ricotta, and white truffle soup with Parmesan crisps and mushrooms.

Quark spätzle with wild mushrooms, black truffle, asparagus and tomatoes.

22-ounce bone-in ribeye with wild mushrooms and onion crisps. OK, this one was overly salty.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Return to Smorgasburg

Nadine Kam photos
Porchetta sandwich at Brooklyn Flea & Smorgasburg at the East River Waterfront.

On May 27, returned for a quick tour of Brooklyn Flea & Smorgasburg that takes place Saturdays and Sundays at the East River Waterfront in Williamsburg, at 27 N. 6th St.

I came to New York for a couple days with a specific agenda that included seeing the Prada-Schiaparelli:Impossible Conversations exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute, returning for Luke's Lobster roll, visiting Momofuku Ssäm Bar, checking out the sales at Century 21 and possibly checking out Jean-Georges Vongerichten's ABC Kitchen in the unlikely site of ABC Carpet and Home. I peeked in at the latter, and was hoping to find Luke's Lobster at Smorgasburg, but alas, the food truck wasn't there.

What was there was porchetta that I had the last time I was there, as well as Japanese and Korean tacos, sausage sandwiches and a lot of heavy, fatty food, too much so for a hot day. Yet, the porchetta sandwiches aren't so big, at about baseball size, so I ended up getting another one. Along with watermelon lemonade, and something new, deep-fried anchovies from Bon Chovie. Now those were awesome! You can get them with heads on or off, and being sometimes squeamish, I decided to go with the headless option.

These Bon Chovies were crisp and delicious!

The menu.

Didn't try the Sambora, virgin sangria.