Thursday, October 25, 2012

Now open: Kulu Kulu Cake a taste of Japan

Nadine Kam photos
Treats from Kulu Kulu Cake include green tea tiramisu. custard brulee-filled "Diamond Head," cream roll cake and a chocolate brownie. The Diamond Head is also available with rum caramel filling.

Kulu Kulu Cake opens today, Oct. 25 at Shirokiya, with light Japanese pastries that are "not too sweet" and dainty, as described by baker Eiji Kondo in his remarks to media previewing the confection selection a day ahead.

The lightness of a green tea tiramisu ($4.65) might be compared to a Panya dessert.

Kondo appeared teary as he recalled how he used to be a programmer who loved to bake, and eventually quit his office job to follow his passion. It's now been 17 years since he made that decision and he's never regretted it, enjoying his role of making people happy.

As he described the concept behind the bakeshop, he said that in Japan, each town has its own beloved bake shop, and Kulu Kulu aims to reproduce the confections that Japanese living in Hawaii miss from home. It's the same as if we moved away and suddenly found a bakery in L.A. or Seattle, or Paris reproducing Liliha Bakery Coco Puffs or Leonard's malassadas!

It was noted that "kulu kulu" in Hawaiian translates as "to multiply," so their goal is to multiply the number of people happy with their cakes.

Kahu Keale blesses the staff and guests of Kulu Kulu Cake.

Baker Eiji Kondo and company president Yoji Ikeda.

Operations manager Shige Higashi welcomes guests.

Custard brulee is $3.15. A green tea version is $3.25.

More delights.

Multiple flavors of Aloha Busse, spongecake sandwiching creamy centers. I liked the blueberry cheesecake.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2's company, 3's@ brilliant collaboration

Nadine Kam photos
Root fall vegetables (carrots, turnips, radish and winter squash) from Otsuji and MA'O Farms, prepared and plated by Prima, on earthenware by artist Steve Martin, was among the dishes served at the 3@the Table event at Fishcake.

How much more beautiful would your table and meal be if you were able to eat off works of art? That was the question proposed by architect Wendy Tsuji, the woman behind "3@the Table," which aims to bring together artist, farmer and chef. It's her hope that more restaurants, especially those in Waikiki, will pick up on the idea to enhance the visitor dining experience and promote more of Hawaii's talent.

We already know what can happen when farmers and chefs collaborate, and at an introductory event that took place Oct. 18 at Fishcake, an art and furnishings gallery, chef Peter Merriman said 3@the Table reminds him of the start of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement that began more than two decades ago, in which he was also involved.

Those who came of dining age after that time probably don't remember a time when chefs were held hostage to the handful of ingredients farmers knew how to grow. It took a group of about a dozen chefs to take their requests to farmers, suggesting produce they would like to introduce to their tables, which led to the explosion of flavors we have today.

He said that chefs believed people would pay more for locally sourced products, not just because they want to help support farmers, but also because the ingredients taste better, and people just may want to see art at the table because a beautiful visual aesthetic can also enhance a meal.

Artist Mary Mitsuda, left, with Wendy Tsuji, architect of 3@the Table.

This is something already seen at the Japanese table, most strongly at Nanzan Giro Giro on Piikoi Street, a collaboration between a restaurant company and the artist Nanzan, who creates all the earthenware that provides the backdrop for the restaurant's seasonal and nature-inspired kaiseki. The artist  is rooted in the way of tea, rituals encompassing all of tea's history, philosophy and implements. The restaurant also houses a mini ceramic museum.

If diners are to become more mindful of what they are eating, this is one path. It is easy to get caught up in the flavors, intensity and beauty of a meal in a place like Nanzan Giro Giro, which encourages focus.

Honestly, at Fishcake, where the mood was celebratory, such focus was in short supply. It was hard to get people to stop socializing for a while and listen to what Tsuji was saying.

Toward that end,  3@the Table brought together three teams, each with a potter, a chef and a farmer, for a collaboration that mixes food with art. Daven Hee was paired with MA‘O Organic Farms and chef Ed Kenney of town, while ceramist Steve Martin teamed with Otsuji Farms and Prima. Big Island artist Clayton Amemiya teamed with Hirabara Farms and chef Peter Merriman. Also featured was work by artists Jered Nelson, Trent Burkett and Scott Parady.

Then the beauty of dishes prepared that night, and the scent of pork cooked up by Ed Kenney, encased in clay by Hee, was too irresistible to focus on the plates and platters beneath them. It's only when I got home and looked at the pictures I'd taken that I experienced that aha! moment.

Funds raised from ticket sales and ceramic sales will benefit Hawaii Potters' Guild's youth ceramics program at Palama Settlement, to help bring the concept to a new generation and the community.
Fishcake is at 307c Kamani St. Call 808.593.1231.

Ed Kenney's kiln-fired Shinsato Farms pork, prepared with the help of ceramist Daven Hee, below, with the pork encased in clayware. The process wasn't easy, and also included a scary, stinky moment as you can read in a story by Joleen Oshiro that appeared in the paper.

More of Daven Hee's work for the table.

Grilled local octopus with lima beans and citrus, in ceramic-plated version above, and self-serve portion on aqua platter, below.

The same octopus dish served for mass consuption on an aqua platter evoking the ocean.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where there's food there's fire!

 Nadine Kam photos
Firefighters, clockwise from front left, Justin Sato, David Gromley, Alan Castillo and Makani Stanley await guests at the 3rd annual Signature Chefs Food Festival hosted by the Honolulu Firefighters Foundation.

The Honolulu Firefighters Foundation hosted its 3rd annual Signature Chefs Food Festival Oct. 12, at the Honolulu Fire Department at 636 South St.

A number of Honolulu's top chefs served up food worthy of real men, and the firefighters themselves showed off their vaunted cooking skills by serving up a couple of firehouse specialties, a slow-cooked Beef Mélange with carrots, celery and potatoes covered with vine-ripened tomato purée, and kiawe-infused smoked pork with onions. Double yum! I was told these were recipes from fire chief Kenneth Silva.

In addition to restaurant participation, students representing the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College, and Farrington High School’s Aloha Learning Center, also offered dishes.

Before entering the food tents, guests were able to bid on a silent auction, with such prizes as hotel stays, golf sessions, and paddleboards.

Funds raised from the event will benefit HFF's mission to promote, educate and support public safety. This includes installing more than 1,500 smoke alarms free of charge in senior citizen homes throughout Oahu.

Funds raised will also help support programs that enhance the HFD’s historic preservation, and provide recognition and charitable assistance to individuals who have dedicated their lives to the HFD.

People wondered why I was dressed for early Halloween in a black ribcage dress. I had a quick sampling before heading off to the Miss Vamp pageant at Hawaii Theatre.

Danny Kaleikini with Farrington High's Aloha Learning Center and Job Corps Hawaii's deep-fried shrimp on risotto, below. I could have eaten two of these myself! Of course I'm not suggesting he ate both of these. One was for a tablemate.

Chai Chaowasaree, left, with Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, served spicy oxtail soup with bihon noodles, below, one of the dishes that will be on his menu when he opens his new restaurant, Chef Chai Pacifica, tentatively set for early 2013.

Ed and Leilani Keough. Ed liked Chai's oxtail soup so much he had three bowlfuls before they sat down to dinner, while waiting for their other tablemates to arrive.

Tyler Perkins was among the firefighters helping to serve up firehouse chow, including a slow-cooked beef stew and fabulous kiawe-infused smoked pork with onions.

12th Avenue Grill and SALT Kitchen offered up this Big Island cinnamon-braised petite osso bucco with smoked polenta, Big Island chevre and poha berry-kula onion jam. Before biting into the poha berry, I had just glanced it and assumed it was a yellow tomato, so the sweetness was a pleasant surprise. They also served bacon-wrapped meatloaf with potato puree and house ketchup.

Poke Stop offered the clever option of a build-your-own saimin bowl with house-smoked shrimp and char siu pork belly and fixings, in a choice of smoked ham hock or spicy kim chee broth.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A taste of Chaîne menu at Oahu Country Club

Nadine Kam photos
The first course from Ryan Manaut's Chaîne des Rôtisseurs' Jeune Commis International Competition menu at Oahu Country Club: ahi tartar with tempura asparagus tips, prawn ceviche, lime gelee and wasabi foam. Guests were to mix the accompanying ogo, green onion, white onion and kukui nut in with the fish. This was paired with Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc, 2011.

Ryan Manaut, a young chef that joined the staff of executive chef Alfred Cabacungan at Oahu Country Club, was a winner in the prestigious Chaîne des Rôtisseurs' Jeune Commis International Competition, and tomorrow is the last day members can sample the menu he presented in Berlin—with a few tweaks, considering chefs are constantly trying to improve their work— along with fantastic wine pairings by sommelier Randy Ching.

After winning the Hawaii competition, followed by the national competition in May, he traveled to Berlin last month, and in his first international competition, placed 4th among entrants from 22 countries. This marked the first time that any young chef from Hawaii has competed in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs' Jeune Commis International Competition.

Like the cooking shows "Iron Chef" and "Chopped," chefs in the competition were presented with mystery baskets full of ingredients from which they were to create their meals. After winning the Hawaii competition, Manaut was coached by Kapiolani Community College Culinary Arts associate professor Alan Tsuchiyama, who also sent him several lists of ingredients weekly to prepare Manaut for anything that might come up.

At the competition, chefs—working alone in the kitchen—had a half hour to come up with their menus, and three hours to cook. Manaut said Tsuchiyama had tried to stump him with ingredients like sauerkraut, Jerusalem artichoke and pike, but in practice, he said he was able to come up with a menu in less than half an hour each time.

In competition, the ingredients may have stumped other chefs, but most turned out to be daily fare for any local chef. All chefs were given the same ingredients, and they had to incorporate all in a three-course meal: two racks of Irish lamb, 12 shrimp, 600 grams of ahi, raspberries, blueberries, kalamansi, baby spinach, Thai asparagus, mini carrots, mini zucchini, snow peas, Kenya beans, 12 eggs, 11 Tablespoons of cream, and chocolate. Typical pantry ingredients were also made available to them.

Before entering the competition kitchen, all chefs' belongings were checked to ensure no one sneaked in any secret ingredients.

Ryan Manaut in the Oahu Country Club kitchen with his dessert of chocolate-raspberry layered cake with blueberry semifreddo, candied kalamansi and Chambord whipped cream.

The challenges, he said, were that "all the stove top burners were electric, not the standard gas burners we use. That made temperature controls very hard when trying to make my dessert. I ended up overcooking the semifreddo once, wasting valuable time doing it again.

"I also wasn't used to their little combi-ovens. These are great little ovens that can both bake and steam your product. However, all the directions for the oven were in German so I had to just press buttons and hope for the best. That tactic resulted in burning my cake, so once again, I had to waste time remaking it. Even retrieving spices from the pantry was a chore since they were all labeled in German. I had to open each container to see what was inside."

But, it all turned out well, and considering that prepping and completing the competition has filled three-quarters of his year, he said he's taking a break from thinking about any more contests for now.

In the meantime, I was fortunate to be able to sample the menu as a guest of Chaîne Honolulu chapter Vice Charge de Missions Dr. Thomas Sakoda and his wife Ryuko.

The OCC dinner began with pork gyoza with kabayaki glaze.

Following the appetizer at top of page, we were presented with the entree of roasted balsamic crusted rack of lamb roulade with lamb jus, roasted peppers and basil, and mashed potatoes, baby courgette (zucchini) and carrot. This was paired with Gigondas, Les Pallieres "Les Racines," 2008.

Ryan plates the semifreddo. The experience of the chocolate-raspberry layered cake and blueberry semifreddo were enhanced by Randy Ching's pairing of Banyuls, Domaine La Tour Vieille, 2010.

Ryan's grandmother Alison Manaut said she was always happy to be one of the guinea pigs for his cooking experiments when he was growing up.

Dinner ended with OCC's Belgian chocolates.


The dinner marked my second visit to OCC in a week. Earlier, I'd been invited to lunch by a member, and we tried one of the newer items on the menu, a lobster-avocado sandwich.

Amuse bouche of fried prosciutto with avocado puree.

Pasta with mushrooms and basil.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

'Ilima Awards 2012: The way we dined

Nadine Kam photos
PR woman Kristin Jackson, left, in her other life as Kiss My Grits restaurateur, with Kim Oswald. Kiss My Grits was a double winner in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's 'Ilima Awards. The public voted it "Best New Restaurant," and critics gave it one of 22 Critics Choice Awards.

Work on the annual Diamond Head Theatre and Honolulu Star-Advertiser 'Ilima Awards officially begins in June, but the work actually continues all year as we eat our way through many, many restaurants and take notes on what was memorable and what we liked best.

June is when I and fellow food and entertainment writers—Joleen Oshiro, Nina Wu, Elizabeth Kieszowski, Jason Genegabus and Betty Shimabukuro—start comparing notes in advance of the October announcement of award winners, and soon after, we start fanning out to make sure the restaurants are continuing to perform well.

We try to include mix of restaurants high, low and spots in between for diversity that reflects the entire dining scene. Of course, for the restaurants, it helps to have a visible profile throughout the year to remind us who's out there. There are many more restaurateurs who go about running their restaurants in a low-key way, and I admit we always miss a few of these. I already have a few in mind that didn't make the book this year but deserve another look next year. And, of course, it helps to open before August, when our decisions are finalized.

Click here for a look inside book.

If you're wondering why I disappear from Facebook and Twitter all summer, it's because of the extra task of helping to write the book. The reward is the annual 'Ilima Awards ceremony that took place Oct. 8, a benefit for the theater, that begins with cocktails and a DHT song and dance performance honoring the award winners.

This year marks the 17th annual awards, which started in partnership with the Honolulu Advertiser before our papers merged.

On stage, Loretta Ables Sayre—straight from her star turn in "South Pacific" on Broadway—joined the cast and cracked up the audience with a particularly suggestive number sung to the tune of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," which had her getting up close and personal with a few of the representatives from Kiss My Grits, Prima, Lahaina Grill and Amasia, which included the Lahaina Grill rep burying his head in her bosom.

Other highlights included "Funny Girl" star Isabelle Decauwert singing about food to the tune of the musical's "Don't Rain on My Parade," and Tricia Marciel bringing hilarity to the otherwise bittersweet tune of "The Way We Were," sung as "The Way We Dined."

And, a representative from 3660 on the Rise provided one of the most entertaining moments of the night during the finale, when the members of the youth ensemble Shooting Stars got him to his feet and he joined in, rather well, on matching their dance moves.

Then, it was all about tasting, and the ultimate reward was hearing from guests that they enjoyed sampling from restaurants that they hadn't heard of prior to that night.

Kiss My Grits offered a generous combination of catfish, okra and black-eyed peas, along with grits and hush puppies, below, that all threatened to fill a diner up before hitting any other booth. I missed the bread pudding that came later.

Alan Takasaki, left, is the chef-owner of this year's Critic's Choice of Best Restaurant, Le Bistro. He was cooking up shortribs, below:

Azure executive chef Jon Matsubara with his inspired sambal clam banh mi and liquid brandade.

Diners accustomed to grabbing a plate were caught off guard when Matsubara placed the cracker-style "banh mi" in their hands, instructing them to take a bite, then follow with a sip of the chowdery salt cod brandade.
The stack of small brandade cups caught the eye of our 'Ilima Awards book page designer Joe Guinto, who admired their architectural form.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Whole Ox gets kudos from Zagat

Straight from his win for "Best Casual Restaurant" in our 2012 'Ilima Awards, Robert McGee of The Whole Ox Deli has made the Zagat Blog as one of its "Destination Delis: 8 Sandwich-Slingers Worth Traveling For."

I got the heads up from a reader who happens to be vegan and said, "I don't eat there, but am proud of our food culture."

I am always so grateful for the day that Bob decided to leave Portland, Ore., and settle here.

Read the article by Linnea Covington, here.

The Whole Ox Deli is at 327 Keawe St.

Kahala Nui welcomes Healthy-licious ideas

Nadine Kam photos
Kapiolani Community College Healthy-licious cooking competition winners Shianti Leighton, left, and Vanesa Lyn Agustin, were congratulated by Pat Duarte, CEO of Kahala Nui, a Life Care retirement community. The students were charged with coming up with a nutritious and tasty meal worthy of the community.

Kahala Nui, the senior retirement community, presented its second annual Healthy-licious contest on Oct. 6, presenting Kapiolani Community College Culinary Culinary Institute of the Pacific students with creating unique healthy recipes for seniors, on the school's grounds.

As Kahala Nui CEO Pat Duarte explained, the elder demographic presents a growing niche in the culinary world, as physical changes demand rethinking the way people eat.

"Nutritionists tell us all this delicious food we eat is not good for us. As we age, this all catches up with us," he said, adding that the ideas of living a healthy lifestyle and enjoying life are not mutually exclusive.

Many would be loathe to give up deliciousness to buy two or three more years of life, so he said the aim of the competition is to encourage young chefs to develop dishes that are both healthy and flavorful, adding that there will likely be increasing demand for their talents in the healthcare industry, whether in the kitchen of senior living homes, hospitals or nursing homes.

Winners Vanesa Lyn Agustin and Shianti Leighton presented garlic lemon chicken topped with lemon zest and accompanied by sauteed red cabbage, butternut squash and soy beans. They said they chose bright colors to compensate for seniors' diminished palate, believing that seniors would see the visually stimulating colors and remember what these foods tasted like when they were younger.

The judges' tasting portion of the dish.

He said we need chefs who will change the perception of nutrition, so that in the future we have "good food and ono food," he said.

I was one of the judges of the event, along with The Pacific Club executive chef Eric Leterc, Kahala Nui board member Roy King Jr., and clinical dietition Grant Itomitsu, a nutrition instructor at KCC.

We were given front-row seats for the tastings, also provided for approximately 100 seniors, while four teams of two culinary students demonstrated putting their dishes together. The students chosen to present their dishes were chosen by blind essay, and each was tasked with presenting a chicken dish.

Of course dishes had to taste good and be beautifully presented, but to encourage people to prepare such meals at home, dishes were also judged on simplicity (the fewer number of ingredients and ease of cooking technique) and nutrition. While delivering their presentations, students were also given marks for selection of nutritious ingredients and knowledge of nutritional benefits correlated to senior health concerns.

Judging was tough, and in addition to the four individual judges, the votes of all the seniors were also heard, comprising one-fifth of the vote.

In the end, the winners were Shianti Leighton and Vanesa Lyn Agustin, who were enthusiastic and earnest in their presentation, outlining the benefits of their chicken and slaw dish on osteoporosis and other conditions. They each received $500 scholarships for their work.

Kim Gennaula emceed the event, which included tastings of all the competitors' dishes for 100 seniors and judges in the front row.

Hyun Chong Kim and Edwin Choy, below, presented a delicious roulade with kabocha mushroom sauce.

These are some of the ingredients that went into Alexander Quach and Vin Lui's ginseng ginger chicken. Clockwise from top left: red dates, ginger, rock sugar, shiitake, garlic, ginseng and green onion.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New 'Chinatown Market' open

Nadine Kam photos
The Chinatown Market Place is open for business.

The Chinatown Market Place has opened at City Square, offering the affordability of downtown Chinatown's markets, without the parking hassles or crowds (yet), and, being new, a sanitary looking interior.

Current hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays to Saturdays (closed Tuesdays), and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

City Square is at 1199 Dillingham Boulevard at Kohou Street. The market is next door to Chuck E. Cheese.

Here's a look at some of the offerings:

Stacks of Japanese eggplant as high as a Whole Foods display (though not quite as even). Shown with bitter melon and green beans in tidy sections.

Thai bananas were $1.19 per pound.

Tilapia so fresh they were flipping all over, including leaping onto the floor.

Sweet and vinegared langonisa were available.

The Maryland blue crab at center was feisty, ready to attack the camera lens.

More fish.


Plenty of onions, one of the building blocks of cooking.