Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ramen Lab popped into Lucky Belly

Nadine Kam photos
Old School Tokyo ramen was one of three ramen options offered at the Sun Noodle Ramen Lab pop-up at Chinatown's Lucky Belly Nov. 25. The chicken and shoyu broth was topped with ajitama egg, charcoal-grilled char siu, wafu spinach and bamboo shoots. The flat, medium thick noodles are most popular with ramen lovers in Japan today.

Most people still think of Sun Noodle as the little company in Kalihi that supplies our ramen houses and makes pi for our won ton soups.

But the company, founded in 1981 by Hidehito Uki, is a major player on the national food scene due to the growing popularity of ramen. After shipping noodles to California and Washington for years, the company opened a Los Angeles factory in 2004, started shipping noodles to New York a year later, and now has established Ramen Lab in New Jersey, where executive chef Shigetoshi Nakamura helps would-be ramenya owners develop original menus and concepts for their restaurants.

They've also helped established restaurateurs like Marcus Samuelsson, who wanted a recipe incorporating Ethiopian teff flour.

With much of the country yet to discover the joys of ramen, it's definitely a business with an upward trajectory.

Nakamura was in the house at Lucky Belly on Nov. 25 for a one-night Ramen Lab popup. The particulars: No reservations, first come, first served from 5 p.m. while supplies lasted, and there were at least 60 people lined up from the corner of Hotel and Smith streets to Little Village, after the first in line, from about 4 p.m., were admitted.

I arrived at about 5, but was lucky enough to be part of a group that had been second in line at about 4:15 p.m.

The chef presented three types of ramen, representing local, Japan and New York styles. With the enthusiasm generated by this popup, more events may be coming our way. It's only fair, given that Hawaii has offered a warm, supportive environment for Sun Noodle to grow up.

New York Heritage ramen is Italian inspired, in a tomato broth topped with basil, crimini mushrooms, Italian sausage and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The chewy, curly temomi noodles are best sellers in Hawaii and New York.

Tonkotsu black ramen with thin, straight hakata noodles, pork broth topped with sumibiyaki charcoal-grilled char siu, kikurage (cloud ear mushroom), scallions and drizzled with black garlic essence. These noodles should be eaten quickly. Alas for the food blogger, time required for photography takes time from enjoying the ramen at its optimal.

Sun Noodle Ramen Lab executive chef Shige Nakamura and his wife Maiko.

Hisae Uki, daughter of Sun Noodle founder Hidehito Uki, wears a Sun T-shirt touting outposts in Honolulu, Los Angeles and New York.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Kensei way: Holiday entertaining in style

Nadine Kam photos
The holiday decorations are up at Kensei's home.

Christmas came early to guests of hairstylist, jewelry designer, stylist, and this particular evening, chef, Kensei.

The autumn-themed dinner, hosted by Kensei and Dale Young the day before Thanksgiving, was his way of saying thank you to Cathy Lee, Pam Campbell and Lesli Yano, who were involved with his recent "Art of Jewelry" fashion show.

For those shopping for holiday decorating ideas, this was the place to be. We were welcomed into his living room, already dressed in European Christmas garb, with a centerpiece of a tree filled with a handmade German glass ornaments. Even statues and cherubs were dressed with jewels for the occasion, and tabletop trees were dressed with brooches.

A while back, I had written about the intersection between art and the table, but Kensei brings the combination to the pinnacle of sophistication, with a mindful marriage of china, silverware and delectables being served. It's not every day you see a printed menu in which the food shares equal billing with the china!

In this milieu, you can't help but take the time to appreciate every visual and every scent, savoring every slow, luxurious bite, instead of simply gobbling food down.

Kensei said it's sad that many fine stores have reduced their china selections due to lack of interest. Few people have the time, inclination or talent to entertain this way anymore, but wouldn't it be wonderful if more would consider reinstating this practice, even if it means starting slowly with service for two?

Tabletops are dressed with angels, firs and other symbols of Christmas.

At Kensei's dining table, another holiday tree is set on an equally graphic, contrasting stone chessboard.

We could follow along the courses with a printed menu as guide, listing both food selections and dinnerware.

Amuse bouche of escargot-style stuffed mushroom served in a delicate English etched crystal bowl over Royal Copenhagen mini saucer.
Pumpkin mousse with caviar served in a Royal KPM bowl and cameo plate.

Kensei in his kitchen with his "Creation Sushi."

Plated on an etched crystal plate and Meissen dinner plate were sushi rice with ahi, hamachi and unagi over pumpkin bread.

Kensei-style "Furofuki Daikon" with miso and red ginger, presented in a Herend-covered compote and dinner plate. The compote was designed to be used as a butter dish.

A Czechoslovakian art glass compote and hand-painted Royal Worcester plate offered the royal blue backdrop for a crunchy salad of Japanese cucumber and roast beef.

There was texture and a gold-beaded quality to the paint on the beautiful Royal Worchester plate.

An intermezzo of homemade blackberry, blueberry and yuzu sorbe was served in a Baccarat crystal stemmed glass over a white- and strawberry-hued Meissen plate.

Japanese-style bouillabaisse of hamachi, delicate fishcake, shrimp and enoki, was served in 130-year-old Wajima covered lacquer compote and lacquer plate over a hand-painted Noritake plate.

The Noritake plate also had textured gold paint.

Dessert was Kensei's secret rum liqueur cake (available at Longs Drugs), served with mint ice cream and sliced kiwi in a Baccarat crystal compote over a Lamberton plate graced with circles of shamrocks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nobu Waikiki helps Parc celebrate 25th anniversary

Nadine Kam photos
Members of Iona Dance Theatre welcomed guests through the door at NOBU Waikiki for a celebration of Waikiki Parc Hotel's 25th anniversary.

Waikiki Parc Hotel marked its 25th anniversary with a celebration at NOBU Waikiki Nov. 20. Guests were welcomed by costumed members of Iona Dance Theatre, including a Living Fountain.

Parc staff members were offering guests shiny new quarters for tossing into the fountain's wishing well, to bestow many more years of blessings and good wishes upon the hotel, a sister of neighboring Halekulani Hotel.

Food was plentiful, and NOBU was offering some of its greatest hits, including popcorn shrimp tempura, black cod in butter lettuce cups, and one of my absolute favorites, silky, fiery hamachi topped with sliced jalapeño.

The event also honored staffers who have been at the property 25 years or close to it, and I was reminded I was there on opening day as well. (I must have been a prodigy.) I hadn't joined the Star-Bulletin yet, but was working for the Waikiki Beach Press.

The Parc is also marking its anniversary with a "25 Alive" promotion, through March 31, 2013, featuring accommodations in an Ocean View Room, chef’s special dinner for two at NOBU Waikiki, daily breakfast for two, a welcome amenity gift pack (Parc Chic private label wine, Parc’s Endless Summer CD featuring Grammy winner Daniel Ho and Herb Ohta Jr., and a Parc Surf note card pack) and complimentary parking. Guests will also receive complimentary VIP access to the Bishop Museum and Honolulu Museum of Art by presenting their Waikiki Parc Hotel room key card. Package room rates start at $885 for a minimum three-night stay.

Call 808-921-7272 or visit

Meanwhile, for a look at more of what's yum and a chance to win a $100 gift certificate from Nobu (by Nov. 23), check out photographer Rae Huo and artist Zakka's Pop Iroiro.

Rae Huo photo

Photo courtesy Halekulani Corp.
Sadly, I was reminded I was there for the grand opening 25 years ago, and I was sent the photo to prove it. You can tell it was the '80s by my permed 'do! Also at left, our columnist Ben Wood with Halekulani VP Patty Tam.

Parc staffers offered guests quarters for tossing into Iona Dance Theatre's Living Fountain, bestowing 25 more years (at least) of good wishes upon the hotel.

Heaven is a platter of NOBU's hamachi and jalapeño.

Mini ceviche tacos.

Nobu's sushi platter.

Skewered Peruvian beef antikucho, marinated in cumin, peppers, garlic and vinegar.

Black cod in butter lettuce cups from Rae Huo and Zakka's Pop Iroiro online magazine.

Offering guests their thanks for 25 years of patronage were COO Peter Shaindlin, left, and general manager Ulrich Krauer, both of sister Halekulani Hotel.

Also welcoming guests were longtime Parc employees general manager Julie Arigo, employed for 19 years, and 25-year veteran sales director Mike Kikuyama.

Guests went home with a Parc cupcake, which didn't last long after this photo was taken.

So Gong Dong moves back near original site

Nadine Kam photos
So Gong Dong has moved from McCully Shopping Center back to the Keeaumoku area, near its original location. Above, it's best known for soondobu, or tofu soup.

After closing up shop at McCully Shopping Center Oct. 3, So Gong Dong moved back near to where it originally opened in 1997, in the Keeaumoku Street area on Makaloa Street.

Now owner Steve Lee is back, this time in a more prominent location at Makaloa and Keeaumoku streets, across from Walgreen's and Wal-Mart. Timing for the opening is just right, as no doubt there will be a lot of people milling around the vicinity over the holiday shopping rush.

During a grand opening that took place Nov. 14, Lee put some of his specialties on the table, foremost being his soon dubu, a spicy tofu soup made from condensed collagen from beef bone marrow.

The restaurant is at 627 Keeaumoku St. Call 946-8206.

So Gong Dong owners Steve and Sarah Lee.

I love chop chae!

Stir-fried rice cake.

I was back for seconds of seafood and green onion pancakes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving made easy at Whole Foods

Nadine Kam photos
Thanksgiving came early to Whole Foods Kailua, which hosted a Holiday Tasting event yesterday, for those who needed a reminder that the holiday is next week! On the plate: mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, autumn puree, cranberry sauce, ham, turkey and green beans.

Whole Foods Market Kailua hosted a holiday tasting event on Nov. 12, bringing early cheer to revelers hoping to pick up entertaining tips while sampling some of its organic, family-farmed turkeys and all the trimmings. And of course, reminding those who have not begun to plan the holiday meal, that they're there to help.

Several departments offered entree and side dish ideas to suit every entertainment style, whether you prefer large gatherings or a party of two, or whether you prefer a lavish D.I.Y. dinner, or just want to dash in and pick up a packaged meal or sides such as seafood from its poke bar, or hot artichoke and surimi, or crab dip to go.

Those who want to cook their own bird will find all-natural, organic and heirloom turkeys, starting at $2.79 per pound.

Prepared meals including turkey and vegetarian options start at $10.99, per person. One such dinner for six features a Diestel Ranch roast turkey (10 to 12 pounds), 48 ounces of stuffing, 24 ounces of gravy, 60 ounces of mashed potatoes and 16 ounces of cranberry sauce, for $99. Pick up just the sides for $49. Or whole roasted turkey alone for $6.99 ($9.99 for organic).

For the same price, a ham dinner for six features a seven-pound spiral-cut, bone-in ham with glaze, 56 ounces of scalloped potatoes, 40 ounces of green bean almondine, and 32 ounces of autumn puree (butternut squash, carrots and yams).

There are many options, so you don't have to feel forlorn or hopeless if you simply run out of time or energy to put a meal on the table between now and January.

You can also order an assortment of sushi, cheese and antipasto, chicken wing, fruit and veggie, and hors d'oeuvres platters online at: Or simply call the store at least 24 hours in advance, at 263-6800, before heading out to the store at 629 Kailua Road. If you're closer to the Kahala Mall store, call 738 -0820.

Also, Whole Foods Market Kahala recently launched a Personal Shopper Program allowing shoppers to call ahead or email their grocery lists through 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays for curbside pickup after 10 a.m. the following day. Whole Foods Market's personal shopper, Bob Madison, will assist with assembling and bagging your pre-paid order.

I just got back from the snow in Connecticut, where all the fixings of a heavy Thanksgiving meal really make sense.

In giving thanks for what we have, Whole Foods also reminds customers to think of those struggling to attain basic needs. Its Grab & Give program gives individuals an easy way to make an impact. Through Dec. 31, 2012, shoppers at the Kahala, Kailua, and Kahului stores can purchase and donate meals and other essentials for distribution via Aloha Harvest on Oahu and Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center on Maui.

Shoppers can also opt to make a donation of $5, $10, $25 or more, to provide a full meal for a family of four, including healthy options from Whole Foods Market's 365 Everyday Value line of products. A $5 donation provides a family with breakfast of organic oatmeal and cereal bars, while a $10 donation offers a lunch of macaroni and cheese, tuna, creamy peanut butter, crackers, and fruit spread. Dinner is also a $10 donation and includes two packages of spaghetti, pasta sauce, a six-pack of apple sauce, a can of soup, and a can of vegetables. With a generous $25 donation, shoppers can provide an entire family with a full day of meals.

For basic care needs, a $5 donation will go toward the purchase of a personal care kit filled with Whole Foods Market's 365 Everyday Value citrus grapefruit-scented body lotion, shower gel and shampoo.

Since the Grab & Give program launched in 2007, the program has raised more than $3.6 million, which has helped feed more than 435,000 families with an average of four members.

The spirit of the holidays reflected in one of Whole Foods reusable bags. It looks like burlap, but that's just the print on the usual recycled material.

Holiday Spiced Plum tea from the Republic of Tea.

Don't forget to bring a healthy aspect to the table. Jon Fendrick dishes a tasty spinach and mac nut salad splashed with Cindy's Kitchen Pomegranate Vinaigrette.

The 12-pound turkey was prepared with an easy recipe: Salt and pepper the outside of the bird, sprinkle rosemary in the cavity. Place whole bird in a 1/4th inch of water in a metal pan. Roast at 375 degrees F. for 3-1/2 hours. Done and deliciously moist!

A sampling of sides: mashed potatoes ($7.99 per pound), gravy ($5.99/pound), traditional stuffing ($6.99/pound), green bean almondine ($8.99/pound) and autum puree ($8.99/pound).

Chocolate in multiple forms, ready for gift giving, or as pistoles for baking.

A selection of wines for the table or for gift giving. Among the top 10 holiday offerings available for sampling were La Piuma Pecorino, Ferrari Carano fumé blanc, HRM Rex-Goliath pinot noir, and Maggio Family Vineyards petite sirah.

Clean up with Filthy Farmgirl soaps, available in holiday scents and packaging, and note the most important ingredient at far right, "No yucky stuff!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Locavore: New England style

Nadine Kam photos
A selection of cheeses at Rubiner's Cheesemonger's & Grocers in Great Barrington, Mass.

When I get bored at home, I just think of Northwest, Conn., where New York city dwellers, who are wealthy enough, trade the noise of the city for weekend country homes where they can lay about reading or staring at grass, cows and hay bales.

But, Berkshire country living has its charms, with access to plenty of fresh produce and honey, handmade preserves and handmade goat, cow and sheep milk cheeses prized at the city's grocers and farmer's markets—without the smell of the barn.

A favorite stop when passing through neighboring Great Barrington, Mass. is Rubiner's Cheesemonger's & Grocers at 264 Main St., specializing in an array of area and imported cheeses, chocolates and cured meat, along with other gourmet items.

It's also connected to Rubi's Coffee & Sandwiches, where, during summer months they grill all manner of sausages for sandwiches, outdoors.

Check out or

Potatoes and garlic.

Where cheese comes from. At Rustling Wind Creamery, Falls Village, Conn., where you can buy goat cheeses and herbed spreads, jams, jellies, hand-knit wool sweater's and goat's milk soaps.