Tuesday, March 12, 2013

First Course: Chai's open on Kapiolani

Nadine Kam photos
Restaurateur Chai Chaowasaree at the bar of his new restaurant with some of his crew, from left, Cody Kalua, Kevin Malama and Anthony Murata.

Chai Chaowasaree marked the grand opening of his new restaurant, Chef Chai, with a celebration that took place March 9 at Pacifica Honolulu, 1009 Kapiolani Boulevard.

The restaurant has elegant, sophisticated appeal, and though it looks just as spacious as his former Chai's Island Bistro digs at Aloha Tower, he said it's an illusion. The new restaurant seats 100, but appears larger because of its horizontal layout.

There's also a private dining room that seats about 16 to 18, though if you have a couple more guests, where there's a will there's a way I always say.

The menu makes a more healthful departure from his previous menu, as the chef acknowledges Honolulu's graying population. I grew up with the original "name" chefs who got their start in the late '80s, so we're all in the same boat and looking for food that tastes great, with less salt, sugar and fat than the typical restaurant menu.

That doesn't mean there's any lack of flavor, and anyone walking in cold would not miss a thing, as the dishes he served that night proved.

This particular stretch of Kapiolani is rapidly becoming Health Row, with the raw vegan Greens & Vines leading the charge at 909 Kapiolani, and organic-oriented Blue Tree Cafe also in the Pacifica building.

Space heaters outside keep diners toasty when the mercury dips. Below, tables outside.

Gorgeous interior.

The private dining room.

Gravlax salmon roulade with cream cheese and crab meat on cucumber.

Ahi tartare in mini waffle cones.

Escargot in pastry cups.

Chicken satay.

Oysters with lemongrass-garlic mignonette.

Garlic gochujang shrimp and apple kimchee summer rolls.


Chai's signature kataifi-wrapped shrimp with pineapple.

Miso Chilean sea bass over steamed coconut milk-ginger brown rice.

Sun-dried tomato and Puna goat cheese wontons with spicy relish.

Alaskan king crab leg crabcakes were presented with roasted garlic aioli. The full dish also features tomato-mango salsa.

Grilled Mongolian lamb chops.

Have bottle will travel! A passerby just stopped in to check out the new restaurant en route to a party at one of the Pacifica condos.

Thai-style oxtail soup with lemongrass broth.

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