Thursday, July 11, 2013

'Passport' to culinary adventures await at Pacific Beach Hotel

Nadine Kam photos
Sashimi at Pacific Beach Hotel. Just kidding! A mermaid greeted diners at the launch of Pacific Beach Hotel's new Passport to Wine & Dine Summer Series.

The Pacific Beach Hotel launched its Passport to Wine & Dine Summer Series on June 27 in the second-floor Neptune Room. Part 1 of the series was themed “Taste of the Mediterranean,” with a selection of marinated olives and red bell peppers, risotto with seared scallop, braised shortribs over mashed potatoes, oysters and wines to match various courses.

There were stations set up for food, and servers moved through the crowd with trays of pizza and bruschetta.

Also among the highlights were an array of fabulous desserts by Fenton Lee, former executive pastry chef for such luxury resorts as the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Waikaloa Hilton Resort, Hyatt Regency Kauai, and Grand Wailea. While the desserts, including fresh fruit in champagne gelée, were elegant, befitting a fine resort, guests were able to leave with one of his more earthy confections, the croissada, which I wrote about in the paper, causing a rush on the Aloha Center Cafe.

The pastry is described by Lee as a “delicate blend of a croissant and malasada” filled with a Polynesian vanilla Bavarian cream.

Pacific Beach Hotel photo

From the outside it definitely looks like a malasada, with its crisp golden brown exterior, rolled in granulated sugar. Inside it’s flaky like a croissant, and the cream filling reminded me of a long john pastry, which actually seems to make this three pastries rolled into one.

The next Passport to Wine & Dine event is coming up 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 25. "Taste of Australia will feature the cuisine and wines of Australia. Tickets are $55.

The menu will include lemon pepper-dusted Australian baramundi, guava-glazed "shrimp on the barbie" on ciabatta, sweet basil gnocchi, roasted Australian lamb rack, Tasmanian salmon brulée, shiraz-braised ostrich ragout, gooseberry trifle with Anzac biscuits, Outback s'mores, and more.

Wines to be featured are Greg Norman pinot noir, Alice White Lexia moscato, Penfolds Thomas Hyland shiraz and Nobilo sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.

And if food and wine are not enough, Duncan Osorio, straight from "The Voice," will entertain.

Duncan Osorio, also the voice of a Burger King commercial.

For tickets, visit or call the Catering Party Hotline at 921-6137. Pacific Beach Hotel is at 2490 Kalakaua Ave.

Braised shortribs were on the menu at "Taste of the Mediterranean."

A selection of marinated olives, bell peppers, asparagus and roasted beets.

Roasted fingerling and red potatoes on the rocks.

Pear tartlets by executive chef Fenton Lee were ah-mazing, as were all the other dessert selections.

Servers had their hands full bearing bruschetta, pictured, and pizzas to complement food available at various stations.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First Course: Plates at The Signature

Nadine Kam photos
Twenty-eight day wet-aged steaks are the star at the new Signature Steak & Seafood restaurant at the top of the Ala Moana Hotel. This is the 22-ounce prime bone-in ribeye.

Here are a few images to go along with my review in the paper today, about restaurateur Peter Kim's latest venture, The Signature Steak & Seafood restaurant.

Signature Steak & Seafood is open from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays. Call 808.949.3636.

The view from the 36th floor of the restaurant, at the top of the Ala Moana Hotel, is also a major attraction. This was the true color of the sunset on July 6.

More steak: The 24-ounce porterhouse, with a few slices missing due to an overly anxious diner.

For balance, a spinach salad with tomatoes, bacon bits and walnuts.

Ahi tartare is one of the dishes on The Signature's Happy Hour bar menu, available 4 to 6:30 p.m. daily, when dishes off the bar menu are offered at 50 percent off.

View from one of three private rooms.

Name 'Foodie Faves' to win trip to New Orleans

Some foodie faves already uploaded to Instagram and Ala Moana Center's Facebook page.

Are you addicted to kalua pork at Ala Moana Poi Bowl? Tea drinks at The Pacific Tea Garden? Popovers at Neiman Marcus? Or are you a snob for steaks at Morton's?

Your answer could win you a trip to New Orleans.

From now through July 21, Ala Moana Center is inviting foodies to visit its Facebook page to enter for to win a trip for two to New Orleans.

The grand prize includes:
>> Roundtrip airfare for two
>> 5 days / 4 nights at the Bourbon Orleans, part of the New Orleans Hotel Collection
>> Breakfast daily at Roux on Orleans
>> Welcome drinks at Bourbon O
>> Complimentary in-room massage for two
>> New Orleans-Creole meals
>> A $250 gift basket from Oakwood Center

Visit and click on the orange "Foodie Faves Sweepstakes" box.

Plus, Instagram a picture of your favorite meal from one its dozens of eateries, using the hashtag #FoodieFaves, for a chance to win a $100 Ala Moana Center gift card.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Get fresh with garmers and chefs at Cookspace Hawaii

Nadine Kam photos
Sashimi covered with transparent petals of konbu and yuzu gelee, created by Vintage Cave Honolulu chef Chris Kajioka at Cookspace Hawaii on July 7.

Vintage Cave Honolulu chef Chris Kajioka and Big Island farmers Pam and Kurt Hirabara of Hirabara Farms were in the house at Cookspace Hawaii July 7, as part of the new demonstration space's summer cooking series "Get Fresh LIVE," demonstrating the alchemy that takes place when chefs and farmers get together to collaborate and inspire one another.

The exciting new space is the brainchild of longtime foodie and entrepreneur Melanie Kosaka, who's able to tap into a who's who of culinary expert who offer their time and talent to opening up meaningful discussions of food and food production, beyond the glut of superficial "look where I'm eating" social media postings.

The appetizer dish, as at top, plated for individual diners, with kanpachi sashimi.

During the event, mixing cooking demonstrations, talk, tasting and dining, Kurt related that his attitude toward farming changed when he heard chef Alain Ducasse's belief that, "The chef is not the star, the produce is."

From that moment, Hirabara said he realized he had to step up his game, while saying that as a chef, Kajioka feels it's his job not to screw it up.

Pam said they could have planted their fields with tomatoes, but in choosing to work with a select group of chefs, have been willing to accommodate their requests and experiment with different crops, that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, whether due to climate, soil conditions or the kinds of pests that they attract or repel.

The farmers admit to being a little stumped when Chris requested a conehead cabbage. Kurt said his response was, "You gotta be kidding me. Why grow the lowliest of vegetables, that we toss with kalua pig" because it's so down to earth?

Chris's rationale: "If cabbage isn't good when it goes in the pan, I can't do anything about it."

Kurt Hirabara of Hirabara Farms plays around with the Caraflex, or "conehead" cabbage that was the produce star of the evening.

Chef Chris Kajioka demonstrates the simple task of charring the sweet, tender cabbage.

As for serving up the humble ingredient in his high-end restaurant, my view is that anyone can slap meat on a plate and make it savory, but it takes skill to make vegetables sublime. So few in Hawaii are able to do this. The handful of times I have been at Vintage Cave, the cabbage dish has been my favorite.

What Kurt found in growing the Caraflex cabbage Chris sought, is that it contains less sulfur than other cruciferous vegetables, and it's leaves are more tender and sweeter than other cabbages.

Now, he grows the cabbage exclusively for Chris, meaning you and I can't buy it at the market, and competing chefs can't get it either. That doesn't mean he's above withholding some for his own cooking experiments, and when Chris found out, Kurt said he exclaimed, "You mean you're using MY cabbage?"

Of course, true to Chris's description, the cabbage is pointy, and Pam said that when their workers first saw them, they were horrified. "They thought they had done something wrong."

As for growing great vegetables in your little patch of urban Honolulu, good luck. The farmers said they've found the same rule for growing great wine grapes applies. Greens I grow in sunny Liliha tend to be bitter, and they said the greater the differential between day and night temperatures, the sweeter greens turn out to be, also developing a beautiful glossy sheen.

"The sad thing is, a lot of greens grow anywhere so people are fooled into thinking if it's growing, it must be OK," Pam said.

The next "Get Fresh" event takes place 6 to 8 p.m. July 27, with chef Colin Hazama, senior executive sous chef of the Sheraton Waikiki, and Lesley Hill of Waialea Agricultural Group. They will be showcasing Big Island kampachi, hearts of palm and spices. Cost: $85.

From left, chef Chris Kajioka with Cookspace Hawaii's Melanie Kosaka, and Kurt and Pam Hirabara.

Charred Hirabara Farms Caraflex cabbage topped with dill with anchovy bouillon.

Beef cap with peppercorn, black garlic, spring onion and charred broccoli.

The beef cap plated for individual diners on ceramic ware created by local ceramist Daven Hee. Also on the plate are slices of Hirabara Farms potatoes.

Sushi on rails at Genki Sushi

Nadine Kam photos
Sushi arrives via Space Shuttles on Bullet Trains on a magnetic track at the newly renovated Genki Sushi at Ala Moana Center, which opens to the public July 10. If it all runs well at Ala Moana, the next stop for the Genki rail will be Waikele.

Rail may be a long way off for the city of Honolulu, but it’s up and running at the newly renovated Genki Sushi, on the mall level, mauka side of Ala Moana Center.

Leave it to the Japanese to bring the latest magnetic technology to sushi delivery. (Why are we even talking old steel-on-steel rail in Honolulu when the rest of the world has gone magnetic?)

The restaurant revealed America’s first double-rail sushi delivery system to the press this morning, and will open to the public tomorrow, allowing diners to place their orders at a touch-screen panel, then have their meal arrive by Bullet Train, F-1 Race Cars, Surf Board, Space Shuttle, and more.

The system cost more than $1 million to install and it's both novel and fun. No more waiting and watching the old conveyor belts make their slow loop, and seeing someone else pick up the one dish you were ogling. I never realized how much we needed this. If you thought lines to get in here were long before, I imagine they'll be even longer as people rush in to try the new system.

If you can use an iPad and navigate your phone, you'll find the system easy to use. The pictorial screen is easy to read and use. You can opt for nigiri, sushi rolls, other items (i.e. deep-fried and cooked items) and desserts. Different pages show individual items, and you press a yellow tab to order. Plus signs add another of the same dish, and if you hit it by accident, just hit the minus button.

If you're too short to reach the touch screen, it can be detached and passed around so everyone can examine the menu and place their own orders.

Luddites, don't worry. There is still an old-fashioned conveyor line in place, so you can still grab what you want as the plates pass by.

This kind of system has been in use in Japan for three years. I think we should put a few of Japan’s engineers and restaurateurs in charge of Honolulu's rail project, and blast a few dozen our bureaucrats off via Space Shuttle where they can do no more harm.
Genki Sushi is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call 942-9102.

The touch screen shows your customer or table number on the top right. You can choose your items and hit the yellow button on the screen to order. The plus and minus signs are to adjust the quantity of plates. Your order is rushed to you and once you remove your plates, hit a yellow button on the rail to send your train or car back to the kitchen.

Robyn Gee places an order.

These guests debate the many options.

An order arrives via Space Shuttle. Each order is limited to four plates.

Seared salmon we ordered through the touchscreen arrived on a surfboard.

On hand for the renovated restaurant's blessing were, at left, Yasumasa Sudo, president of Genki Sushi USA, Inc. and senior managing director of Japan-based Genki Sushi Co., Ltd., and Yoko Kato, director and managing director of Genki Sushi Co., Ltd.

Staffers surround the restaurant's entrance for the blessing.

Dessert showed "sold out" on the touch screens, and were delivered the old-fashioned way, via waiter.

New menu at Oahu Country Club

Nadine Kam photos
Roasted New Zealand chazuke with steamed rice, baby bok choy, bubu arare, nori, and dashi being poured.

Oahu Country Club recently debuted a new lunch menu, and I had the opportunity to sample a few dishes during a meeting of the Bon Ton Girls June 19. I've been an honorary member since writing a story about them in 2008:

The women worked together at downtown's Bon Ton and Bon Marche stores in the 1930s and '40s, and the few remaining Bon Ton Girls are now in their 80s and 90s, but still manage to get together from time to time, following a 68-year tradition of camaraderie.

They initially started getting together for private socializing in 1945. According to group historian Gladys Goka, it happened because the big group of high-profile girls couldn't help but make a commotion everywhere they went, and if they got too wild, their boss would hear about it the next day, so they started meeting in each others' homes to avoid prying eyes and gossips.

It's good to know they remain friends to this day.

Here's a look at some of the new dishes on the plate that day.

Amuse bouche of fresh tomato and mozzarella.

Pan-roasted Kona kampachi a la Grenobloise was fabulous, with its lemon-caper sauce, braised broccolini and other summer vegetables.

An 8-ounce Kobe burger is topped with blue cheese, seared tomatoes and bacon on a toasted Kaiser roll, with housemade onion rings.

Crisp Thai-style wok-fried snapper was served in a light red curry sauce with stir-fried vegetables and steamed rice.

The dessert tray.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Your daily bread at Brug

Nadine Kam photos
Can't go wrong with bacon and cheese bread.

St. Germain is no more at Shirokiya Ala Moana. In its place is Brug, a Hokkaido institution for 35 years, known for its low-calorie, preservative-free breads, inspired by German baking techniques.

A grand opening for the new shop-within-a-shop took place July 3, with samples of 40 different kinds of bread set up. Brug actually has about 100 different styles of bread and pastry in its repertoire, ranging from distinctly Japanese, like the large and mini adzuki-filled anpans, to French- and Italian-American-style offerings, like the pizza-style offerings.

Customers lined up to fill their trays with varied mixes of croissants, cinnamon cake, apple danishes and specialty dry kase, with its light cream cheese center.

The carbs all wreaked havoc with my diet for the day, now that I'm keeping tabs via the My Fitness Pal app.

Customers lined up to take their pick of about 100 different kinds of breads and pastries.

Croissants are a staple at Brug.

Bags of rye flour front an informational display featuring Brug founder Takemura Katsuhide.

Samples of 40 different kinds of bread were set up for sampling.

Pear danishes awaiting selection by customers lined up in the background.

More selections to choose from.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

First course: Sushi Yuzu opens in Kapolei

Nadine Kam photos
Sushi YuZu's Ko Olina roll, with California roll center, and topped with ahi, hamachi, salmon and avocado.

Sushi YuZu celebrated its grand opening at Ko ʻOlina Resort on June 23, a day after a preview event highlighting specialties created by the husband and wife team, Motoko “Moco” and Isamu Kubota, who have won a loyal following through a handful of eateries including Kai, Kaiwa, Hale Macrobiotic, Kai Wailea and the original YuZu Hawaii at the Ala Moana Hotel.

Their latest effort brings izakaya fare to West Oahu, with help from New Jersey transplant sushi Chef Ikunari Yamamura and local chef Brandan Bandith.

YuZu's signature lotus root pizza.

True to Moco's macrobiotic roots, Sushi YuZu uses organic and natural ingredients and incorporates local produce when possible, although they concede not everyone is ready to a fully healthful approach, so there is a full complement of meat and seafood offerings. But, to put people on the right track, sushi is accompanied by YuZuʼs organic, wheat-free Tamari shoyu for the gluten-sensitive. And other sauces and dressings use vegan ingredients.

I was able to try several dishes on the menu, all winners, with price points from low (four pieces yakitori for $8.50, sushi rolls from $8.95) to high, to suit any budget.

 Sushi Yuzu is at 92-1047 Olani St., behind Just Tacos. Call 808.678.1155 or visit

For now, the restaurant is open for dinner only, from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.(last rrder) Sundays to Thursdays, and 4:30 to 11:30 p.m. (last order), Fridays and Saturdays.

During happy hour from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to closing daily, patrons sitting at the bar can enjoy "Five 0," specials of $5 drinks and pupu including local chicken karaage, organic fried potatoes, spicy poke nachos, California roll, spicy king salmon roll, and more.

Isamu and Motoko "Moco" Kubota, with their restaurant's young yuzu tree.

Favorite food alert: Crisp-skinned organic potatoes drizzled with truffle oil and organic ketchup. (These potatoes don't need the ketchup.)

Grilled squid was our waiter's favorite dish, amazingly tender if somewhat alien looking, cooked with Hawaiian sea salt, pepper and tamari.

Rock shrimp tempura over spicy yuzu ahi roll.

Kurobuta chorizo dotted with goma and shichimi pepper.