Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tapas beckon every Tuesday at Bevy

Nadine Kam photos
Clockwise from top right is chef Petra Lindeson's mussel Josephine, gambas al ajillo, cod and caper croquette, and Spanish tortilla with vegetables.

As rapidly as the food scene in Honolulu has grown, every now and then my friends and I grouse about what isn’t here, like great Brazilian and Caribbean restaurants, and most of all, we were hungry for authentic Spanish tapas.

Well, talk about the law of attraction. With the arrival of chef Petra Lindeson at Bevy comes the launch of a new tapas menu inspired by Spanish and Mediterranean tapas. Nightly prices are about $5 to $8 per dish, but select dishes are only $3 from 7 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday, now dubbed Tapa Tuesday at Bevy.

Given Hawaii’s distance from Spain, geographically and culturally, some foodies have grown accustomed to using the words pupu and tapas interchangeably, but I think a Spaniard would probably take offense because tapas have their own distinctive characteristics.

Originally from Sweden, Lindeson said she grew up with a love of food from many countries. But as she got older, living and studying on a student’s budget, “If I wanted to eat it, I had to make it myself. So I learned to cook Thai, Italian, all kinds of food.”

Bevy's house-marinated olives, feta and mushroom, and cherry tomatoes.

On the menu are bite-size edibles incorporating housemade cheeses and cured meats to be paired with hand-crafted cocktails and quality wines by master bartender Christian Self.

“In Hawaii, there’s a lot of foods missing. There’s no Scandinavian food; there’s no Afghani food,” said Lindeson, who aimed to do her part for culinary diversity. The tapas I’ve tried so far certainly have the mix of salty, briny, garlicky, nutty and savory that I expect from authentic tapas. If I were from Spain and tasted her gambas al ajillo, I would probably cry out of happiness.
Bevy is at 661 Auahi St. in Kakaako. Call 808.741.9299 or visit www.bevybar.com. Bevy’s new hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Mondays to Thursdays, and 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays to 2 a.m. They are also launching coffee and tea services.

Bevy's sinfully delicious tres quesos cheese puffs of manchego, pecorino Romano and sharp cheddar. So airy crisp on the outside, decadent on the inside.

Salmon tartare on crostini.

Housemade goat cheese crème on smoked beet with candied pecan were a winning combination.

Musician and blogger Erin Smith blends into the surroundings.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Arancino at the Kahala marks first anniversary

In celebration of its one-year anniversary, Arancino at the Kahala is debuting a handful of new dishes today, including Miyazaki Premium Wagyu Beef.

The beef from Japan’s Miyazaki Prefecture won the Prime Minister’s Award in Japan for the past 10 years.

Executive chef Daisuke Hamamoto has also come up with:

Tagliatelle ai Frutti di Mare: Tiger shrimp, scallops and housemade tagliatelle tossed in a lemon garlic white wine truffle oil.

Casarecce Ragu di Polpo: Octopus and casarecce pasta with spicy garlic tomato sauce.

Tagliatelle con Orechiette di Mare: Kona abalone, wood mushroom and house-made tagliatelle tossed in an abalone bouillon garlic cream sauce.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara: A deconstructed version of the classic Italian dish with a poached egg, crispy pancetta and truffle butter.

Grigliata di Mare: A secondi symphony of seafood: grilled lobster, scallop, shrimp calamari and fish of the day.

Bistecca alla Lavanda: 5-ounce lavender-infused sous vide A5 Miyazaki Premium Wagyu Beef served with roasted petite potatoes and onion petals.

A new chef’s tasting menu featuring five courses is also available for $85, or with wine pairings for $110.
Arancino at The Kahala is open daily, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and 5 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner. Call 808.380.4400 or visit www.arancino.com.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Afternoon tea a charm at the Monarch Tea Room

Nadine Kam photos
A vast selection of teas awaits at the new Monarch Tea Room within Na Mea Hawai'i/Native Books on the ewa end of Ward Warehouse.

A few months ago, as Ward Centers was outlining some new tenants opening over summer, I was both excited and surprised by the prospect of a tea room within Na Mea Hawai’i/Native Books.

My mind immediately shot over there as I tried to imagine the store’s layout. I think my reaction was something like, “Hagh! Is there enough space? Does this even make sense?”

Fast forward: The Monarch Tea Room is now open with Shakkel and Liza Yunis at the helm, and they know a little something about tea, having crossed both Atlantic and Pacific oceans from London—home of high, low and afternoon tea—to be here.

And, it totally makes sense, both from a commercial and historic stance. Commercially, the tea room provides one more reason to visit the store. It’s not every day people shop for Hawaiiana-related products, but once in, I think people will be charmed by the selection of jewelry, clothing and edibles.

It also allows shoppers a moment’s respite and refreshment from a wearying day on their feet.

Portraits of Hawaii's monarchs line the walls. 

Historically, many of Hawaii’s monarchs had close ties to England evident in portraiture that had them dressed in the regalia of European royalty.

King Kalakaua was responsible for reviving elements of Hawaiian culture swept away by missionaries, but he combined a love of traditional ways with a love of elegant dinner parties staged in European style, and was fond of British afternoon tea. It’s a tradition that began in the early 19th century when Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, wanted to fill the long gap between lunch and dinner, served then at 8 p.m.

Although you can purchase tea and coffee by the cup, and a la carte edibles, the best way to enjoy tea is to bring your friends for afternoon tea, at a reasonable $36 for tea for two. For the price, each person gets a choice of tea, and edibles served atop the traditional three-tier plate.

Monarch Tea Room owners Shakkel and Liza Yunis. 

Beyond pure pleasure, tea is also good for you. Every day, it seems a new study emerges revealing a tea’s health benefits, from reducing risk of cancer, heart disease, oral disease and kidney stones, to assisting in weight management and blood-sugar control, and staving off neurological decline.

With Baby Boomers and Millenials driven by healthier lifestyle choices, it’s no wonder tea consumption is projected to increase by 50 percent by 2016, and according to World Tea News, tea is closing the gap between the top most-consumed commercial beverages in the United States, which are:

1. Carbonated soft drinks
2. Bottled water
3. Beer
4. (tie) Milk, beer
6. Fruit drinks
7. Tea

So, drink up!

Edible treats during one afternoon tea, including mini cupcakes, macarons, bacon muffin with cream cheese and Hawaiian pepper jelly, salmon and North Shore sea asparagus cracker, and cucumber-taro mini sandwich.

On another day, there was portobello mushrooms on crackers, a goat cheese and brie tart, plus cucumber-basil, and lilikoi chicken with coriander mini sandwiches. 

Meg Akim shows a pretty pink cupcake placed on a pedestal.  BTW, June 23 is National Pink Day. (Hint!)

A beautiful selection of macarons.

Antique tea pots on display.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Free burger for dad at The Counter

 Photos courtesy The Counter
The Counter Burger comprises hormone- and antibiotic-free beef with sharp provolone, crispy onion strings, lettuce blend, sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette on a brioche-style bun. At Kahala Mall, it's $13.50 for the third-pound burger.

Father’s Day is just around the corner and if you haven’t made plans yet, one way to show your appreciation for pops is to hook him up with a free burger and some great company … you.

The Counter Custom Built Burgers is reintroducing its “BFD” deal offering dads a free burger on Father’s Day to let everyone know he’s a big f***ing deal.

Any guest who tells their server, “My Dad is a BFD,” will receive one standard 1/3-pound burger (excluding bison and market select burgers). The deal is limited to one burger per dad with a paying guest, and is available only with the purchase of another burger of equal or lesser value. Additional and premium toppings are extra.

The deal is good only on Father’s Day, June 15, at the Counter’s U.S. locations, excluding airport locations.

On Oahu, The Counter Custom Built Burgers is at Kahala Mall, 4211 Waialae Ave. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Call 739-5100. Other locations can be found at www.thecounterburger.com

The Old School Burger comprises hormone- and antibiotic-free beef with Tillamook cheddar, lettuce blend, red onions, dill pickle chips, tomato and red relish on a brioche-style bun. At Kahala, it's $10.50 for the third-pound burger.

The Baja is a turkey burger with spicy jalapeño jack, dried cranberries, lettuce blend, scallions and spicy sour cream on a brioche-style bun, at $10.50 for a third-pound burger.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Iyo Udon to open at Ala Moana

Nadine Kam photos
Ontama niku bukkake udon is served hot, at $6.25 regular, pictured, and $7.25 large. The side dishes picked out here include hot dogs on a skewer, and tempura asparagus, pumpkin, geso and a Portuguese sausage musubi.

Iyo Udon will open its doors at 10:30 a.m. June 14 at Ala Moana Center, with a special deal of $1 bowls of kamaage, kake or bukkake udon from 10:30 a.m. to noon on June 14 and 15.

The self-service, casual udon restaurant is on the mauka side of the center, in the former Panya space, where there is room for 65 patrons at a time. The restaurant specializes in thick, Sanuki-style noodles served hot or cold. The simplest dishes they offer are kamaage udon served hot with dipping sauce, cold zaru udon (also served with dipping sauce) or kake udon served in hot broth; all run $3.75 for a regular portion or $4.75 for large.

The restaurant is on the mauka side of Ala Moana Center, in the former Panya Cafe site.

When you arrive, get in line for your udon. Pictured is kake udon, to which you can add root ginger, red ginger, green onions and tempura chips, before picking out sides.

While in line, you can also watch the crew in action, here, dredging chicken into tempura batter.

There is also curry sauce udon ($5.25/$6.25), kamatama udon without broth but mixed with a soft boiled egg ($4.25/$5.25), or what we would consider a deluxe offering — ontama niku bukkake udon — with the works, half boiled egg and seasoned, sukiyaki-style beef ($6.25/$7.25).

Side tempura “toppings” run about $1.25 to $1.75 per piece, and some of the best items I sampled during a Thursday preview event were shrimp tempura ($1.75 per piece) and onion-heavy mixed vegetable tempura ball ($1.75). And although the chicken karaage (two pieces for $1.50) looked leaden, it turned out to have been marinated in vinegar so it turned out to be tender, juicy and flavorful.

Sides from the sea include the shrimp tempura pictured, plus thick squid legs and fishcake.

Skewered hot dogs looked like flowers on stems.

Mixed vegetable tempura comprised mostly onions.

Chicken looked heavy, but, marinated in vinegar before the deep-fry treatment rendered it more tender and flavorful than it looks.

Dessert of deep-fried ice cream started to melt quickly with the heat of summer ... or at the slow pace of requisite social media photography.

Iyo Udon is owned by the Osaka-based Hannan Ribiyo Co., and is known as Iyo-seimen in Japan, where the company has 30 udon restaurants. The company recently expanded to open a shop in Korea, and the Honolulu store will be its first in the United States.

The restaurant’s owner got his start in business opening barber shops and hair salons, and his empire now numbers 600 salons, but he said, in Japanese, that he always loved udon. Indeed, after introductions during a press preview, he happily sampled his own food, including nibbling on a croquette in his hands.

But it wasn’t necessarily about settling a craving; he also had his critic’s hat on, saying the tempura batter is not the same as in Japan because they can’t get the same flour and consistency.

Iyo Udon hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Call 955-5888 or visit www.iyo-udon.com.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fresh Box makes chef-quality gourmet meals easy

Photo courtesy William Chen
Chef William Chen puts all the ingredients for a restaurant-quality meal in your hands with Fresh Box.

The older you get, the more of a chore it becomes to figure out what’s for dinner.

First you have to decide what you want to eat. Then there’s grocery shopping to do, and prep once you get home … it’s no wonder many people end up junk fooding it.

Imagine the possibilities if someone else did the planning and shopping and delivered all the ingredients for three great meals to your doorstep.

That’s just what chef William Chen has done with Fresh Box, his subscription meal kit startup. Formerly the chef de cuisine at the Moana Surfrider Hotel, Chen said the idea of starting his own business is the result of a convergence of circumstances.

Working at the hotel, he was often complimented on his cooking skills and told he was lucky to have the ability to cook meals for himself at home. But, just as in the animated film “Ratatouille,” he’s a chef who believes “anyone can cook.”

“If you give me 20 to 30 minutes of your time, I can show you how to do the basics, and you can just build from that,” he said. “It was obvious to me that people want to cook, but they’re hesitant because they don’t know where to start. That was always in my mind.”

Nadine Kam photos
The ingredients for cornmeal crusted fish with white bean and bacon salad, and my finished dish, below.

He was also participating in a CrossFit training program with specific dietary demands that required everyone to prepare their own meals.

“People started sharing their food, and when I looked at what others were eating, it looked a bit gray,” he said.

On seeing Chen’s colorful, yet still healthy food, the other participants were amazed.

“They started asking if I would make food for them and they would pay me.”

He thought it would be too much trouble to do the actual cooking for them, but if they were willing to do the cooking, he could assemble all the ingredients.

Chen also knew people had trouble dealing with CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes, in which people help support farms by buying boxes of produce from farms on a weekly or regular basis.

“People would get these ingredients and ask how to use them,” he said. “If you subscribe to a CSA box from a specific farm, you’re limited to what they produce. You might get a bushel of kale and not be able to finish it before the next box arrives.”

So his Fresh Box takes all of this into account, allowing novices to cook up creative and varied gourmet, restaurant-quality meals at home with ease. His recipes are nutritionally balanced and incorporate farm-fresh ingredients with zero waste.

“I wanted to present it all in a package that’s attractive and interactive for people,” said Chen.

These are the ingredients for Chen's chicken with peach salad. In the center are oregano, organic sugar and cider vinegar for the salad's tomato vinaigrette.

Chopped red potatoes, peaches and tomatoes.

The recipe called for grilling the chicken and peaches, but with no grill, Chen said it was fine to cook them in saute pan, so I did. For the photo's sake, I went my own way and separated peaches and salad. The salad would have been better his way, with the sweetness of the peaches.

There's leeway in presentation. Chen's chicken dish was presented as a salad, left. I fanned it all out for the sort of people who don't like different food groups to touch. I've met plenty of weird eaters, the kind who need to pick out every ingredient in fried rice, pile them up and eat them separately.

Each box comes with all the ingredients and instructions for three meals for two, or dinner six nights a week for singles. His recipes come with pre-measured ingredients, an 8 1/2-by-11-inch “recipe card” with a photo of the finished dish, and step-by-step photos to guide you in the cooking journey. The only things you need from your pantry are salt, pepper and cooking oil.

Chen claims you can prepare the meals in 30 minutes or less, but that’s a pro talking. For us civilians it will take 30 to 45 minutes because there is prep time involved in chopping vegetables.

For beginners, it’s a learning experience. Even more experienced cooks have the opportunity to step out of comfort zones and try ingredients they’ve never used before. For those who want to impress a date with cooking skills, this is a no-fail option. And those short on time will find it easy to have all the ingredients delivered, in the right portions, so there’s no waste or spoilage.

He comes up with new menus weekly so you won’t be bored, and even though I go out almost every night of the week, I found time to cook the three meals. With four days between first and last meals, the ingredients kept.

Ingredients for steak with balsamic onions, including bay leaves and garam masala for basmati rice, and sumac to dust over carrots. You may be more familiar with sumac than you think. It's the dominant flavor in li hing mui.

Chopped ingredients, and the finished dish with sumac carrots, garam masala-perfumed basmati rice, and balsamic onions and cilantro over the steak, below.

So far, 200 have subscribed to the service, with meals delivered to your door, anywhere on Oahu. But there’s still plenty of boxes to go around.

“The more the merrier,” Chen said.

A Fresh BOX membership is $10 monthly, plus $72 per box of six meals ($12 per meal). Non-member price is $15 per meal ($90 per box). Visit www.hifreshbox.com.

The recipe card for the chicken dish. The flip side bears a photo of the finished dish.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Free donuts at Regal Bakery mark National Donut Day

Nadine Kam photos
It’s National Donut Day and Regal Bakery is celebrating with its 4th year of hosting a donut giveaway, and second annual collaboration with Salvation Army.

On June 6, Regal Bakery is giving customers one free donut per person (any one donut in its showcase), with no purchase necessary. The giveaway will run from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you want more donuts, 10 percent of sales will go to the Salvation Army.

The connection?

The Salvation Army started National Donut Day 77 years ago to raise funds and bring awareness to their social service programs. The event commemorates “Donut Lassies,” female volunteers for The Salvation Army in World War I who provided writing supplies, stamps, clothes-mending and home-cooked meals (including donuts) to soldiers.

Donut Lassies would fry donuts in the soldiers’ helmets on the front lines, seven donuts at a time.
What makes this year’s observances even more symbolic is that next Friday also marks the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day.

Regal Bakery specializes in cake donuts with flavors like orange, strawberry, blueberry, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon-sugar, chocolate, double chocolate, mint white chocolate, and maple walnut. They also offer yeast donuts like glazed, chocolate and buttermilk, and custom donuts with fondant and cookie flavors like macadamia shortbread, peanut butter and almond.
Regal Bakery locations are at: 3040 Ualena St. (838-1229), McCully Shopping Center (941-3883) and Downtown Chinese Cultural Plaza (540-1000).


On a related note, these adorable Floresta Nature animal donuts (pictured above) that originated in Nara, Japan, are not free, but $2.25 each at Kansai Yamato at Moanalua 99, the former 99 Ranch; cash only.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.