Thursday, July 31, 2014

New desserts debut at Top of Waikiki

Nadine Kam photos
The Top of Waikiki hosted a media event to introduce new desserts by Heather Bryan. She is showing her pineapple rum cake embellished with fresh fruit.

Top of Waikiki has unveiled five irresistible new additions to a dessert menu redesigned by pastry sous chef Heather Bryan, who recently joined executive chef Lance Kosaka’s culinary team.

After a stint at the progressive Vintage Cave, the new menu has marked a return to basics for Bryan, who nevertheless puts her own creative spin on desserts that include such new best sellers as:

» Apple Pie, a deconstructed original take on the American classic, with fresh Granny Smith and Fuji apples baked in an apple spice reduction, served warm, topped with brown butter crumble and vanilla gelato.

» Toasted Hazelnut Gelato Pie, starring hazelnut gelato layered atop chocolate mousse on a chocolate chip cookie crust, crowned with Frangelico whipped cream, bacon brittle and toasted hazelnuts.

» Chocolate Cremeux Semifreddo, a rich, silky smooth cocoa semifreddo layered with milk chocolate cremeux and solid dark chocolate, and finished with Hawaiian sea salt caramel.

This toasted hazelnut gelato pie was my favorite. It starts with Il Gelato’s ice cream, layered with chocolate mousse and Frangelico whipped cream, on a chocolate chip cookie crust. Finishing touches are bacon brittle and toasted hazelnuts.

“I wanted to take a creative approach to these classic desserts,” Bryan said. “For example, in the Apple Pie, fresh Fuji apples—which are my favorite—add a second dimension of soft texture to firm Granny Smiths.

“Also, crust can diminish in most traditionally baked pies; baking the crust separately lets the flavors and textures stand out.”

Heather Bryan’s take on apple pie.

The change of pace has also been an adjustment for Bryan, who, in the exclusive and intimate Vintage Cave was preparing desserts for 30 people, instead of 300, which has meant picking her battles and areas of focus.

Although she says she misses making her own ice cream, during a tasting Wednesday we were just as happy with Il Gelato’s hazelnut and vanilla bean ice creams that go into her confections.

Other new treats include a rich but refreshing citrus-flavored Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake, in which mascarpone lifts the rich cream cheese texture to new heights, and a reimagined Hawaiian classic, Pineapple Rum Cake.

Chocolate lovers may side with the chocolate cremeux semifreddo, finished with Hawaiian sea salt caramel.

Rounding out the dessert lineup are three continuing favorites from Kosaka’s original menu: Mango Crème Brulee, Hawaiian Macadamia Nut & Chocolate Tart and Chocolate Brownie. All desserts are priced at $9.

For more information and to view the full dessert, dinner and happy hour menus, visit or call (808) 923-3877 to make reservations. Top of Waikiki is at 2270 Kalakaua Ave. Take the elevator to the 18th floor and catch two escalators to the top of the building in what is Honolulu's only remaining revolving restaurant. Free validated parking is available at the Waikiki Business Plaza.

Light lemon-mascarpone cheesecake topped with mixed berry sauce.

Pineapple rum cake with caramelized pineapples, rum cream and fresh fruit. 

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On the table at Dîner en Blanc Honolulu

Nadine Kam photos
Corina Hill, with husband Eric, created a lighted floral arch for her Dîner en Blanc table, with three-tiered plates full of canapes for her mini wine party.

Diners paid $35 plus a $5 membership fee for the privilege of attending Honolulu’s inaugural Dîner en Blanc on Saturday at a secret location that turned out to be ‘Iolani Palace, keeping with the global event’s tactic of staging the dinners at iconic venues.

It seemed like a daunting task to ask participants to bring their own tables, chairs, linens, dishes, beverages and food. I know many who initially bought tickets, then returned them when they learned all the rules. For that amount of effort, they figured they could just as easily host their own garage or backyard party.

But generally not for 750 people — with 1,400 more on a wait list to attend — and the opportunity to make history, as Jan Kuivenhoven, who flew in from Kailua-Kona to enjoy the evening with her friend Elaine Endo, said.

“This is a piece of history in Hono­lulu. To be a part of this world event and to be dining with all these folks, how do you get this experience? You don’t. This is so fabulous,” Kuivenhoven said while helping Endo arrange a vase full of her favorite lavender roses.

Malie Moran, better known in fashion than foodie circles, hosted the party with Maleko McDonnell and Aubrey Akana. She wanted to bring the dinner party here after learning about the 25-year-old global event last spring when she was invited to the Los Angeles edition.

“I couldn’t make it, but I loved the idea of bringing it to Hawaii,” she said.

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It was a thrill to see 750 people dressed in white filling the parking lot at ‘Iolani Palace.

These fruit and cheese platters were part of the meal created by chef Shoji Namatame for our Aloha table led by Jason Kim. Below, a closeup of the cheeses, berries and fruit.

The original Dîner en Blanc was launched in Paris by Francois Pasquier in 1988 as a gathering of friends. They decided to wear white so that they could easily spot one another at the Pont des Arts. Today there are 40 events that take place around the world, and the original Paris event brings together more than 10,000 people annually.

“When you look at pictures of the events, you see the Eiffel Tower and iconic places from cities all over the world. We were so lucky to have Iolani Palace as our venue, the only royal palace in the United States,” Moran said.

In the friends and word-of-mouth only spirit of the original event, promotion of the Hono­lulu event spread among friends, family and foodies through social media, and the venue was a closely held secret. Bus drivers hired to whisk people from four rendezvous points in Hono­lulu only learned of the site when they received a text photo at 5:40 p.m. that day.

Elaine Endo, left, arranges her favorite lavender roses from Watanabe Florist with the help of her friend Jan Kuivenhoven, who flew in from Kailua-Kona for the event.

Charlene Lo Chan and Melanie Kosaka with the cold cut and grilled vegetable platter also enjoyed at our Aloha table.

I couldn’t imagine so many people would be willing to lug in all their gear while dressed in white. The worst was having to also bag and cart the trash after the event. Food waste is so gross.

I was lucky to have it easy, with friends who don’t like heavy lifting. Curate Decor + Design was enlisted to create our table decor and favors, and our food was catered by chef Shoji Namatane of the Trump International Hotel Waikiki. At $155 per person, we paid more, but it was well worth it to be part of the spectacle without breaking a sweat (save for the day’s humidity).

Two-thirds of attendees also paid extra to have their meals created by Hale ‘Aina Caterers chef Kanani Lincoln, who made three meal plans available, giving diners such options as Chinese lemon-roasted chicken or pulled five-spice duck confit on ’Nalo baby greens, with a starter charcuterie arrangement.

As for the instigator in all this, Malie never had a chance to sit down to dinner herself.

“I saw old friends, met new friends. I was too excited to eat.”

As for next year, participants are already planning bigger and better centerpieces and meals, Moran said.

“The pressure is on. I would love to do this again next year because the experience has been so amazing. I’m so happy it was so well received and that we could put Hawaii on the map in the Dîner en Blanc family.”

Vichyssoise made portable in sippable mason jars at the Aloha table.

The main course at the Aloha table: Turkish kebabs of beef and chicken, with red onion, bell pepper and cherry tomato, and curried vegetable pilaf.

We finished with macarons, and below, went home with Brooke’s Toffee Russian tea cakes.

Chef Kanani Lincoln of Hale ‘Aina Caterers prepped food for nearly 500 of the participants who preferred ease and an element of surprise rather than carting in their own food.

Hale ‘Aina’s charcuterie platter of meats, cheese, herb crostini and tomato-bacon jam.

You can see more of the fashion at Dîner en Blanc in my latest Fashion Tribe blog post.
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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ante Meridian presents Manoa popup

Nadine Kam photos
Starting the day with Chris Sy’s brioche bread pudding cubes with pineapple and dots of corn and macadamia nut creams during Anthony Yang's Ante Meridian popup in Manoa.

Pili Group joined forces with Ante Meridian by San Francisco-based chef Anthony Yang to present a four-course, $45 prix fixe popup brunch in Manoa July 12 and 13.

It was a great use of the vacant space at East Manoa Road and Lowrey that was home to Beau Soleil once upon a time. I actually wanted to buy that space about a decade ago, when it was selling for around $1 million. The restaurant, or commercial space, is part of a complex that includes the four-bedroom house in the back. My problem with it was the lack of parking and potential liability of having a restaurant on property, but parking seemed to be no problem Saturday morning, when everyone who attended simply lined Lowrey.

Yang said he began talking about coming to Hawaii with Pili Group’s Mark Noguchi the last time Gooch was in San Francisco. “We talked about it for three months and planned it in two weeks,” Yang said.

The two have been friends since they were students at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Fellow alum Chris Kajioka was also at the event, helping out in the kitchen, which Yang said is a luxury.

“In San Francisco, I’m a one-man show,” said Yang, a veteran of New York’s Per Se, who began hosting pop-up brunch events for his co-workers and friends a year ago, while working at Michael Mina restaurant in San Francisco.

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Sean Morris photo
Eye-opening coffee granola with Naked Cow yogurt, lilikoi and beet.

“Ante Meridian (am),” is the Latin reference to things “relating to, or taking place in the morning.” The popularity of the events led him to expand his concept to offering a
four-course menu in a Victorian house in the Mission District known as The Naked Kitchen. His event now takes place twice a month and sells out within hours of releasing the menu. Yang most recently launched an evening event called Post Meridian.

“I don’t think people with my training want to do breakfast,” he said, but opted to do so for personal reasons.

“I proposed to girlfriend here (in Honolulu) a year ago, and, thinking of starting family, I knew I wanted to be home in the evening.

“I don’t want to do the kind of breakfast place where everyone has pancakes and waffles, but I don’t want to be too refined either. I want to keep it accessible.”

His breakfast is part of a healthy trend of incorporating ingredients we don’t typically see in the morning, such as corn, beets and savory truffles.

And, with the Pili Group to assist, Yang said all he had to do was pack his waffle makers.

In helping to bring Yang here, Noguchi said the Pili Group is about “keeping everyone connected, to have a network of people, have resources and location” in staging such events.

“Coz as Hawaii cooks we don’t get to go out much, so to bring talent here, when these things happen, it allows cooks, especially younger cooks, to be inspired.”

A closer look at the pineapple brioche dish.

Rice porridge topped with togarashi pork, homemade pickles and poached egg.

Yang’s signature black truffle waffles were the highlight of the event, so light, airy and crisp and studded with bits of the truffle.

In the kitchen, from left, Nick Erker, Anthony Yang and Mark Noguchi.

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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Chris Kajioka pops in at MW

Nadine Kam photos
Chris Kajioka, center left, joined Wade Ueoka, center right, and Michelle Karr-Ueoka, left, in their MW kitchen. The staff celebrated at the close of dinner service.

Perhaps he’s been in the cave too long, because Chris Kajioka’s seems to be making the most the light these days, popping up in kitchens of friends.

In April, word came that the chef would be leaving Vintage Cave by summer’s end. His last day there is July 31, and his next project involves working with Aziza’s Mourad Lahlou in opening a restaurant here, and for now, he’s easing out of tidy Vintage Cave style by helping other chefs, such as Anthony Yang during the weekend’s Ante Meridian brunch in Manoa, and creating more earthy fare with a hint of Moroccan inspiration during a series of Tuesday collaboration dinners at Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka’s MW restaurant.

Here’s a look at what was on the menu at MW on July 8. It was very affordable, considering all you get, at $50 per person, with an additional $30 for wine pairings.

A rule of thumb for those of us who eat vast quantities of food is, don’t eat the bread so we can enjoy more of the good stuff. But that’s just a reference to average bread. Chris Sy’s bread is irresistible and easily qualifies as “the good stuff,” so we ended up with double orders of bread and left very full.

The next collaboration dinner will take place July 22, and is likely sold out to the very people who were there on the 8th. Yes, it was that good!
MW restaurant is at 1538 Kapiolani Blvd. #107. Call 808.955.6505.

Starting bites are important in setting the tone for the evening, and we were delighted by these oysters and lavosh, below, topped with smoked onion dip and the burst of salt from ikura.

A medley of cooked and raw veggies including okra, tomatoes, avocado and sea beans.

This duck pastrami was fantastic, served with Chris Sy bread.

Roasted cabbage with anchovy, apple and Parmesan. Kajioka really knows how to elevate the humble cabbage. His cabbage dishes are always among my favorites at Vintage Cave, along with the caviar-topped brioche.

We could not get enough of this toasted ginger brioche presented with foie gras and fig jam, in the background, and below. This was a $20 add-on.

Then the meat arrived. In the foreground glazed pork belly with apple and verjus, and lamb shoulder with honey and shallot.

The meat was intended to be folded into flatbread and dressed with these condiments to our liking: clockwise from top left, picquillo almond spread, pickled onion, eggplant balsamic, cauliflower yogurt dill and marinated cucumbers, There was also Moroccan harissa sauce. I couldn’t get enough of the picquillo and eggplant.

For the finale there were donuts with brown butter and medjool dates, served with pistachio sauce.
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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bernini Honolulu launches summer menu

Nadine Kam photos
A dish of Kahuku corn risotto with shaved truffle is one of the hits on Bernini Honolulu’s new summer menu.

Ever wonder why you’re less hungry during summer?

Chalk it up to the thermic effect of food. The body’s reaction to heat is identical to its response to fever.

Years ago, I interviewed nutrition consultant Dr. Joannie Dobbs, who said, “When you have a fever, you don’t feel like eating because the body is doing what it can to keep your temperature down.”

Blood is directed to the stomach and digestive area as you eat, so the body is not able to radiate heat.

“When you eat, your metabolism increases and the body has to work harder to get rid of the excess heat,” she said. To regulate body temperature, appetite is suppressed.

On a cellular level, the body knows what it needs to cool down, but we don’t always cooperate.

Sometimes you need someone to do the meal planning for you, and at Bernini Honolulu, chef Kengo Matsumoto has done that with a summer menu that offers a lighter approach to Italian cuisine.

The full regular menu is also available, but here are the a la carte summer additions.
Bernini Honolulu is at 1218 Waimanu St. (on the left if heading in the direction toward the parking ramp to Ala Moana). Open 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays. Call 808.591.8400.

Venetian-style beef carpaccio with Parmesan topped arugula and aioli sauce.

Marinated octopus salad with tomato, orange and fennel.

Caviar on capellini with heirloom tomato and raspberry vinaigrette.

This dish of homemade fettuccine with Shinsato pork ragu and green olives rivaled the risotto as one of the hits of the evening. Fantastic texture and flavor, and lighter than one might assume with a pasta dish.

If you’re in the mood for pizza, the summer offering features grilled eggplant, Italian sausage and ricotta.

Veal cutlet Milano with cherry tomatoes and baby kale salad.

There’s swordfish under this deconstructed involtini featuring a sauté of scallop mousse, prawns and clams.

Even if you feel you saved no room for dessert, you’ll be surprised by the lightness of a Maui Gold pineapple tart with yogurt sauce. Usually pineapple is heavy, treacly or sour. The Maui Gold is beautifully mellow. The candied pineapple accent is wonderful.

Desserts are usually so rich, they must be shared, but in spite of eating all of the above, I could have easily finished this Kona coffee gelée and caramel bavarois by myself. It’s topped with coconut granita.
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 and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Andaz chef tops Hyatt's 'Good Taste' seroes

Nadine Kam photos
Gary Johnson, lead supervisor for Ka'ana Kitchen at Andaz Maui at Wailea, took top honors during the Hyatt Good Taste Series competition that took place June 27 at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. The chef is surrounded by his admirers after the contest.

Hyatt hotels across North America are creating some restaurant buzz by touting their chefs through “The Good Taste Series.” This “Iron Chef”-style competition (excluding executive chefs) underscores the hotel’s commitment to supporting the next generation of Hyatt culinary stars.

The Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa was host to one of 12 regional competitions on June 27, and out of seven contenders, Gary Johnson, lead supervisor of Ka’ana Kitchen at Andaz Maui at Wailea, emerged the victor for Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest. He won a $500 cash prize, plus a trip back to Maui (ha!) to represent Hawaii in the national championship taking place Nov. 4, 2014, at Andaz. I’ll be watching to see how he fares in the nantional competition in the fall.

In addition to Johnson, chefs nominated to participate in the competition were:

Audrey Spence: Chef de Cuisine, Urbane Restaurant at Hyatt Olive 8, Seattle
Rebecca House: Sous chef, Hyatt Regency Calgary
Gevin Utrillo: Chef de Cuisine, Japengo at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa
Jon Matsubara: Chef de Cuisine, Japengo at Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa
Jeffrey Coil: Banquet supervisor, Hyatt Regency Bellevue
Reno Rodriguez: Banquet chef, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

Here are two of the dishes that led to Gary Johnson's victory. At top is his tako and cassava root over toast, with onsen egg. The tender tako was especially amazing. Below, a straight-from-the-garden healthful presentation for children, using produce from Johnson's garden with opakapaka, quinoa and a lilikoi sauce.

Audrey Spence’s lunch dish was a Northwest "falafel" plate with tomato- and fennel-glazed Washington ling cod and garbanzo beans topped with a fried garlic scape (the flower stalk).

The chefs were tasked with creating three dishes for a panel of judges that including David Nadelman, Hyatt Area Vice President/Hawaii; chef Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe; Conrad Nonaka, director of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific; and a wildcard judge chosen from the audience.

The three dishes involved a creative breakfast option, a lunch offering, and a dish that would appeal to children. To the chefs’ credit, timing was tight, with delivery of dishes scheduled 5 minutes apart. They all delivered, to the second!

I was able to photograph a handful of dishes, and it was clear the chefs really had fun with the children’s challenge, with ideas parents could also use to entice their keiki to enjoy more vegetables.

Also part of the evening’s challenges was a “Masters of Mix” contest sponsored by Market Advantage and Pernod Ricard to recognize up-and-coming local bartenders from Tiki’s Grill & Bar, Uncle Bo’s, Duke’s Waikiki, The Pig & The Lady, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, and Pint & Jigger. Alejandro Alvarado of Tiki’s Grill & Bar won the audience-judged competition.

This is a tasting portion of Rebecca House's Big Bison Breakfast including egg and baked beans.

House showed a more playful side with her keiki dish, "Swimming Cakes" of potato and sweet peas, accompanied by healthier yogurt tartar sauce, apple-cranberry cole slaw, fruit and a few Goldfish crackers for good measure. Below, knowing that kids don't always finish what they eat at the table, the dish would be offered in a reusable takeout box for munching on-the-go. I have the feeling many adults would also love this!