Saturday, August 30, 2014

Somethin's cooking at The Bar Honolulu at Honolulu Club

Nadine Kam photos
Grilled New York strip steak with red wine jus and harissa spiced fries are a highlight of the new menu at The Bar Honolulu.

If you considered yourself a foodie back in the early 1990s through 2001, chances are you were a fan of Moumen El Hajji and wife Holly Hadsell’s Hajji Baba, and later Beausoleil restaurants in Kahala and Manoa, respectively.

Sadly, after 9/11, business dropped for many, and the couple closed Beausoleil in favor of riding the film and television production boom, providing on-set catering services. Well, that was good for many a TV and film star on productions ranging from “Planet of the Apes” to “Godzilla” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

Well, lucky for us, they’ve emerged from the artificiality of film sets back into the real world, where we can once again enjoy their cuisine, this time at The Bar Honolulu inside Honolulu Club.

It’s a little-known secret that you don’t have to be a member of the upscale fitness facility to enjoy the cafe/bar over to the left of the reception desk. Just saunter in and act like you belong. The great thing about the bar menu is the cost is quite reasonable for the quality of the food offered because the cafe operation is partially subsidized by dues-paying members. Prices range from $4 for Moroccan-style marinated olives, to $18 for New York strip steak and harissa-spiced fries.

Moumen El Hajji and Holly Hadsell are back in the public eye.

Considering the high cost of membership, food here has never been worth writing about, so new owners have taken that into account, and for his part, Moumen said he’s still experimenting and putting dishes out there, allowing diners to vote with their orders, requests and repeat visits. But it’s hard to subtract when he’s a master at blending spices from his native Morocco with favored local ingredients ranging from patis to coconut and lemongrass.

And, the bar is also giving a shout-out to mixologists around town with a menu of drink specialties from the likes of Pint + Jigger’s Dave Newman, Nobu’s JJ Anchetta, Pig and the Lady’s Kyle Reutner, Chandra Lucariello of Southern Wine and Spirits, and Alicia Yamachika of the soon to open Livestock Tavern.

They’ve been operating under the radar for a while, but are prepared to go public with their first big event, the Honolulu Club Brunch Labor Day Edition, taking place Aug. 31, with two seatings, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., at a cost of $35 for members, and $40 for non-members.

There will be mimosa and eggs Benedict bars, lots of fresh fruit and pastry, and a passed menu of gazpacho, frittata bites, crab and lemon bread pudding, shrimp and edamame pot stickers, pork belly buns, and more.

The dress code is casual chic. Call 585-9626 for more information.
The Bar Honolulu is inside Honolulu Club, 932 Ward Ave., 7th floor.

This is the one to order first: crisp chicharrone accompanied by salsa verde and street corn pico. Currently priced at $10.

Thai-spiced chicken lollipops with spicy peanut sauce.

Steamed clams with chorizo.

Ahi tartare with coconut basil crema.

Feta drizzled with lehua blossom honey and spices.

Marinated olives.

Braised shortrib atop horseradish mashed potatoes.

Grilled fish served atop fire-roasted apple slaw.
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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Kusuma Cooray brings Mughlai specialties to KCC

In anticipation of the opening of the newly renovated Mughal Suite at Shangri La, the estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, University of Hawaii’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College and Shangri La will present a series of fall public programs highlighting Mughlai cuisine.

Ka ‘Ikena Laua’e, the fine dining restaurant on the KCC campus, will present a special lunch menu featuring Mughlai cuisine created and prepared by KCC Professor of Culinary Studies and former Doris Duke corporate chef Kusuma Cooray and KCC culinary students.

Mughlai cuisine is a style of cooking developed by the imperial kitchens of the Muslim Mughal Empire. It represents the cooking styles of North India, Pakistan and Hyderabad.

Reservations are being taken for the lunch being offered Sept. 16 through 19, with seatings at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and noon each day. At $22.95 per person, the lunch will feature:

Appetizer course: Mughlai Murgh (braised chicken with raisins and almonds), curried dal, pineapple chutney, raita and pratha.

Entrée: Shahjahani Biriyani (rice and lamb with saffron, aromatic spices and yogurt), Rogan Josh (curried lamb), vegetables, tomato chutney and pappadams.

Dessert: A Mughlai fantasy and choice of coffee or tea.

Drink: Assorted fruit juices and lassi.

Courtesy University of Hawaii Press
Chef Kusuma Cooray will be cooking up Mughlai cuisine at Kapiolani Community College.

Other related events:

Aug. 25 to Dec. 19
South Asian Cuisine exhibition: A display featuring South Asian recipes prepared for Doris Duke by chef Kusuma Cooray will be on view at the Kapiolani Community College Library, along with materials from the Shangri La Historical Archives. Admission is free.

Oct. 6
Mughal cuisine lecture and Taj chefs demonstration: Executive chef Hemant Oberoi and two master chefs from Mumbai’s Taj Hotel chain will present a Mughal cuisine cooking demonstration and tasting in the Culinary Institute of the Pacific auditorium, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Ohia Building 118. Seating is limited and admission is free. Co-sponsored by Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

The late Doris Duke collected Islamic art over 60 years, forming a collection of about 2,500 objects, many of which are embedded into the structure of Shangri La, including Iranian ceramic tile panels, carved and painted ceilings from Morocco, jalis (perforated screen) doors and windows, and textiles and carpets.

It was her wish that Shangri La be maintained as a center for Islamic arts and culture, kept open for public visits and educational programs.
Ka ‘Ikena Laua’e is in the Ohelo Building, 2nd floor, at KCC. Call 734-9499 for reservations.

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, August 20, 2014

Lucy's Lab Creamery open in Kaka'ako

Nadine Kam photos
Lucy’s Lab Creamery is in its soft opening phase. The ice cream shop currently has limited hours Thursdays through Sundays.

After nearly a month of social media “teasing,” Lucy’s Lab Creamery finally opened its doors for a soft opening over the weekend.

There was a lot of buzz and anticipation beforehand, such that I had to question the wisdom of toying with potential customers’ desires. After all, what if—after all the buildup—it opens and the ice cream is junk?”

Well, it was worth the wait for flavors like Nutella and Sea Salt Caramel. To date, there are only seven flavors available, and although parents might think of ice cream as a keiki-friendly treat, some flavors are definitely for the 21-and-older crowd only, such as Bacon Whiskey. And Fruit Loop Vodka has kid appeal with its candy-colored cereal topping, but make no mistake, it delivers a potent kick that has thrown adults for a loop.

The ice cream is sold by weight, at $1 per ounce for a keiki scoop, and $2 per ounce for a regular scoop. Most people have no conception of what an ounce of food entails, but a cup each of keiki and regular size scoops added up to $6.

The shop was opened by Prudential Realtor Lee Wang in memory of his late mother Lucy, and a portion of sales will go toward breast cancer charities.

The official opening is yet to come, so hours are limited. For now, keep up to date with hours by following @LucysLabHi on Twitter or

A recent tweet mentioned the ice cream shop will be open 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 21, and noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 22 to 24.
Lucy’s Lab Creamery is at 435 Kamakee St.

There are only seven flavors available, including Fruit Loop Vodka, and Bacon Whiskey, below.

They were out of ice cream sandwiches when I arrived, so pan de creme, ice cream and jam in a pandesal bun was another option. I didn’t care for the stiff Filipino bread roll, which theoretically should make a nice warm and toasty home for the ice cream. But when heated, the ice cream melts down to nothing and the bread itself was not enjoyable.

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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

MW Part 2: Reimagining afternoon tea

Nadine Kam photos
A Chinese roast duck sandwich was among the petite morsels served at MW restaurant’s inaugural afternoon tea. In the background is a roast pork sandwich.

The news is all about fairness, so I really don’t like going to the same place or writing about the same place back to back, but news is about the new after all, and MW’s Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka have consistently shown their ability to innovate.

To be a restaurateur today is not only about serving good food and hoping people will follow, but about being top-of-mind, and Michelle and Wade are proving to be Oahu’s culinary power couple, with no shortage of ideas and complimentary skill sets to back them up.

On Saturday morning I was there for Michelle’s inaugural Baker Faire. On Sunday morning I was back for the restaurant’s inaugural Afternoon Tea. And what a tea it was! With Wade’s five delectable, dim sum-size savory bites and Michelle’s nine sweet flourishes, everyone else serving tea in this town may need to up their game.

Those feeling extra hungry could add supplemental items at $5 each, such as a caviar-topped vichyssoise, lobster corn dumpling and foie gras-and-pork bao.

Tea selections ranged from jasmine pearl to lemon mamaki, lychee acai, fruity mango peach and custom MW chai.

Considering the quality and quantity of the food offered, the $35 cost was very reasonable, though I imagine the price may fluctuate depending on offerings at future events. The afternoon tea is slated to take place every third Sunday of the month and it’s best to call early for reservations as guests in swoon mode throughout this inaugural event vowed to return.
MW Restaurant is at 1538 Kapiolani Boulevard. Entrance on Makaloa Street. Call (808) 955-6505.

The tea selection.

In the foreground, spicy ahi “BLT,” and in the background, a seafood summer roll.

Crumpets were served with lilikoi curd and strawberry compote.

Refreshing Ho Farms cucumber sorbet.

Sweet bites, from top, Meyer lemon meringue tarts, MW Candy Bar, Tokachi azuki matcha mousse cake, mango lime chiffon, and strawberry cheesecake.

 Mini baklava.

Macadamia nut praline bars in a bamboo basket, with the baklava beneath.

An add-on of foie gras and pork bao “bun” was not to be missed, topped with a Chinese-style ginger-green onion sauce. Below, creamy vichyssoise topped with caviar.

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.

MW Part I: The bake sale, seriously upgraded

Nadine Kam photos
MW co-owner and pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka presented her creations during the inaugural Baker Faire at her restaurant.

We’re all familiar with the homespun bake sale, but when MW’s award-winning pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka gathers a few of her besties together, you just know it’ll be a bake sale to remember.

The inaugural Baker Faire took place Aug. 16 at MW, where Karr said she always wanted to do a bake sale.

“There are all kinds of food events around town, but none featuring just pastry chefs,” she said, while presiding over a table filled with her baklava, pineapple crostata and truffles.

Pastries, croissants and bread by Halekulani’s Mark Freischmidt, Kimberly Oi of Pili Group, Chris Sy of Breadshop, Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe, Alison Yokouchi of The Pig and The Lady, and Alejandro Briceno, formerly of Prima and V Lounge, sold for about $3 to $5 per item, offered fair style, with scrips purchased up front.

The event started at 10 a.m. and was scheduled to run until 1 p.m. or until sold out, but if you thought you could leisurely stroll in at 11:30 a.m., you were out of luck. Most people opted for the $40 per box option, so pastries went quickly.

With the event’s success, Karr-Ueoka said she’s hoping to set up another event in October, and one just in time for the holidays in December, aiming for a larger venue.
MW Restaurant is at 1538 Kapiolani Boulevard. Entrance fronts Makaloa Street. Call 955-6505.

Halekulani’s Mark Freischmidt offered blueberry calamansi marshmallows and carrot quinoa bread.

Jason Kim is just getting started on filling his box at the Halekulani table. Behind him, people lined up to get in, purchasing scrips for baked goods at the door.

Celeb chef Lee Anne Wong offered her famous Koko Head Cafe kim chee scones.

Fancy treats abounded, but sometimes you just want a simple, humble M&M cookie, offered by the Pili Group, along with another homespun treat, caramel popcorn.

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, August 14, 2014

Café Grace reboots bagel culture

Nadine Kam photos
Café Grace’s chicken Alfredo melt, finished with bacon.

Terumi Drake couldn’t help noticing over the years that her customers at Lox of Bagels enjoyed their bagels one way, simply slathered with plain or flavored cream cheese. But she knew the the bagel could be the basis of more substantial, creative fare, and has set out to prove it, rebooting bagel culture via an extension of her business, Café Grace by Lox of Bagels.

The new cafe opened its doors today with a blessing and taiko performance, as well as a media tasting of a handful of sandwiches and desserts.

In keeping with today’s sustainable, locally sourced ethos, the sandwiches are full of fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Highlights include a chicken Alfredo melt; bagel and egg combos on a taro bagel; and lox with jalapeño egg salad, for those who love the sting of heat.

As a grand opening special, the cafe is offering a bagel (excluding taro and cheese bagels) with plain cream cheese for $1 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 15, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 16, while supplies last. (The regular price is $2.75.)

The menu is more adventurous than Lox of Bagels Dillingham location, and this is just a start. One item on their "coming soon" roster is bagel French toast. Waiting for that one!

Thunderous taiko rhythms greeted guests at the grand opening of Café Grace by Lox of Bagels.

The Café Grace staff, led by president Terumi Drake, third from left, and general manager Stacy Kim, second from right, is blessed before entering the cafe. In the center is the cafe’s namesake Grace, Drake’s 17-year-old daughter.

Lox topped with spicy jalapeño egg salad is likely to become one of cafe’s best sellers.

Egg appears on the menu many times. Below, a cross-section reveals an egg omelet layered with ham and cheese on a taro bagel.

Café Grace is on the Kawaiahao Street end of Imperial Plaza, 725 Kapiolani Bouldevard. Hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Call (808) 492-1493.

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, August 13, 2014

Experience the divine at Restaurant Wada

Nadine Kam photos
Washugyu tataki topped with sea urchin is one of the many wonders on the menu at Wada.

Once the domain of the AARP set, a new generation of the underemployed and the single is discovering the beauty of happy hour, where diners can indulge at reduced prices.

Restaurant Wada’s recent launch of a happy hour menu provided a welcome excuse to revisit this gem, known for serving some of the most decadent sushi in town, as well as beef tongue in multiple forms.

The restaurant showcases the work of Takanori Wada, a Hokkaido native who worked at Sushi Yasuda in New York City, before opening his restaurant here.

Restaurant Wada is at 611 Kapahulu Ave. Call (808) 737-0125. Happy hour starts at 4 p.m. and runs through 6 p.m., and again from 9 to 11 p.m. for late-nighters Tuesdays through Sundays. Select dishes run $3 and $5, and select sushi is $2.50 per piece. Select handroll or roll sushi is $3.75, and Kirin draft, hot or cold sake, shochu, pinot grigio, chardonnay, pinot noir and merlot selections are offered at $3.

 Washugyu tataki in garlic ponzu.

Sea bass sashimi.

There’s tender tako underneath the layer of greens and salmon roe.

If you’re in an indulgent mood, try the tuna akami topped with foie gras, at $9.50 per piece.

As decadent as some of the sushi is, I also loved the simplicity of agedashi tofu, just $3 during happy hour.

Crispy mochi sticks ($7.75) are light spring rolls with a center of mozzarella and mentai cod roe wrapped in thin, crisp rice paper. It is $5 during happy hour.

Beyond happy hour, washugyu tongue is the centerpiece of an ishiyaki meal, at $47 for 8 slices of the Oregon black angus, or $62 for 16 slices. The tongue is cooked at the table, at 10 seconds on one side before being flipped over and cooked through. It’s accompanied by a light lemony ponzu sauce, pepper and garlic salt. The second part of this meal is a stir fry of harumi, or skirt steak, and onions with shishito peppers. Please see video below.

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More sushi decadence, uni and ikura.

Flash-fried skate fin was a recent daily special, served with lemony aioli.

This grilled eggplant was more like an Italian casserole with mild tomato sauce and golden mozzarella. This dish puts many a local Italian restaurant to shame.
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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hy's launches a new happy hour menu

Nadine Kam photos
Hy’s new mini beef Wellington happy hour specialty is perfect for those trying to cut back on both meat, and carbs of the puff pastry.

In May, Hy’s Steak House launched its renovated Executive Level, as well as a convertible private dining room called the Executive Suite that accommodates up to 25 for corporate events and meetings, complete with presentation and slide-show ready HD television, Wi-fi and audio system, or other special occasions, from intimate birthday and anniversary parties to wedding receptions.

Some of the details were noted in one of my earlier posts:

The latest news is executive chef Erwin Manzano has come up with an elegant new happy hour menu that addresses a new generation of diners easing away from large meat entrées in favor of grazing and sharing a variety of smaller, more affordable plates, including adorable mushroom cap-size mini prime filets of beef Wellington, thoroughly enjoyable at $10. (The full entrée is $48.95 in the dining room.)

Just because portions are smaller doesn’t mean these dishes are any less satisfying. They’re still quite old school, rich in the butter and cheese that many of us still love, albeit in moderation.

Prices start at $5 for panko fried onion rings, to $12 for a prime rib sandwich or ahi poke. Happy hour runs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. daily in the lounge, and also features $8 classic cocktails and wines by the glass, as well as $8 seasonal cocktails such as a refreshing summer strawberry Lemondrop, limoncello Collins, white sangria and Watermelon mojito.

Here’s a look at a handful of the dishes:

Escargots a la Hy’s remains one of the restaurant’s classic dishes, offered at a reduced price of $10 during happy hour.

Grilled asparagus is topped with poached egg and finished with bacon, Parmesan and truffle oil, $8.

Baked garlic shrimp and artichoke swimming in cheese and butter.

If you choose to proceed to dinner, roast rack of lamb is a good choice. It’s $39.95 for a half rack.

Also on the main menu, prime filet mignon with rosemary skewered shrimp. It’s amazing how much flavor is infused into the shrimp from the single rosemary stem. It’s $52.95 for a 7-ounce filet mignon.

Finish with a classic dessert of Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee. How classic? According to Wikipedia, the flambé ice cream and cherries is generally credited to Auguste Escoffier, who prepared the dish for one of Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebrations, though it is unclear whether it was for the Golden Jubilee of 1887 or the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The 10-year difference might have big a big deal at one point, but after more than a hundred years, it's legendary either way.
Hy’s Steak House is at 2440 Kuhio Ave. Call (808) 922-5555.

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.