Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jonathan Mizukami presents pasta pop-up at MW

Nadine Kam photos
Chef Jonathan Mizukami created a Pasta Cafe pop-up in MW restaurant’s private dining room, with an assist from his 13-year-old son Nalu.


It’s a shame that more people were not able to experience chef Jonathan Mizukami’s food while he was at Vintage Cave, but prices there are prohibitive for most people.

The 99 percent had their opportunity to sample a smidgen of his wide-ranging capabilities when the chef presented a pop-up Pasta Café in the special events room at MW restaurant on June 22.

The Maui-born chef started his career at Roy’s Nicolina, then Alan Wong’s Restaurant before finding his into the world’s top kitchens, including The French Laundry; Ferran Adria’s El Bulli during that restaurant’s final year in Rosas, Spain; New York’s Per Se; Chicago’s Alinea; Gordon Ramsay in London; and Petrus (now Marcus), in London.

I had a wonderful birthday dinner at Vintage Cave last year, and among the dishes that blew me away was an elegant matsutake royale with juniper brown butter, black trumpet mushrooms and rosemary that conveyed the fall essence of a forest floor. Without knowing Mizukami's background at the time, I was impressed by his intellectual, well-considered approach to food. Hawaii rarely sees this level of mastery and artistry, that goes beyond the purely visual.

Photo courtesy Jason Kim
Jason Kim, a k a @Turkeyboy, lived up to his Twitter name by bringing in his own ground turkey, due to dietary limitations. Chef Mizukami obliged by preparing a simple, but wonderful pasta Bolognese for Kim, below. Of course I couldn’t resist taking a bite!

Guests were delighted by simple but well-executed dishes of gnocchi, hand-cut spaghetti and some dishes we’d never seen offered here, such as pillowy ricotta gnudi that turned out to be a new favorite of many, and toasted semolina cavatelli, a hot dog bun-shaped pasta that—without referring back to the menu—had people thinking they were mushrooms, as I was told.

I tasted it and was like, “This is not mushroom, it’s pasta.”

Sadly, everything was so good, and because it's hard to keep track of just how much you're eating when multiple small plates are involved,  I ate until my stomach hurt.

Hopefully, the next time Mizukami does something like this I’ll have more lead time to get the word out.

Mascarpone-enriched sweet pea ravioli with accents of mint and chopped pistachios was among my favorite dishes of the evening.

Also loved the spiciness and light crispiness of bacony guanciale topping hand-cut spaghetti with San Marzano sauce.

For now, one of the next MW events to put on your calendars is “Brunch!” The collab event will feature b. patisserie San Francisco’s Belinda Leong and Michel Suas, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1 and 2. The cost is $50 per person and reservations are being taken at (808) 955-6505.

It is one you shouldn’t miss for the James Beard Award-nominated Leong’s divine confections. The two also recently opened B. On the Go cross the street from b. patisserie, to expand production due to popular demand for their kouign amanns and other pastries, as well as grab-and-go sandwiches.

My experience of the kouign amann, was being asked to bring some home from my last trip to San Francisco. I was like, WTF! Such a pain to stop here and there for stuff and bring them home, right?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

BLT Steak serving up homegrown Kualoa Ranch oysters

Photo courtesy BLT Steak
Oysters from Kualoa Ranch are topped with smoked avocad caviar as recommended by BLT Steak chef Johan Svensson. He also recommends trying smokey flavored Chipotle Tabasco.


BLT Steak Waikiki is presenting an exclusive offering of local oysters from Kualoa Ranch, starting today.

Last year, Kualoa Ranch started selling the first locally grown Pacific and Kumamoto oysters in decades. Growing more quickly in Hawaii’s temperate weather than on the mainland, these homegrown oysters are described as being savory and kelpy.

The oysters will be sold one to two days a week, depending on availability, at $22 for a half dozen, and $42 for a dozen.
BLT Steak Waikiki is in the Trump Hotel Waikiki, 223 Saratoga Road. Call (808) 683-7440.

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

SKY Waikiki wants you: Job search is on

Photos courtesy SKY Waikiki
An early rendering of SKY Waikiki interior.


After initial plans to open in Spring 2014, SKY Waikiki is finally set to open Aug. 29, and is gearing up with an unusual two-day hiring event.

To entice applicants to pledge allegiance to what will be a rooftop bistro, lounge and nightclub, there will be entertainment, door prizes and cash giveaways during the search taking place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and tomorrow.

Borrowing from big-city playbooks, where models are on the front lines of many establishments, head shots of applicants are encouraged, if available. Resumes are required. And all applicants will be entered into a prize drawing to win more than $1,000 in cash and prizes.

The hiring event takes place at Waikiki Shopping Plaza, the lower level at 2250 Kalakaua Ave.

There are positions for:

Cocktail Servers
VIP Hosts
Security Associates
Food Runners
Server Assistants
Bar Apprentices
Kitchen Staff
Maintenance / Day cleaner

For more information, visit

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

First look: Food play at Thank Q Pocha

Nadine Kam photos
A whole roast chicken is crowned with squid at Thank Q Pocha.


Back and forth I go, from serious eats last week, to the playful at Thank Q Pocha. Just after I said I have trouble with chefs playing with food, here’s a restaurant that carries the idea of play to the extreme. The difference is, Thank Q Pocha doesn’t give the impression of begging “look at me” or trying to reinvent cuisine. It’s just inviting the diner to have fun, and putting the diner first is a worthy pursuit.

The pocha is the Korean equivalent of the Japanese izakaya, so bring the party as food and drinks flow from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Drinks are a large part of the pocha experience. Orange and apple soju come in their respective hollowed out fruit “cups.”

The restaurant is in the space that was once home to Territorial Savings and later, Sushi San, on Kapiolani Boulevard, near the Bank of Hawaii Ala Moana Center branch. The first time I visited, I thought I was at the wrong place because the first word I saw painted on the glass windows was “Gracias.” But look some more, and you’ll find thanks in other languages as well.

If you’re after purely Korean flavors, this is not the place. The menu is a fusion of casual Asian and the American fast food, french fries ($5) and onion rings ($6) meets edamame ($5) and toppoki, the tubular, chewy rice cake ($8 to $15), with cheese apparently the newly annointed food crush overseas.

It’s a place for the young, those whose bodies are still able to process those myriad cheese dishes, the fried chicken specialties, carb-laden toppoki and shareable stew platters that fill the menu.

Tolerance of K-pop is also a must.
Thank Q Pocha is at 1411 Kapiolani Boulevard, open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. The cost is
about $80 for four, without drinks. Call 954-5384. Note: Prices listed here subject to change.

The spicy Military Stew ($35) features phó ingredients over ramen, topped with chap chae-filled blood sausage. Five people could not finish this dish, and the remnants are tossed with rice to create a fried rice more comforting to this westerner than the stew itself.

The premium and literal Shark Attack features strawberry puree "blood" poured from the mouth of a plastic shark you get to take home.

 Spoon pizza has a lot more cheese than garlic bread to go with it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Flowers, foie gras on Arancino at Kahala anniversary summer menu

Nadine Kam photos
Foie gras marinated in cognac and brandy is strewn with a summer’s garden of edible flowers and greenery.


Flowers are everywhere this summer, and on my Fashion Tribe blog I recently wrote of the season’s best accessory, a living flower crown. Well, Arancino at The Kahala’s executive chef Daisuke Hamamoto takes the same inspiration from nature and applies it to his new plates, draping his insalata Misticanza ($13) with micro greens, herbs and edible flowers, while a new dish of terrina di fegato ($20), foie gras marinated in cognac and brandy, also wears a colorful, eye-catching bouquet of edible greens.

Both are new a la carte offerings introduced this month in celebration of Arancino at The Kahala’s second anniversary. Both dishes are available for lunch and dinner, along with other new dishes of pesce al cartoccio ($32), an elegant mix of seafood, shimeji mushrooms and broccolini steamed in parchment paper with white wine, and Sangiovese wine risotto layered with grilled Muscovy duck, fried leeks and gold leaf ($26).

The restaurant is also offering two new summer tasting menues, one with four courses for $65, and the other comprising five courses for $89.

The new risotto dish is offered as a Primi option on the $65 tasting menu, and the foie gras is one of two antipasti options listed on the $89 tasting menu.

What I like about their tasting menus is that for each course they provide two or three options, knowing that not everybody shares the same food preferences. I certainly have my share of finicky friends.

So on the $65 tasting menu you’ll find antipasti offerings of seafood carpaccio or prosciutto and fruit. For your Primi selection, you’ll have a choice of seafood tagliatelle; tagliolini with white wine, garlic, tomato cream sauce and uni; or the grilled Muscovy duck risotto. All in addition to a choice of lobster bisque or caprese salad, plus dessert of tiramisu or gelato affogato.

On the $89 menu you’ll start with a choice of bagna cauda or lobster bisque, followed by local seafood antipasti or the foie gras dish. Secondi options are grilled seafood, sous vide Colorado lamb or braised short rib with Sangiovese wine reduction. Then choose a Primi plate of Ho Farm cherry tomato tagliatelle, tagliolini with tobiko and calamari in garlic-olive oil sauce, or mixed mushroom risotto, before ending with your choice of the day’s desserts.

Here’s a look at a recent sampling:

Delicate amuse bouche of English pea mousse topped with prosciutto and pea shoot.

One view of the edible garden of seafood and greens that comprise the Misticanza, beautiful bite-size nibbles of grilled scallop and abalone, with calamari, amaebi, uni, tomato, dill, basil, nasturtium leaves, cucumber, and more.

The view from the opposite end of the Misticanza arrangement. It was funny but out of all the ingredients, both my dinner guest and I saved the two pieces of sweet uni for last.

The foie gras at the top of the page was plated with fresh fruit and brioche.

Sangiovese risotto was topped with grilled Muscovy duck, a tangle of lightly fried leeks and crowned with gold leaf.

A new dish of pesce al cartoccio proved simple and delicious, with catch of the day, Manila clams, shimeji mushrooms, broccolini and tomatoes steamed with white wine in parchment.

Light bianco mangiare, a roasted almond panna cotta topped with housemade coconut gelato and coconut granita brought the meal to a close.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hard Rock Cafe puts burgers on summer tour

Nadine Kam photos
Jodi Mikel Miller presents a trayful of slider-sized samples of the Honolulu Legendary Burger during a media event introducing Hard Rock Cafe’s World Burger Tour.


What started in Hard Rock Tokyo as a fun way to explore flavors around the globe has become an international phenomenon, as Hard Rock Cafe started its summer by launching its inaugural World Burger Tour.

Local chefs have always had the freedom to create a unique Local Legendary Burger capturing the flavors of their city, but those creations were only regional hits, until now.

More than 150 local burgers were evaluated by Hard Rock’s culinary team, with 16 favorites selected to star on the World Burger Tour menu, four of which are available at Hard Rock Waikiki through the end of the month.

Alas, Honolulu’s Portuguese sausage-topped burger didn’t make the World Tour cut, but luckily for us, it’s available here and happened to be my favorite during a media tasting that took place June 4.

With each burger marked by a Hard Rock flag and the flag of its home nation, our tabletop looked like a mini United Nations, covered with slider-sized samples. Culinary adventurers don’t have to pack their bags to order up the half-pound burgers:

The Andean Burger: A Bolivian Legendary featuring a Certified Angus beef patty topped with avocado slices, a fried egg, melted Cheddar cheese and garlic mayonnaise. Plainer than its international relatives, this is the burger that is most frequently ordered.

The Bosphorus Burger: Turkish Legendary features a Certified Angus beef patty topped with homemade eggplant salad, haydari sauce and pickle.
The Schnitzel Burger: A German Legendary that features two stacks of pork schnitzel (think tonkatsu) topped with sauerkraut, spicy brown mustard and bacon.

The Chamorro Burger: This Guam Legendary features a Certified Angus beef patty topped with housemade Chamorro glaze, chili paste and spicy pepper Jack cheese. It’s popular with Japanese clientele who know who Chamorros are.

The Bosphorus and Honolulu, pictured, burgers were my favorites, the hometown burger paired with furikake fries served with a creamy Sriracha dipping sauce, below.

Each of the World Tour burgers are paired with a signature french fry-dipping sauce combo. These chili-seasoned fries with chipotle garlic ketchup goes with the Chamorro burger. Parmesan Romano fries with garlic aioli aligns with the Andean, and herb-garlic fries with chimichurri mayo pairs with the Bosphorus burger.

It’s too bad not all the burgers could be offered here. I would have loved to try Mumbai’s tandoori-spiced chicken burger, Vietnam’s banh mi burger, Miami’s Cuban burger and Dubai’s date burger.

Cocktails showcased during the tour include:

Mai Tai One On: A Pacific-inspired blend of Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, Cointreau Orange Liqueur, Monin Orgeat, a splash of lime and orange juice.

Pomegranate Mule: Of ABSOLUT Vodka, Monin Pomegranate and ginger beer.

Mezcarita: A smoky margarita from Mexico, combining Del Maguey Mezcal, Cointreau Orange Liqueur, Malibu Coconut and fresh strawberries.

Pineapple Ginger Caipirinha: A Brazilian blend of Água Luca Cachaça and pineapple with a splash of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur.
Hard Rock Cafe Honolulu is at 280 Beach Walk Ave. Call (808) 955-7383.

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