Monday, December 28, 2015

CPK launches its 'Next Chapter' in culinary evolution

Nadine Kam photos
Wild-Caught sesame-seared ahi with seared baby bok choy, over a stir-fry of roasted farro, shiitake mushrooms and red chili.


California Pizza Kitchen may have started by doing one thing well, but over the years has adapted and grown with its audience to offer a well-rounded menu of salads, sandwiches and entrées to accompany those pizzas and flatbreads.

Because face it, just because your friends want pizza doesn’t mean you want it at the same time. We all have our favorite things on the menu. I typically order the cedar plank salmon with salad of white corn, spinach and feta. A friend always orders the jambalaya fettuccine.

Now, CPK is expanding its menu even further with its “Next Chapter” menu, focusing on high quality, fresh and seasonal ingredients.

CPK CEO G.J. Hart said in a press release, “We are upping our game with this transformation,” explaining that the initiative addresses today’s more sophisticated diner.

That means, in addition to CPK favorites, diners from city to city will find a new focus on the regional. So, locally, CPK fans will find a trio of new ahi dishes exclusive to Hawaii. The new dishes are being offered at CPK at Ala Moana Center, Kahala Mall, Kailua Town Center, Pearlridge, and at 2284 Kalakaua Ave.

In addition to the seared ahi dish above, here’s a look at what’s new on the menu:

Crispy ahi egg rolls of wild-caught tuna with avocado and shaved cabbage, served with options of housemade tamari-ginger dipping sauce or Sriracha sauce. The ginger sauce delivers balance. With the Sriracha sauce, all you taste is the sauce.

Poke Chop Chop Salad features a tower of baby bok choy, arugula, spicy kim chee pears, cucumber and cilantro, tossed with housemade black sesame vinaigrette, and topped with marinated ahi. The poke flavor was light, and I thought the poke might be better seared to give more texture to the dish.

Brussels + Bacon Flatbread in the background is topped with Nueske’s Applewood-smoked bacon, sweet caramelized onions, Brussels sprouts and creamy goat cheese. Yum, a new favorite! The greens make you feel less guilty. If you have no guilt, in the foreground is unapologetic ham and cheese flatbread.

If one of your New Year resolutions is to start eating more healthfully, CPK’s Harvest Kale Salad offers the best of two worlds: baby kale, thin-sliced Bosc pears, roasted butternut squash, spiced pecans, goat cheese and cranberries for the greenies, and add-ons of, pictured, your choice of salmon, shrimp or chicken (below), for those with one foot still in the animal kingdom.


A Sunny Side Up Bacon + Potato Pizza sounded like a good idea, the pizza dough topped with Nueske’s Applewood-smoked bacon, caramelized leeks, thin-sliced potato slices, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and two sunny-side up eggs, but it’s missing a sauce. The idea was that, when broken, the egg would provide the right texture, but there were too many dry spots and overall flavor was lacking.

You can get stronger potato flavor from baked potato soup, which can be paired with a half sandwich. This rich and decadent soup is like liquid au gratin.

Presented here with the BBQ chicken half sandwich is CPK’s new Farmers Market soup of butternut squash and vegetables, finished with a drizzle of olive oil. The squash puts this soup on the sweet side.

I wished I wasn't so full by the time the fire-grilled ribeye arrived, flavored with housemade pinot noir sea salt, topped with creamy blue cheese butter and served with roasted fingerling potatoes and lemon-garlic wild arugula salad. Alas, I could only take two bites.

Wild-caught Alaska halibut gets the cedar plank treatment before being layered over farro accented with butternut squash, grilled asparagus and baby kale.

Dessert is their take on S'mores, served in a mason jar.

Also new are hand-crafted cocktails like the California Roots, made with fresh avocado, shaken smooth with Svedka vodka, mint and lime, with a fennel salt rim; and the Blueberry Ginger Smash, with muddled blueberries, lime and cranberry, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Domaine de Canton Ginger.

Coming from the land of the trendy diet, CPK is also proactive about catering to those with restricted dietary requirements so can direct diners to low-calorie, vegetarian and gluten-free options. They can also provide allergen information to those with food sensitivities.

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.

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