Thursday, February 25, 2016

Umami at work at Bombay Palace

Nadine Kam photos
Spicy tandoori chicken wings at Bombay Palace. You pretty much must love cilantro, what they call dhaniya, because it tops or is incorporated into almost every dish.

If you're on a diet, you might want to eat more Middle Eastern cuisine. I'd read about the effects of umami on satiety before, but at Bombay Palace, I experienced this science at work firsthand.

Basically, my mouth was saying, "More, more, more." But my brain and stomach were saying, "You can stop now." The food is so delicious I wanted to keep savoring every bite, but, as I mentioned in my restaurant review, in three visits I was pretty much done after eating a papadum, a single jumbo prawn, a few nibbles of tandoori chicken, and a couple of spoonfuls of curry.

It was a shocker because I'm accustomed to eating much more than that in one sitting, and in eying the small serving pots, my initial thought was, "That's not going to feed four people." And yet, four people could not finish half of four pots.

What gives?

Umami is described as the fifth taste after the basic flavor sensations of sweet, salty, bitter and sour. It encompasses the experience of savory, rich, meaty, full-bodied flavors indicative of the presence of the amino acid glutamate. When combined with proteins it delivers a satisfying mouthfeel that speeds satiety so you eat less, and feel fuller faster.

The vegetarian/vegan set will find a lot of options, including baingan bhartha, roasted eggplant, one of my favorite dishes, along with aloo matar, a simple stew of potatoes and green peas.

This all meant I ate less of my favorite cuisine than I would have liked, but there's always return trips.

Bombay Palace took over the space in Discovery Bay that was formerly home to Monsoon India. Owner Imran Khan (not the cricket star turned politician) adopted an India-related name for his restaurant for continuity and familiarity. But many of the dishes we think of as being Indian are also common in his native Pakistan, due to the nations’ shared history, before splitting into two independent nations in 1947.

In addition to the curries they share in common with neighboring Afghanistan and Iran, Pakistani cuisine incorporates the sweet-sour notes of pomegranate seeds, and in keeping with the nation’s predominately Muslim culture, there is no pork—forbidden by faith—on the menu.

Why are Middle Eastern curries some of my favorite dishes? I love the complexity of the spice and herb combinations used, and an article that appeared last March in the Washington Post explained the phenomenon. You can read the article here. But in a nutshell, although these dishes may contain only seven ingredients, their chemical compounds and the way they interact amount to almost 200 out of the roughly 381 distinct flavors known around the world.

Come and taste! And no, I didn't eat all this in one sitting. Here's what I tried over four visits:

Love the kadhai, a Pakistani dish of lamb sautéed with onions and bell peppers, served on a sizzling platter. There is also a chicken option, but I think the lamb is more flavorful. Recently $18.95.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Localicious 2016 launch honors Veggie U participants

Nadine Kam photos
Teachers from August Ahrens Elementary School in Waipahu earned certificates for their participation in the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation's Veggie U educational program.

Some of Hawaii's top chefs gathered at Chef Zone on Monday for the launch of the 2016 "Localicious Hawaii" campaign that encourages diners to "Eat Local."

Chefs Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, Vikram Garg, and Y. Hata & Co./Chef Zone's Matt Small cooked up dishes highlighting locally sourced ingredients that are the main attraction of the Localicious campaign, now in its third year.

For a month beginning March 1, participating restaurants will donate $1 for every Localicious dish ordered from their menus to the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation's Veggie U educational program supporting agricultural education in public schools. Restaurants that raise $500 are able to adopt a classroom, by offering a $500 garden kit.

The event recognized some of the teachers and restaurateurs involved in the program. This year, 148 restaurants statewide are participating in the monthlong campaign and 113 Hawaii public schools have received garden kits to foster the awareness of agriculture and food safety issues.

Denise Hayashi Yamaguchi, executive director of HAF, introduced Dean Okimoto of 'Nalo Farms, to speak in response to Andrew Gomes story in the Star-Advertiser that day, regarding a 101-page report from the state Department of Agriculture that shows where agricultural activity was lost over the last 35 years and where future crop opportunities might lie.

What’s glaring, he reported, "is the drop in the number of acres devoted to agriculture between 1980 and 2015: a decline of 200,000 acres of cropland and 340,000 acres of pastureland, representing drops of 57 percent and 31 percent, respectively."

During the event, guests enjoyed dishes featuring local ingredients such as Roy Yamaguchi's U-10 scallops with ume honey, blistered Kahuku corn and Maui onion pohole fern poke in a sauce of truffled mascarpone and tofu.

Even as sugar plantations close and food producers' costs rise, Okimoto said, food prices have not increased as much as other expenses such as utilities and "Louis Vuitton bags," a subject that hits home when he gets an earful from those very same luxury buyers when he raises the prices of his produce by 25 cents.

As a matter of complying with food safety issues, he said costs to the consumer will have to rise in the future and he said, "Without support, agriculture is not going to survive."

Speaking of the partnership between restaurants and farmers that has been taking place since the 1980s, and support of organizations such as the Hawai'i Food & Wine Festival, he said, "In Hawaii, everything we do should be together. The key for the future is these partnerships."

Putting young hands to work, Yamaguchi got an assist from, left, Hoku Hulihee, Cole Matsukawa and Remy Ah Quin.

As for Veggie U, chef Alan Wong told of being a fourth grade student at Wahiawa Elementary, and seeing the intermediate school band come to play for them. "When you're that age, you're impressionable," he said, so when it came time to choose classes in intermediate school, he chose band, and expressed the hope that by exposing youths to class gardens, the role of farmers and healthy foods, "maybe one becomes a future farmer," or at least understand and support agricultural endeavors.

Okimoto also said there's room for more dialog with the public. He said that although some people are happy to see big agriculture and plantations disappear, without them, there's "less infrastructure for everyone else to survive."

Plantation closures means that those in peripheral businesses, such as selling fertilizers, are unable to make a living, and as they go, smaller farmers may struggle to import the tools and materials they need at reasonable cost.

For the roster of restaurants participating in Localicious, visit

Other bites included:

 Matt Small's sous vide rosemary skirt steak.

Vikram Garg's tamarind cured ahi in a pool of hearts of palm velouté.

Putting the finishing mint and basil touches on Alan Wong's Niihau lamb on house foccaccia.
Wong's finished mini sandwich.

Matt Small's dessert of orange blossom panna cotta with white ohi'a honey yuzu compound topped with candied orange peel and crystalized clover honey.

A taste of Osteria Di Passignano at Halekulani

Nadine Kam photos
Osteria Di Passignano executive chef Nicola Damiani, right, and sous chef Nearco Boninsegni enjoy conversing with guests following their "Evening with Osteria di Passignano" dinner at the Halekulani.

Halekulani welcomed Osteria Di Passignano’s Michelin-star executive chef Nicola Damiani and sous chef Nearco Boninsegni for a taste of Tuscany at the Hau Terrace on Feb. 19.

Osteria di Passignano is housed in the Abbey of Passignano within the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. The monastery dates back to 395, when it was established by the archbishop of Florence, and it is still inhabited by monks of the Vallombrosian Order.

The restaurant is relatively young, founded in 2000 by Marcello Crini, a connoisseur of Tuscan cuisine and wine culture; and Allegra Antinori, whose family owns the vineyards around the Abbey, from which the Chianti Classico Reserve wine “Badia a Passignano” is produced, and which is aged in the cellars beneath the monastery.

"An Evening with Osteria di Passignano" highlighted Damiani's cuisine paired with Antinori wines.

Alessandro Moggi photo
A long way from home, this is a look at the interior of Osteria Di Passignano, housed in a 1,600-year-old Tuscan abbey.

Transported across both Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and in an environment of coconut trees and sand instead of 1,600-year-old stone, we experienced the delicacy of the chefs' work, and assumed they brought some of their own specially ground flour for pillowy gnocchi and other dishes. But no, they used only ingredients sourced from here, once again dashing the myth that some Hawaii chefs try to perpetuate, that they are limited by climate (baking) and ingredients available to them. Oh no, no. After savoring beautiful, light tomato sauces made from local tomatoes that the chefs say are sweeter than ones back home, no one can use that excuse with me anymore.

I was particularly captivated by cacciucco accented with thin ribbons of cuttlefish, or ika, noodles, and asked Boninsegni how they're made. It turns out to be an eight hour process that starts with a good cleaning, sous vide cooking, freezing and shaving the frozen ika with a mandoline. The seafood "pasta" is then rolled up to prevent curling of the edges. The texture was amazing.

Here's what was on the menu:

Nadine Kam photos
Redfish cacciucco with cuttlefish tagliatelle and crispy quinoa. Paired with Tenuta Guado al Tasso, Vermentino Bolgheri D.O.C. 2014.

Heavenly lemon-scented potato gnocchi with fennel, squid and clams. Pairing: Castello Della Sala, Cervaro Della Sala 2012.

Wine and roses. The Cervara. Look at them legs!

Fresh pasta tortelli stuffed with pappa al pomodoro over basil sauce. Pairing: Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. "Gran Selezione" 2009.

By the time the breaded veal sirloin arrived, over red pepper fondant with eggplant and zucchini, I was full, but really didn't want the meal to end. Pairing: Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri 2010 and Marchesi Antinori Solaia 2012. I liked the Solaia best in this matchup.

Dessert of chocolate clafoutis was paired with Tenuta Marchesi Antinori, Vinsanto del Chianti Classico D.O.C. 2010.

When the mignardises arrived, a tablemate said he knew which one I would pick. I was like, "You don't know." So he said he would write it down and darn he was right! I'm not telling you so you can guess too and I might fill you in on a later date.

After dinner, the empties.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Larb sticky rice burger pops up at Wang Chung's

Wang Chung's photo
Homestyle Meals larb sticky rice burger was served up during a popup at Wang Chung's in Waikiki.

Leave it to Wang Chung's owner Danny Chang to come up with another attention-grabbing invitation to his popup with Homestyle Meals Ashley Thaira. With her larb sticky rice burger as the star attraction, his headline read: "Me Larb You Long Time," in luring the hungry to sample a $12 Lao-themed family dinner that took place Feb. 11.

It's one of many homey, family style popups he has planned for his fun pau hana pupu and karaoke bar, because he's a natural-born social director who just loves bringing all kinds of people together.

As for this particular event, Chung, our hi-energy host with the most, explained that he was celebrating the Chinese New Year in Chinatown when he came upon Thaira's booth serving "the most delicious home-style Lao cooking. They had unique dishes that you don't find here in Hawaii such as Nam Khao Tod (Lao crispy rice ball salad) and this amazing larb sticky rice burger."

Nadine Kam photos
Look mom, no wheat! Gluten-free rejoice! The larb sticky rice burger was the highlight of a popup at Wang Chung's.

Ashley Thaira shows her green papaya salad, also below.

The burger is of minced pork, and the patty is dipped in a sweetened fish sauce before being layered with cucumber, cilantro and green onions between two sticky rice buns. Yummers! What's more, it's perfect for this gluten-free era.
On video.

On video. Click here to view.

Also on the menu was a green papaya salad, Nam Van, a dessert of fresh fruit and tapioca in coconut milk, and Sa Dok Bua, lotus tea scented with pandan leaves.

Beyond the popup, Homestyle Meals and Thaira's $8 larb sticky rice burger can be found at the Mahiku Farmers Market at Iroquis Point 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays at 5105 Iroquois Ave. She's looking for more venues in downtown Honolulu. Let's hope that happens soon and I'll keep you posted when that happens.

Inside Wang Chung's.

Wang Chung's is in the Stay boutique hotel at 2424 Koa Ave. in Waikiki, behind the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. Open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Call (808) 921-9176.

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.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mixologist for a day at 'Love of Libations' launch

Nadine Kam photo
I was on the winning team of foodies that came up with a jalapeño-accented Phoenix Rising cocktail for the Year of the Monkey.


Most people would jump at the opportunity to play mixologist for an evening, and the Moana Surfrider is providing just that with the launch of “Love of Libations: Mixology 101.”

The first installment took place Feb. 12, with hosts from Southern Wine & Spirits, Micah Suderman and director of mixology Chandra Lucariello, who offered up her own cocktails before setting guests free to concoct their own libations. It’s not everyday one is set loose to play with all the booze they want!

We were divided into four teams with the aim of coming up with a cocktail. On my team were Sean Morris, Pam Davis, Emi Hart and Catherine Toth. Pam had a thirst for ginger beer, so going from there, we had to figure out what would work with ginger.

Ritsuko Kukonu photo / poohko hawaii
Mioxologist Chandra Lucariello gave a demonstration and instructions before setting novices loose with alcohol and other ingredients.

I know from years of writing about food that themes and the naming of things are as important as the flavor of a dish, so based on timing so close to the Lunar New Year, I wanted a drink with an Asian orientation.

At the ingredient bar, we pulled together raspberries and limes that would work with ginger, going outfield by using basil instead of the more expected basil. Next, we pulled kaffir lime leaves from a display. It all smelled good after muddling, but Sean decided to try one slice of jalapeño. That proved to be the stroke of genius. I loved the heat and it differentiated the cocktail from all others. Immediately, I thought of the name Firebird, which became Phoenix Rising for the new year.

Nadine Kam photos
Kaffir lime leaves snatched from the event display helped put our drink on top.

We added neutral vodka to the mix, and after straining into a martini glass, we topped it off with the ginger beer. After tasting the rest of the competition, with standard fruit or cucumber flavors, I knew we had a winner on our hands, and so it was!

I was so excited. I never had dreams of trying mixology because I’m not a big boozer, but apparently, if you can imagine the flavors of ingredients together, you’re not far from creating winning cocktails. The competition was fun but I could never be a mixologist IRL. It requires speed and I’m not into the live theater aspects of the work.

The next event takes place 6 to 9 p.m. March 11 as part of the Moana’s 115th birthday bash. The cost is $75 and includes light fare and beverages provided by Koko Head Cafe, Mac 24/7, MW Restaurant, The Pig and the Lady, RumFire, Scratch Kitchen & Bakeshop and Square Barrels. Proceeds will benefit the Life Foundation and tickets are available at

With shelves of ingredients to choose from, we were most drawn to the raspberries and limes.

I wanted to use bacon but when that wasn’t happening, I did the next best thing and ate some.

More ingredients, including basil that went into our Phoenix Rising cocktail.

A little cucumber goes a long way because I don’t like them very much.

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, February 10, 2016

Hello New York, this is the real poke

Nadine Kam photos
At Da Hawaiian Poke Co. at the Kapahulu Safeway Center, Kellsie Ladegaard shows the shop’s ahi limu poke.


Like Hawaii fashion before it, Hawaii food is trending across the country.

Last year, I traveled to San Francisco for a taste of Hawaii at Liholiho Yacht Club, where chef Ravi Kapur’s Spam fried rice won the restaurant a place in Bon Appetit and the Washington Post deemed his Chinese-style steamed buns with beef tongue and cucumber kimchi as one of its “Top dishes from each of America’s 10 best food cities.”

Trying to make sense of this phenom and how it all started, Jennifer Conrad, writing for Vogue, said, “In New York, as these things often happen, Hawaiian restaurants came in a crashing wave starting around 2013. Onomea in Williamsburg makes dishes like loco moco (white rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and gravy) and shoyu chicken (soy sauce–marinated drumsticks with greens and macaroni salad) accompanied by rum-spiked fresh juices.”

She also added restaurants Suzume, Makana, and Noreetuh to the mix. (Noreetuh might actually be good so I need to go check it out.)

The classic ahi poke with ogo, green onions and inamona.

But the dish of the moment is poke because of the healthier option of having a fish- rather than meat-based meal.

Only question is, how well do mainlanders know poke? On Facebook, an Insider Food video about the “poké” craze sweeping Manhattan recently sparked outrage among diners with local ties, drawing about 7,000 mostly negative comments, because what they’re creating at Wisefish and other restaurants is not poke as we know it. Instead of incorporating ingredients into the mixture, they are building salads by piling raw fish over vegetables, and covering the fish with toppings and sauces. (And yes your eyes didn’t deceive you. It’s picked up a diacritical mark at places like Poké Works and Wisefish Poké, to help beginners get the pronunciation right.)

As one of the more moderate toned commenters posted, “They couldn’t be doing poke any more wrong, and this has been a staple in Hawaii for so long. Small kine late guys, come to Hawaii if you wanna know what real poke taste like.”

I get that, just as has happened throughout history, food evolves as it crosses oceans and is reinvented as it embraces indigenous ingredients. Poke has certainly evolved here from the time the first Hawaiian fishermen augmented their fish with alae and ogo, the ingredients readily available to them. Over time, with immigration, people added their own flavors to the mix: green onions from the garden, soy sauce, tobiko, sesame oil, Sriracha, and more.
 Da Hawaiian Poke Co also gives clams ($6 per pound) and below, peeled shrimp, the poke treatment.

Kim chee shrimp poke was recently being offered at $11 per pound.

Sesame tako poke was recently offered for $13 a pound.

Perhaps chef Sam Choy had the biggest influence over the direction of poke when he launched his annual poke festival and competition in the early 1990s, causing an explosion in styles and ingredients. Most audaciously, he started searing the traditionally raw dish, and by 1997 was serving up “Sam’s original fried poke” at Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch and Crab. A year later, he was calling it “Fried Poke Magic.”

The biggest offense is that missing from all these national media outlets is … Hawaii. No one is heaping these accolades on local purveyors of poke, in the place where poke was born and where it’s most ono.

Outsiders might be viewing Hawaii as a land of angry people. But we are just tired of being marginalized and seeing local culture misrepresented. Respect.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

AAA Award merits return of Chef Mavro classic onaga

Photo courtesy Chef Mavro
Chef Mavro’s George Mavrothalassitis is bringing back his salt-crusted onaga in celebration of the restaurant’s latest AAA Five Diamond Award.


In celebration of another Five Diamond Award from The American Automobile Association, Chef Mavro is bringing back his famous onaga baked in a rosemary-Hawaiian salt crust, through Feb. 12.

The AAA Five Diamond list is based on anonymous visits by restaurant inspectors. Only 0.2 percent of the 30,000 restaurants reviewed earn the top rating. Chef Mavro restaurant’s first Five Diamond Award was in 2008 and it continues to be the only independently owned restaurant in Hawaii, and one of only a handful in the U.S. to achieve the AAA’s highest rating, placing the restaurant in the company of such internationally renowned restaurants as Le Bernardin, Per Se, Daniel, Eleven Madison Park, and Jean Georges in New York; and in California. The French Laundry, Gary Danko, and Benu, among others.

Here is the link to the award winners.
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.

Celebrate V-Day your way, with oysters to chocolates to pizza

Nadine Kam photos
What looks like a sculpture is the San Valentino dessert at Arancino at the Kahala, a special five-course menu being offered Feb. 12 through 14. Torta al Cioccolato is housemade chocolate mousse topped with raspberry sorbetto.


Whether you’re a traditionalist or independent, you’ll find plenty of edibles to suit your Valentine’s Day style. Celebrate with the love of your life, or just say bah, humbug, and indulge in a solo tin of chocolates or heart-shaped pizza. Here’s a little roundup.

Papa John’s Hawaii: The pizza specialist is bringing back its heart-shaped pizza through Monday, or while supplies last. The one-topping pizza is being paired with an 8-inch pan of fudge brownies and a bouquet of a dozen roses for $60, or a single long-stemmed rose for $25. Pre-orders beginning tomorrow are recommended. Call 979-PAPA (7272) or visit For every online order made with the promo code MAWROSES, Papa John’s will also donate $5 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Pierre Marcolini: A tin containing seven of the chocolatier’s Coeurs Framboise raspberry hearts is $27. Three words about this isle newcomer: Best. Chocolates. Ever. Look for the shop on the third level of Ala Moana Center’s new Ewa Wing.
Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach: The hotel at 175 Paoakalani Ave. will host a Valentine’s Day popup featuring special guest Miller Royer of Wing Shave Ice & Ice Cream, who will be serving scoops and sundaes, from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday in the lobby. Ice cream selections available will be Rose, Mayan Xocolātl (chocolate with cinnamon and a hint of cayenne pepper), and 100 percent Kona coffee (made with award-winning Aikane Kona Coffee). A strawberry and champagne sorbet will also be available. Single scoops will be $4.71, while double scoops will cost $6.81. For those seeking something sweet to share, Royer will offer sundaes with a choice of homemade sauces, including hot fudge, strawberry sauce, or Hawaiian sea-salt caramel. The single scoop sundae will go for $6.28, with double scoop sundaes are $8.38. All prices are tax inclusive. Call (808) 922-3861 or visit for more information.

Kahala Hotel & Resort: Pick up a box of the resort’s special hand-dipped truffles in flavors of Kula lavender milk chocolate, roasted mac-nut blonde chocolate, mango yuzu white chocolate and guava strawberry dark chocolate, to share or indulge on your own. The 16-piece box of truffles, with four of each flavor, sells for $38 at Hoku’s, Plumeria Beach House and The Veranda. Call 739-8760 or email to reserve for pick up through Monday.

Also at the hotel, Arancino at The Kahala is offering a five-course San Valentino prix fixe dinner at $89 per person, with $30 per person wine pairings, from Friday through Sunday. Reserve at 380-4400.

Here is what’s on the menu:

The meal starts with an appropriately aphrodisiacal stuzzichino, or appetizer, of Goose Point oyster and finger lime, with Sevruga caviar, ocean water gelée, and spicy olive oil presented in a pipette. Wine pairing: Taltarni "tache," Victoria, Tasmania, Australia.
Another view of the oyster with olive oil and pearls of finger lime added, plus succulent.

A fondue of imported Italian fontina is presented as the antipasti course with locally grown sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and baked pane. It is tempting to finish all the fondue, and we asked for some extra veggies, but you don't want to be too full to enjoy dessert or any post-meal recreation. Wine pairing: Pinot noir, Dog Point, Marlborough, New Zealand.

For the primi course, you will have a choice of linguine with Saltspring Island, B.C., mussels in a garlic pomodoro sauce, or the risotto below. This linguine is the lighter choice and I love the texture of the housemade pasta. Pairing: Vermentino, Poggio al Tesoro, Toscana, Italy.

Gold leaf-topped saffron risotto was luxurious, but braised oxtail was a little tricky to eat gracefully. Maybe not the perfect date-night option. Pairing: Amarone della Valpolicella, Bolla, Veneto, Italy.

The secondo course is a sous vide and grille local Shinsato center-cut pork loin, served over fried leeks and lotus root. Pairing: Chardonnay, Sonona "The Cutrer," Sonoma Coast, Calif.

As for The Kahala’s restaurants, from Feb. 12 to 14, Plumeria Beach House will be offering an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet, at $80 per adult and $40 for children. Favorites such as prime rib and crab legs will be available, along with such special dishes as baked oysters with lehua honey butter and roasted duck breast with a raspberry gastrique. If fine dining is more your style, a lover’s four-course dinner ($120 per person) will be available at Hoku’s, or enjoy a $75 per person prix fixe menu at The Veranda, with main course choices of grilled beef tenderloin and sautéed foie gras, or roasted Maine lobster with scallops. For reservations, call (808) 739-8760 or email

The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong:
Valentine’s dinner, with reservations from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, starts with a choice of Kula tomato biqsue of roasted beet and Waipoli greens salad, followed by a choice of grilled ahi or steamed crab and shrimp appetizer. Then pick one of three entrée choices from petit filet mignon, Okinawan awamori pork belly rafute, or seared mahi with Bhutanese red rice with lup cheong. Dessert is a matcha opera cake with green tea buttercream, azuki mousse and Waialua chocolate. The cost is $65 per person. Call (808) 945-6573. The restaurant is on the third floor at Macy’s, Ala Moana Center.

Bali Steak & Seafood: The restaurant at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort & Spa is offering a Pre-Valentine’s Day dinner Feb. 12 and 13, at $89 per person, starting with an amuse bouche of Kona kampachi tartare with jicama, watermelon radish, cilantro and finger lime. Then take your pick of first course of island beet and Surfing Goat cheese salad; or poached Kauai prawn with Nalo Farms baby mizuna, Big Island oranges, toasted walnuts and Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Then choose from main course of Kona coffee and cocoa-dusted beef filet; pan-roasted fresh catch; or roasted Kona lobster tail. Dessert is burnt honey Pots de Crème with strawberry medallions and ganache.

Then on Valentine’s Day the $89 per person menu starts with the same amuse bouche followed by one of three first course choices of the beet-and-goat cheese salad; hamachi and strawberry carpaccio; or seared diver scallops. Then choose one of four entrées, starting with the three above, or Maui sugar-glazed duck breast. Dessert is the same as the pre-Valentine menu. A Valentine’s Day limited a la carte menu will also feature steaks and such aphrodisiac selections as blue crab cakes with mustard sauce and sambal ($21), abalone and Parmesan gnocchi ($20), market price King crab legs or a Bali Seafood Platter for two, that for $95 includes ahi poke, King crab, jumbo shrimp, abalone, Kona Kampachi Crudo, and more. Reservations: (808) 941-2254.

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, February 3, 2016

The Nook now welcomes diners to dinner

Nadine Kam photos
I never get tired of ordering The Nook’s grilled ribeye with wasabi creme fraiche and Yukon potato with pork belly bits. It’s on the menu now that the restaurant has launched dinner service.


The Nook Neighborhood Bistro opened in summer of 2014 and quickly picked up a following because of its homey vibe, and casual brunch offerings with creative twists within a framework of sustainability. We were all set for breakfast and brunch, but given the great food, many longed for more.

Well, the moment has arrived. Over the holidays, the Nook quietly introduced dinner service, and if you’re already a fan of their breakfasts, you’ll likely find yourself returning at night.

It’s taken them this long to secure a liquor license that makes extending food service worthwhile. To put things into perspective, the menu features one page of food and three pages of drinks ranging from wines by the glass or bottle, draft and bottle beers, and cocktails such as a “Classic-ish Mai Tai” ($10) with bruléed pineapple.

Owners Hailey Berkey and Anicea Campanale are a welcome sight and score extra points for being among the few women restaurateurs able to make a go of their business in what’s still a man’s world. The oversight of these longtime friends provides assurance that service will run smoothly. Berkey works the front of the house while Campanale exercises her creativity in the kitchen.

Although people inquired whether favorites from the brunch menu would reappear on the dinner menu, Campanale didn’t want to repeat herself and has created a menu that will give you amnesia over just what you liked about breakfast once you find your new favorite dishes.

Campanale said her family didn’t know how to eat fennel other than to bite into the raw bulb. She now turns them into tempura-battered frites ($7) made even more delicious when dipped into a curry aioli.

The anise flavor of fennel is an acquired taste and not everyone can appreciate it. If you’re not sure where you stand, try the crunchy polenta fries ($7) instead, served with a blue cheese and balsamic reduction or garlic Sriracha aioli.

There’s not a single wrong note in the “First Bites” selections that boil down to a matter of preference. Do you want the fresh, bright lime notes of Kauai shrimp and fish ceviche ($14), above, or the warmth of steamed clams ($13) in a warm broth of white wine, garlic, lime and chilies, with crumbled Shinsato pork sausage, below? Note: Those First Bites also make great late-night bites after a movie or show.