- The Hamptons
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Orange County
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- Washington, D.C.
Chef Mark Noguchi reconnects with Hawaiian traditions at He‘eia Fishpond in Windward O‘ahu.
Feast on delectable seafood and witty tales at Azure After Dark at The Royal Hawaiian.
Pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka will bring her delicious desserts to the new MW this fall.
The Moana Surfrider
Gourmet creations by Bonita Lao
Dante’s Inferno at The Modern Honolulu
Go local at Norio’s Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar.
Rediscover island staples at Brown’s Beach House at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii.
Chefs Brian Etheredge and Chris Kulis wow diners at Capische in Wailea, Maui.
Chef Jojo Vasquez
Salt Bar and Kitchen’s Doug Kocol and Quinten Frye know a thing or two about seasoning.
Hawai‘i Gets Haute
Life in the islands is now tastier than ever.
The Editors, with Eliza Escaño, Margaret Kearns and Shannon Wianecki | Photo: Nina Kuna, Linny Morris and Ryan Siphers | July 9, 2013
Another year has rolled by in our cuisine scene, and with it, a page has definitely been turned. The next wave of chefs has risen up, following the path that the founders of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine opened up more than 20 years ago. But the road is far from anything expected. From national television appearances to reviving traditions and reinventing the restaurant mold, the islands’ culinary movers and shakers have everyone buzzing. So, come hungry. A feast awaits.
WHAT'S IN NOW
Trends may come and go, but we were more than pleased by the latest to hit Hawai‘i over the past year.
The arrival of Vintage Cave (vintagecave.com) has convinced many serious diners that spending $295 for a prix fixe menu is totally justified—if you’re indulging in exquisitely creative dishes prepared by a culinary star like Chris Kajioka. We’re foreseeing similarly ultraluxe restos in the the near future.
One Time Deal
Pop-up dining has matured from no-fuss eats to multicourse, gourmet meals, typically created around a festive theme. The islands’ younger chefs have led the way here, appealing to adventurous eaters by experimenting with new dishes and ingredients at these popular, one-off dinners.
With healthy eating now more in vogue than ever, it’s been no surprise to see chic vegan eateries (Kaka‘ako’s Greens & Vines, for instance) and stylish juice bars appear everywhere. Get ready for everything from fresh cucumber-ginger blends to exquisitely prepared raw pad thai.
In this era of celeb chefs, it’s only fitting for Hawai‘i’s rising toques to venture onto the small screen, appearing on the likes of Food Network’s Food Network Star (Philip “Ippy” Aiona) and Bravo’s Top Chef (Sheldon Simeon) to expand their star power outside the islands. While Hawai‘i tends to be low-key, it’s become de rigueur for chefs to tweet and Instagram every new bite.
We love the resurgence of traditional staples in smart menus at chic resort restos, including Brown’s Beach House at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii (fairmont.com/orchid-hawaii) and CanoeHouse at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows (maunalani.com).
BY RESERVATION ONLY
At The Royal Hawaiian’s exquisite Azure (2259 Kalākaua Ave., Waikīkī, 923.7311, azurewaikiki.com), local ingredients have reached new heights. (Island seafood repeatedly receives stellar treatment, in particular.) This summer, the resto will open its next chapter as it welcomes its new chef de cuisine, who takes over from culinary veteran Jon Matsubara. What better way to greet the fresh talent than at Azure After Dark, an exclusive, luxe experience where the toque will personally prepare dinner for four while sharing his brand of kitchen confidential.
Kaimukī’s beloved bistro 12th Ave Grill (1145C 12th Ave., 732.9469, Kaimukī, 12thavegrill.com) will soon be moving to a newly constructed space across the street (at the former Victoria Inn) that’s more than double the size. Along with a new private dining room and an area where diners can eat family-style, the restaurant will have a real bar that offers craft cocktails, says owner Kevin Hanney. Once the new locale is up and running, Hanney plans to transform the current spot into a breakfast place with a focus on fresh, local dishes.
Two to Tango
Buzz is building for talented toque Wade Ueoka and pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka, a married couple who will soon open one of Honolulu’s most anticipated new restaurants. The 38-year-old O‘ahu natives, both longtime Alan Wong proteges, will debut MW this fall at the former KGMB studios on Kapi‘olani Avenue. Covering 3,000 square feet, the eatery will showcase their strengths—her delectable desserts and his regional dishes prepared with a wealth of local ingredients. It’s a dream for both to finally showcase recipes in their own kitchen. “I want it to be a place that brings people together, where people can come enjoy good food and service to create great memories,” says Karr-Ueoka. “I want to create food that’s inspired by Hawai‘i or my childhood.”
Boston-bred and Paris-trained Chef de Cuisine William Chen has turned the beachhouse at the moana (The Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, 2365 Kalākaua Ave., Waikīkī, 922.3111, beachhousewaikiki.com) into an amazing mecca for meats and more. Carnivores will be thrilled by the delights that Chen has created on his smartly remixed new menu. For starters, there is roasted bone marrow with gremolata (definitely meant to be spread on toasted baguette) and, in a true celebration of pork, delectably crisp slices of thick-cut bacon that beg to be dipped in black-pepper mayonnaise. If your appetite holds out, try the Harris Ranch bone-in rib-eye, or opt for wagyu New York strip. (Choices from Australia and the U.S. are both available.) And while these chops rival any from the best steakhouses around, so do the sides, which could be meals in themselves. Our faves: the mac and cheese with Gorgonzola and pancetta, the Waiālua asparagus and the Hāmākua mushroom sautee.
Man About Town
Ed Kenney may have moved past the designation of a rising chef, but a lineup of Hawai‘i’s chefs to watch cannot exclude this veteran, who continues to innovate and inspire in the kitchen and beyond. The chef/owner behind the ever popular Town (3435 Wai‘alae Ave., Suite 104, Kaimuki, 735.5900, townkaimuki.com) remains one of the islands’ leading and most visible farm-to-table advocates, organizing events with the likes of Michelle Obama. He is also hosting a new television show, Family Ingredients, which follows a family recipe to its origin. The half-hour pilot, which aired on PBS in late May, has been described as a blend of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, Food Network’s Food Detectives and the Australian show Who Do You Think You Are?
With the pop-up The Pig & The Lady (thepigandthelady.com), chef Andrew Le invites his devoted followers to a wondrously creative world of Southeast Asian-French-fusion cuisine, with offerings like smoked bacon pho. At his Spirited Away pop-up dinner at Kaka‘ako’s Taste, Le presented a whimsical five-course menu inspired by director Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved anime film, and attendees came away swooning from the deliciously dreamy interpretation. Le plans to host more themed events on and off the island and eventually open a brick-and-mortar restaurant on O‘ahu, expanding on his popular Noodle Bar concept.
Dash of Salt
Leave it to Chef de Cuisine Quinten Frye and Charcutier Doug Kocol to hit a new high at Salt Bar and Kitchen (3605 Wai‘alae Ave., Kaimukī, 744.7567, salthonolulu.com) through down-to-earth sophistication and locavore sensibility. While Frye hails from Texas, and Kocol, from Colorado, they’ve immersed themselves in locally grown ingredients, creating fresh boudin, porchetta and more. It’s no wonder that their eclectic symphony of small plates earned these young toques spots as James Beard Award semifinalists.
Hidden away at the Hotel Wailea, Capische (555 Kaukahi St., Wailea, Maui 879.2224, capische.com) still feels like a secret—even though it’s captured top accolades for 11 years now. Owner Brian Etheredge and his top man Chris Kulis are a dream team. These passionate locavores make everything in-house and grow half of what they cook. They take turns cooking onstage at Il Teatro—a riveting teppanyaki-meets-Southern-Italian experience. Etheredge’s next venture? An upscale deli and juice bar.
Since Oracle mogul Larry Ellison’s 2012 purchase of the island of Lana‘i—well, 98 percent of it—changes have been taking place. In the hotel scene, the island’s gotten its biggest culinary buzz in years, thanks to the arrival of star chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s second eatery in Hawai‘i. While the world goes gaga for his Las Vegas venture, Nobu Lana‘i at Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay (1 Manele Road, Lana‘i City, Lana‘i, 565.2000, noburestaurants.com/lanai) is discreetly winning fans one by one. In contrast to the dimly lit Nobu Waikiki, the new resto shimmers with a light breezy decor. While relishing ocean views, indulge in bigeye and bluefin toro tartare with caviar or whitefish sashimi with dried miso.
For critics and diners alike, Four Seasons Resort Hualālai’s Executive Sous Chef Nick Mastrascusa always scores high points. A former member of Uruguay’s national soccer team, this top scorer suffered an injury that sidelined his career, leading him to his next professional calling. “In Uruguay, there are two things: soccer and food,” he explains. Back in 2009, this toque was brought from his post at the Four Seasons Hotel New York specifically to reinvent the Beach Tree restaurant. An immediate hit under Mastrascusa’s confident direction, it’s now one of Hawai‘i Island’s best restos. Given the chef’s Spanish and Italian heritage, it’s no surprise the cuisine features bold Mediterranean flavors with South American accents. Most recently, he was behind the launch of ‘ULU Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge (72-100 Ka‘ūpūlehu Drive, Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i Island, 325.8000, fourseasons.com/hualalai) and has introduced a series of culinary experiences that attract diners from around the world. Among them is Your Table, a highly interactive dining extravaganza at ‘ULU where 10 guests work with the chefs to first select the wines and then create a six-course prix-fixe menu.
Chef Jojo Vasquez knows how to multitask. He managed to assist the legendary Masaharu Morimoto with two seasons of Iron Chef America and launched several of Morimoto’s restaurants, all between stints at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. It’s important to note that this Chicago-born talent was the creative force behind the highly sophisticated menu at the property’s The Banyan Tree, which closed its doors earlier this year. While this toque may have left The Ritz-Carlton, he hasn’t moved far from his former digs. Located a short drive away, the Plantation House Restaurant (2000 Plantation Club Drive, Kapalua, Maui, 669.6299, theplantationhouse.com), a West Maui landmark, is now receiving a full makeover under Vasquez’s skillful direction. With a perfect balance of the cerebral and the passionate, Vasquez is truly a meticulous chef who’s mastered molecular gastronomy’s techniques, all the while maintaining a devotee’s appreciation for simplicity. Look no further than dishes like the kampachi tartare—seasoned with crispy shallots, jalapeno, wakame and nasturtium petals—that have ratcheted up the menu’s sophistication by leaps and bounds.
“It’s nice to step out of the shadow of the old guard,” says Sheldon Simeon, who jumped into the spotlight as a finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef. Voted Fan Favorite by the nation and Chef of the Year by his peers on Maui (twice!), this humble Hilo boy has reinvented Hawai‘i’s gourmet foodscape, incorporating the homespun Filipino dishes of his youth. But it turns out that the screen time and accolades are just one part of a year of changes. Recently, Simeon announced that he’s branching out on his own. This May, the toque left his posts at the now legendary Star Noodle and Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop—destination unknown. “I’m going to ride this wave and see where it goes,” says the adventurous chef. While Simeon takes his time to choose his future course, he definitely will not be fading from the island scene. Already on the horizon for this year: cameo appearances at pop-ups, field trips to his favorite island farms and, ultimately, a restaurant of his own. Now, where to find him? Just follow his Twitter feed @chefwonder.
On Hawai‘i Island, let the cook come to you. All you need to do is invite friends. Here, three private chefs who’ve caught our eye.
Rising star Bonita Lao (896.3984, bonitalao.com) grew up in her family’s Chinese restaurant in Waimea, but is quick to state, “That’s not where I learned to cook. I was too busy cleaning broccoli and bussing tables!” She credits her time at the California Culinary Academy, Honolulu eatery Chef Mavro and top Sydney restaurants as career catalysts. Today, she prepares her distinctively innovative cuisine for clients at luxury communities, including the exclusive Hualālai Resort.
French chef Daniel Thiebaut (960.2276, chefdanielhawaii.com) brought his high standards to Hawai‘i Island some 20 years ago. Now, he’s wowing residents at Mauna Kea Resort and cooking outstanding intimate feasts in their professionally equipped, chic home kitchens.
Chef Amy Ferguson (345.0789, caterhawaiibigisland.com) has created culinary experiences on Hawai‘i Island for more than 28 years. Her coveted roster of VIP clients has included rock stars, visiting royalty and legendary financial wizards, among many others. Her full-service catering company can handle a dinner for two or a gala for 1,000 guests.
What happens when a James Beard Award-winning filmmaker and a sharp Honolulu restaurant owner have a shared penchant for communal cooking? You get Cookspace Hawaii (Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd., Kaka‘ako, 695.2005, cookspacehawaii.com), Honolulu’s hottest space for aspiring foodies. Melanie Kosaka and Jason Kim have created a smart program of classes that covers everything from local seafood to tequila. Add that to a cool modern kitchen and dining area right in the heart of hip Kaka‘ako, and you have top chefs from all over the islands—and from overseas—ready to head through the door.
Every third Saturday, Kupu Maui (kupumaui.com) gathers farmers, chefs and foodies on sublime farm settings, where local harvests are turned into sumptuous fares. Dania Katz and chef James “Kimo” Simpliciano have orchestrated the widly popular dinners since April 2012. “We wanted to feed the community and teach them they can eat 100 percent locally sourced food,” says Katz. Proceeds are donated to charity. And with guest talents like Sheldon Simeon and Isaac Bancaco, it’s no wonder every event sells out.
At the Neighbor Islands’ poshest resorts, chefs have debuted locally sourced menus. On Hawai‘i Island, there’s excitement at The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii (1 N. Kaniku Drive, Kohala Coast, Hawai‘i Island, 885.2000), where dry-aged meats from Kulana Farms and fish shine at Norio’s Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar. At The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua (1 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Kapalua, Maui, 669.6200), Executive Chef John Zaner uses Ha‘iku tomatoes in soups and local snapper in ceviche at The Terrace Chef-Crafted.
Man of the People
Don’t be fooled by Mark Noguchi’s gregarious demeanor. He’s one of the most ardent culinary revolutionaries in Hawai‘i. His Kaka‘ako eatery, Taste (667 Auahi St., Kaka‘ako, tastetable.com), which hosts rotating chefs, has made pop-ups de rigueur. As co-founder of Pili Hawai‘i, he’s also a vocal advocate for sustainability, working with the community whenever he can. Case in point: his dedicated work with Paepae o He‘eia to restore He‘eia Fishpond in Windward O‘ahu.
Add some bang to your bites. Here, three island watering holes that offer both sublime beverages and inspiring gourmet fare.
Pint + Jigger (1936 S. King St., McCully/Mō‘ili‘ ili, 744.9593, pintandjigger.com) has elevated the city’s late-night bar options, serving craft beers, a bevy of cocktails concocted by mixologist Dave Newman and small plates of spicy ceviche, Scotch Eggs and Manila clams.
REAL a Gastropub (1020 Auahi St., Kaka‘ako, 596.2526, realgastropub.com) may offer 200 bottled beers hailing from across the globe, but what makes it a true standout are the small dishes, like a beer-braised brisket poutine that’d make a Québécois cry out, “Ah, oui!”
The Feral Pig (3501 Rice St., Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i, 246.1100 theferalpigkauai.com) has major cred behind it, with Dave Power, formerly a mixologist at Town, and Scott Kessinger at the helm. Along with superior cocktails, there’s eclectic fare like Jamaican jerk chicken.
DRINK 'EM UP
Have a sip or two of these exceptional cocktails, prepared by some of the islands’ top mixologists.
We’re thrilled by the revamped menu at The Study, the lobby bar at The Modern Honolulu (1775 Ala Moana Blvd., Waikiki, 943.5800, themodernhonolulu.com). Our top fave: Dante’s Inferno, a fiery concoction of Bombay Sapphire, Averna Amaro and sweet vermouth, chilled and strained up with a dash of Peychaud’s.
Mixologist Justin Park has made many drinks, but singles out the Moscow Mule—with vodka, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and ginger beer—as a must-try at Manifest (32 N. King St., Chinatown, 523.7575, manifesthawaii.com).
At Nobu Waikiki (Waikiki Parc Hotel, 2233 Helumoa Road, Waikiki, 237.6999, noburestaurants.com/waikiki), the Kinka is pure pleasure, thanks to its blend of Japanese whisky, brandy, Benedictine liqueur, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and bitters, stirred over a block of ice.
The Vine Guy
Most sommeliers drive to work. But Jeff Groh prefers to kayak to the beachside Merriman’s Kapalua (1 Bay Club Place, Kapalua, Maui, 699.6400, merrimanshawaii.com). At least, some of the time. While this som may be easy-going, he’s a real pro. Since arriving on the Valley Isle two years ago, Groh—once named best sommelier in Portland, Ore.—has created one of the most sophisticated wine programs on Maui, peppering the menu with eclectic wines, not to mention crafting smart, yet island-friendly, cocktails.
The tiki bar is back. Thanks to Michele and Todd Rundgren (yes, the ’80s rocker), Tiki Iniki (Princeville Center, 5-4280 Kūhiō Highway, Princeville, Kaua‘i) will open this summer on the Garden Isle. Amid vintage bamboo decor, discover classic drinks (think Blue Hawai‘i) on a menu that was conceptualized by Honolulu native Julie Reiner, the mastermind behind high-profile New York City bars, including Brooklyn’s Clover Club. “I grew up in Hawai‘i, so tropical drinks have always been near and dear to my heart,” Reiner says, adding that “tiki bars are all about having a good time and not taking life or yourself too seriously.”
At the renovated Wai‘olu Ocean View Lounge (Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk, 223 Saratoga Road, Waikiki, 683.7777), in-the-know 20- and 30-somethings have been gathering after hours to indulge in absinthe. Called the Green Fairy in Europe a century ago, the legendary spirit is charming new fans with its anisette flavor and romantic preparation. The staff sets up the traditional absinthe fountain, which drips cold water over a slotted spoon holding a sugar cube. The sweet infusion brings the spirit to life.
When it comes down to seeking sustenance with drinks in Downtown Honolulu, head to Lucky Belly (50 N. Hotel St., Chinatown, 531.1888, luckybelly.com). Sit at the bar to nosh on the likes of duck breast tataki and lamb lumpia. Add to that a surprising list of libations. Who’d think you’d find so many French vintages and smart sake in Chinatown? And with closing time at midnight, it’s a welcome change.