Elua, the Hawaiian word for two, is unique in that two well-known Hawaiian chefs Donato Loperfido and Philippe Padovani have opened a restaurant together. Their style of cuisine is entirely different from each other, but do not expect collaborative dishes. Each chef devises one side of the menu with Chef Padovani creating a French Mediterranean style menu and Donato Loperfido an Italian inspired menu. In fact, Padovani and Loperfido do not even work together in the kitchen as they alternate cooking responsibilities with the trained second holding down the fort for the absent chef. (According to a press release this approach allows both to pursue their other business interests.)
As to pedigree, Chef Donato was born in Italy and owned two restaurants, Donato’s Ristorante in Kahala and Donato’s Restaurant in Manoa, and was Executive Chef at Sarento’s before opening Elua. Born in Marseilles, but raised in Australia, learned his craft in three-star Michelin restaurants such as La Pyramide in France and La Mère Blanc in Vonnas and is one of the original twelve members of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Inc.
We decided to sample some of each of the chef’s creations.
Chef Donato – Thinly sliced raw Angus Beef Tenderloin, Hamakua mushrooms fricasse, Pamigiano shavings, truffle vinaigrette – good, but nothing remarkable
Terrine of Hudson Valley Foie Gras of Duck – “Chef Philippe’s special terrine of Foie Gras served with asparagus and Haricot Vert Salad – not even close to French Laundry’s version.
Chef Donato – We decided to do a half and half dish of gnocchi and risotto
On the left, Risotto con Funghi Misti – Arborio rice with seasonal mushrooms and white truffle oil
On the right, Gnocchi Burro, Salvia and Tartufo Estivo – Fresh in house made Potato Gnocchi with brown butter, sage and summer truffle sauce
The risotto was excellent, but the gnocchi were hard as rocks. Compare the Gnocchi at Ledoyen and French Laundry and you can see the light as air Gnocchi.
Dessert of fruit – no notes
Over-all, I think this trade-off of cooking duties makes for “safe” dishes with too much reliance on truffle oil. Just an OK meal.