Archive for the 'Hawaii' Category

Elua – Oahu

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.





French Laundry



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.

Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas, Oahu

Chef Hiroshi Fukui specializes in fusion cuisine – a marriage of Asian and Western flavors. The dishes are meant to be shared, hence the tapas in the restaurant’s name. Chuck Furuya, sommelier, created the wine menu and basically orchestrated our meal.


Chuck Furuya

Instead of bread, you are presented with rice crisps with a small bowl of nori-wasabi aioli for dipping. The rice crisps are made by putting freshly made rice in the oven overnight with just the pilot light on. It is then deep-fried for service.


Rice crisps – these are truly addictive and delicious.



Sizzlin’ Kona Kompachi Carpaccio, Mrs. Cheng’s Tofu, finely diced tomatoes, ponzu vinaigrette, touch of truffle oil. The Kompachi are fished in the coldest waters of the Big Island. The way they find the coldest water is by putting a long tube into the ocean to find the purest and coldest water. The sizzlin’ part of the dish refers to peanut oil that is heated and then quickly poured on top. Mrs. Cheng is known for having one of the best tofu product on the island.

An excellent dish – it appears over-sauced, but the saucing was very delicate and not at all over-powering.



Contemporary sushi – cold smoked hamachi sushi, Pacific Red Fin Fish (Chuck explained that originally this fish was reserved for royalty ) and Bo Bo farms Foie Gras Sushi with teriyaki glaze and essence of shiso – an interesting take on sushi – very inventive – the foie gras sushi was perfect.



Shrimp Chawanmushi “soup” – nalo micro mitsuba, seasonal vegetables and essence of white truffle oil (Whenever a dish called for truffle oil, we asked that the kitchen did a very, very light hand with the oil as I am not a huge fan of white truffle oil – they were more than happy to oblige.)


Not pictured – Marinated Moi “en papillote” – shitake mushrooms, Hau’ula tomato concasse, truffle butter and chili pepper, water-konbu broth – very good again done with a light hand.



My notes are a disaster on this one – Jumbo shrimp



Portuguese sausage pot stickers with sweet corn, garlic chili foam, and truffled ponzu sauce – this was the only poor dish of the night. We were about the last people dining in the restaurant and they were setting up for their staff  Xmas party next door at Vino, their sister Italian restaurant.

Chuck did a superb job of orchestrating this meal plus pairing wines with the food.

Il Silva – Chardonnay – Puglia

Not sure of the wine – Arnes – Piemonte

Raptor Ridge – Pinot Noir – Oregon (Willamette)

Twenty Rows (Grappler) – Zin, Sarah, Cab – Napa (Mt Veeder)

This is a fun place with very good food, not terribly expensive and an interesting wine list.

Hee Hing – Oahu

I have decided that there should be a rule about dim sum restaurants. If it is empty at 12:30 – run, don’t walk away. Reviews about Hee Hing mention it as an Oahu favorite with the locals and an atmosphere that is bustling and efficient.


The bustling room at 12:30.

I was led to believe that they had dim sum carts and I envisioned cart after cart being wheeled from table to table with all sorts of “goodies.” There was one cart that sat in a corner of the room that held all the dim sum offered that day. It wasn’t refilled once during the time we were there. 

We did start with two items from the cart


Roast Pork Bao – not bad, but the pork filling was skimpy at best.



Not a clue – our server was not very forthcoming on what we were eating. Basically this tasted like the type of paste you use to use in grammar school.

Realizing that maybe the carts were a bad idea, we decided to order off the menu. At least the food might be cooked to order.


Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf with pieces of sausage, shrimp, chicken and pork. This doesn’t look appetizing, but it was actually the best dish we had.



Spareribs with black bean sauce – grisly pork – inedible



Potstickers – the greasiest potstickers I have ever had.

I am not a newbie when it comes to dim sum and LA and SF has some wonderful places with lines out the door by 11 am. This was a disgrace – I can’t even give it a D as that would be too generous.

Brunch for a Steeler Game – Oahu

We were suppose to go to Alan Wong’s Pineapple room for brunch, but my husband, the ultimate Steeler fan, was having withdrawal symptoms at the thought of missing THE game. Being in Oahu in a small hotel room called for some creative thinking.

We had brought caviar from home with us so I just needed accompaniments for the caviar. As we had access to the Hyatt’s Club level where they set out a small breakfast buffet, I took a couple of hard-boiled eggs, lemon, cornichons, red onion and smoked salmon on Sunday morning. The day before I had discovered R Field Wine Company at Foodland. Not only do they have an excellent wine selection, but they also carry excellent charcuterie, salumi and cheese as well as La Brea bread. So on Saturday, we purchased champagne, cheese, charcuterie, bread plus a knife to dice the eggs and red onions. 

Game Day Brunch


Full view – NV Marc Hebrart Champagne, lemon, chopped egg white, chopped egg yolk, chopped red onions, caviar, assorted cheeses, chaucuterie, La Brea bread



Close-up of charcuterie 



Close-up of caviar


Another full view.

Mitch’s Fish Market and Sushi Bar – Oahu

This is a hole in the wall restaurant located in the warehouse area right by Honolulu International Airport. Actually, the restaurant itself is in the warehouse and as Mitch and his son Craig are importers of fish, all of the seafood are supplied by their fish company. There are only five places at the bar and a couple of tables for four about 13 seats total. Reservations are an absolute must.  Mitch’s is BYO only, but there is a liquor store around the corner.

We arrived in Oahu at noon and we were sitting at Mitch’s about 12:30. (There is a definite advantage to not checking any luggage, particularly if you have to endure airplane food).

Hideo Mitsui and Masa Murakami are the sushi chefs.



We asked for chef’s choice or omakase.



Shirauo (silverfish) from Japan



Sashimi –  From left to right – Tasmanian Abalone, Fresh Raw lobster, Chu-toro, Salmon, New Zealand scallop and Kanpachi – the lobster was the stand-out sashimi with a second to the abalone and scallop.



King Salmon, broiled with miso paste



Maguro and Toro Sushi


Aji (Spanish Mackerel)



Shima Aji 



Uni from Alaska and Salmon Eggs



Finally, a big bowl of miso soup with cooked lobster

This is not Urasawa and you shouldn’t expect that kind of experience. But the fish is very fresh, well-executed and a perfect place to stop after a long flight that is minutes from the airport.

Mitch’s Fish Market and Sushi Bar (524 Ohohia St., Honolulu)



Matsugen – Oahu

The major find on this trip to Oahu was Matsugen. We loved it so much that we went three times! Matsugen specializes in handmade soba – every morning the chef grinds the imported buckwheat into flour and then cuts each noodle by hand.




If you are allergic to buckwheat, don’t even think about going to Matsugen. 



Interior of Matsugen – As you can see, Matsugen is a small restaurant with a chic, modern decor.




Our first meal at Matsugen was lunch. It was an absolute deal at $13.80. 



We ordered the Natto Don Combo. You get a bowl of rice with a lightly poached egg, natto, green onions and nori, a salad, a huge plate of soba and a small bowl of pickles.


The soba noodles were served cold – they were firm, chewy with a slightly nutty flavor. Our waitress instructed us to add the wasabi and green onions to the soy sauce and dip our noodles in this sauce. We were the only non-Japanese diners at Matsugen, but the staff couldn’t have been nicer and definitely helped us negotiate the menu.



Close-up of the Natto Don – mixed.



After we finished our soba, the waitress then brought a small teapot filled with the water that the soba noodles were boiled in. You are instructed to add the soba water  to the soy sauce mixture and drink it. This was a very satisfying way to end the meal and our waitress explained that it is also very healthy.


We loved our lunch so much and as it was within walking distance of our hotel (cabs are very, very expensive in Oahu), we returned for dinner a couple of days later.



Some of the menu







Tuna with Yama-kake (Japanese mountain potato) with egg, nori and green onion – the yama-kake was some of the best I have ever tasted – absolutely perfect.




Cold Soba noodles with nato, okra, green onions, wakame, shiso, bonito flakes and a soft poached egg – we mixed all the ingredients together and slurped like the rest of the customers. (By the third time, we were getting to be decent slurpers).



Tempura Mix – Good but not the equal of the soba



Beef Tongue – this was just perfect

I don’t have any photos from our last meal at Matsugen, but we added a hot soba dish the Soba Tamagotoji – essentially a kind of soft scrambled egg dish with soba noodles. 

I absolutely recommend this restaurant highly – good value, nice staff and delicious food.

Alan Wong’s – Oahu

A very good friend of mine has been a regular at Alan Wong’s for years. The restaurant features an open kitchen with a chef’s counter and on her suggestion, we requested that seating. I tried having the kitchen just cook for us, but as first timers we were given their 7- course chef’s tasting menu. 


Open kitchen and chef’s counter



Cold Seafood Salad – ahi, abalone, crab and lobster in abalone gelee – the abalone gelee was the star of this dish – light, refreshing and just perfectly executed.



Soup and sandwich – Chilled Vine Ripened Hamakua Springs Tomato Soup with Grilled Mozzarella Cheese, Foie Gras, Kalua Pig Sandwich – A parmesan crisp separated the soup from the sandwich. The sandwich was decadent – very, very rich and very, very filling. 


Close-up of the soup



Kabayaki Unagi (eel) Foie Gras Pork hash Terrine – this didn’t work on a number of levels. First, the soy sweet eel seemed to fight with the foie pork hash.  Second, this was a very heavy dish and the third course in a seven course meal. Third, the flavor profile was similar to the soup and sandwich dish and as such the symphony of a tasting was off kilter.



Steamed Moi, Pacific Threadfin, Dried Scallop Truffle Risotto Flan – Portion size at Alan Wong’s is enormous. This was a tasting menu portion and although the photo doesn’t show it, there was enough flan for 2 people. The flan was excellent, but again very, very rich.  3  very rich dishes in a row becomes a punishment instead of a delight. I am a firm believer in a tasting menu “symphony” or balance in a meal. This tasting menu seemed out of balance to me.



Day Boat Scallop “Tofu”, Lobster, Itogaki, Soy and Green Onion. Itogaki are thin strands of dried bonito and sprinkled on top. The day boat scallop had been pureed in the robot coupe, mixed with egg whites, wrapped in plastic wrap and then briefly boiled. It then sat in the refrigerator overnight. This dish should have appeared earlier in the tasting menu as it was so much more delicate in flavor to the prior dishes and we were also quite stuffed at this point.




Maui Cattle Company Beef Tenderloin, Mushroom brown sauce, Big Island Goat Cheese Potato Croquette, Sauteed Green Beans, Tomato, Beef Marrow (I think), Baby Tomato – The potato croquette was absolutely wonderful. The vegetable accompaniments were also a welcome addition. The beef with the mushroom sauce was another heavy-handed dish and we were feeling punished.




We basically asked for just the lightest sampling of dessert – mostly fruit.

I was disappointed with Alan Wong’s. I was expecting an omakase experience of exquisite, small tastes. In retrospect, I wish I had ordered a la carte, one for two, and chosen the lightest dishes on the menu. The portion size of the dishes  at Alan Wong’s are huge – I saw a la carte plates that would feed at least 4 people with ease. As I mentioned on the 3660 On The Rise post, I have a definite personal bias in dining and Alan Wong’s is just not my type of dining.