Honolulu’s Strictest Chefs

Chefs are notoriously antisocial, some to the point that their nicknames are better known than the names of their restaurants. What’s the story behind the epithets, the “meanness”? Why do we love them anyway? (Or do we?) We checked in with two of Honolulu’s grumpier chefs to see if it’s all just an act.

The “Sushi Nazi,” at Sushi Sasabune

You don’t go into McDonald’s and ask for a Jumbo Jack, so you don’t go to Sushi Sasabune for a California roll, says Seiji Kumagawa, aka the “Sushi Nazi.”

Read the rest: http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/November-2010/Honolulu-039s-Strictest-Chefs/

Poke: Past and Present

For locals, few things say “home” as much as poke. Here’s the story of the evolution of this quintessential Hawaii food.

About 50 years ago—Sam Choy remembers being less than ten years old—Choy and family friends threw a net into Hukilau Bay and ended up catching a few moi. His mom’s friend decided they would make poke, so they sent him to pick limu manauea from the river mouth. Then they had him digging out roasted kukui nuts from ashes, cracking the hard shells and taking the meat out as they scaled and gutted the moi, sliced them crosswise—“poke” cuts—bones and all. They seasoned the fish with salt harvested from the ocean, threw in the chopped limu and sprinkled the crushed kukui nut (‘inamona) over it all. After letting the mixture sit a moment so the flavors would meld, Choy recalls, “I took a mouthful of it and went ‘wow’…Right at that moment, I knew that this was my love. Something as natural and pure as taking a fish out of the water, creating some magic to it.”

Whether it was the work he had put into creating that bowl of poke (he remembers the long walk to the river mouth to gather limu and the seemingly endless number of kukui nuts that had to be fished out of the ashes, cracked, the meat scooped out), the romance of the setting—sitting on the beach with friends and family, or whether it was the natural appeal of fresh, just-caught fish paired with the crunch of seaweed, whatever it was, that moment tipped Choy’s passion, a passion that would influence the future of poke.

Continue reading

Save room! Dessert…

Desserts can excite or they can soothe. Most sweets in Honolulu tend toward the latter; as with breakfast foods, cooks and diners alike seem to take less risks when it comes to the last course and prefer the familiar, the comforting. And indeed, sometimes there’s no better finish to a meal than a perfect crème brulee, an oozing molten chocolate cake, a panna cotta that just melts on the tongue. Still, a few pastry chefs around town don’t leave the tinkering to the savory plates. Here, we showcase some Honolulu’s desserts, from shops to restaurants, from homespun to unexpected, and all sublime.

Read the rest here: Desserts

The Boys are Back in Town

A wave of Island chefs headed to the Mainland for training. What will happen now that they’re home?

“My dream restaurant is a counter,” says Chris  Kajioka.

“It’s just a counter. You’re going to sit, I’m going to ask how hungry you are, and I’m just going to cook for you … I don’t like when people have to choose. Just trust me and I’ll cook for you. That’s every chef’s dream.”

Watching Kajioka, the chef de cuisine at Roy’s, cook is the same experience as listening to him speak: he’s all determination and confidence. He’s roasting squab, slicing perfect squares of pork belly and searing sweetbreads for renowned wine collector Tawfiq Khoury’s 80th birthday dinner, keeping the venerable crowd of Roy’s corporate chefs and Roy Yamaguchi himself in his peripheral attention. At this moment, the only thing that’s important to him is browning the sweetbreads. One of the servers describes Kajioka’s look as dour; perhaps it’s more the look of someone who knows exactly what he’s going for.

Read the rest: http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/June-2010/Dining-The-Boys-are-Back-in-Town/