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Two Los Angeles Foodies Share What They Crave In Hawaii

Posted on September 22, 2009

In Los Angeles, tell someone you’re from Hawaii, and you’ll hear lots of sighs followed by a look that’s best described as wishful lusting.  Angelenos have a deep love affair with the Islands, more people from Los Angeles come to Hawaii than from any other city. This month the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau is hoping to further entice L. A. residents by creating a feast for the senses with a multitude of Hawaii events in Los Angeles.

With this in mind, I thought what better time to ask two of my most “tasteful” L.A. friends what they crave most about Hawaii.

What a Los Angeles food editor craves.

As the national food and travel editor for Modern Luxury Media, Brad Johnson is a man who eats for a living, so I was curious to know what he likes to eat in Hawaii.  For Brad it’s all about the sea – he loves Hawaii kampachi (yellowtail fish) and Lahaina chef David Paul’s way with seafood, calling him brilliant.  Besides enjoying what comes from our waters, dining al fresco, ocean side gets huge kudos as well.  “Seems like every great meal comes with an amazing sunset or ocean view,” said the James Beard Award winning writer.  His most fond al fresco dining memories are poolside at the Four Seasons Wailea and tea at the Halekulani.

On Brad’s radar to checkout on his next Hawaii visit are Town and Downtown.  Both restaurants are the creation of chef/owner Ed Kenney, whose mantra is “local first, organic whenever possible and always with aloha.”  Town is a good place to try if you want to experience local Hawaii ingredients served with a rustic Italian sensibility.  My favorite items at Town are the roasted chicken with grapes and bread and the hand-cut pastas.  Downtown, as its name implies, is in downtown Honolulu, across the street from Iolani Palace and few blocks from the Hawaii State Capital.  Located in the Hawaii State Art Museum, Downtown is open for lunch only.  It’s a great place to grab lunch and checkout a few historic landmarks and Hawaii’s urban art scene.

My recommendation for the best kamapachi in Hawaii is at Hiroshi restaurant in Honolulu.  Japanese born chef Hiroshi Fukui does an incredible preparation – thinly sliced kampachi topped with kaiware sprouts and drizzled with hot spicy oil.

Sashimi kanpachi

Sizzling kampachi from Hiroshi restaurant

To experience David Paul’s seafood expertise, visit his newly opened David Paul’s Island Grill in Lahaina, Maui.  A signature seafood entrée is sautéed opakapaka (pink snapper) served with a Maui onion polenta.

Chef and cookbook author, Katie Chin’s top picks.

Katie is the daughter of noted Chinese chef and restaurateur Leeann Chin and a respected Los Angeles area chef and television personality in her own right.  Being from a large Chinese American family, food and celebrations are inseparable components in the Chin family.  “It’s just not possible to mark a milestone in our family, without a lot of delicious food,” says Katie.  In Hawaii, it’s the same way; food is an integral part of any celebration.  Given the simpatico nature of our celebratory beliefs, it’s no wonder Katie has celebrated some of her most memorable milestones, including an engagement and marriage in Hawaii.

“I can best describe Hawaii food as the original fusion cuisine.  I love the explosion of flavors and different ethnic tastes of Hawaii’s cuisines.  I always tell friends make the most of your visit and explore the melting pot of cultures and generations that abound in Hawaii’s foods.  Whether it’s a lunch of traditional favorites like shoyu chicken, poke or more exotic fusion creations like sesame-macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi topped with coconut cream spinach sauce from Sam Choy, be an adventurous eater in Hawaii and you won’t be disappointed,” says Katie.  The masters of Hawaii fusion cuisine, Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi, top Katie’s list as best chefs to celebrate with in Hawaii.  Roy’s restaurants are on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.  All fantastic, but I must confess my sentimental favorite is the original Roy’s in Hawaii Kai.  Much of the original staff still remain at his flagship location that has an incredible view of Maunalua bay.  As for Alan Wong, Katie is not alone in her love of Chef Wong’s cooking.  President Obama has dined at his namesake restaurant, Alan Wong’s, on numerous occasions, and this past June, Wong created a Hawaiian luau at the White House for the annual Congressional summer picnic.

Alan Wong_Luau

Chef Alan Wong creates a modern luau for Congressional picnic

On a final note, in keeping with Katie’s advice to explore “Hawaii’s melting pot of flavors,” here are a few suggestions. Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Craig Katsuyoshi, grandson of founder Helena Chock continues to serve authentic Hawaiian food, Uncle’s at Pier 38 for casual, local style, fusion food and Nico’s at Pier 38, famous for their furikake crusted ahi plate. Uncles and Nico’s are both neighbors of the Honolulu Fish Auction and I can’t think of better places to get fresh Hawaii seafood at reasonable prices.

Related links:

Hiroshi Hawaii


Why Eat Local

2009 White House Luau

Following Helena

Poke from Helena’s to Hiroshi’s

Katie Chin in LA

About Melanie H. Kosaka

Melanie Kosaka is the owner and founder of ShareYourTable – a company specializing in culinary television production and interactive media.  Her credits include the James Beard award winning series, The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter, Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi, which has been distributed in 66 countries, New American Cuisine featuring star chefs from around the United States, and GetHealthyNowHawaii.com–an online based educational product.  FDM has produced over 500 hours of cooking and lifestyle programming for national and international distribution.

Follow Melanie on Twitter at @shareyourtable

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