Hawaii Restaurant Chefs Recommend
Chef Recommends: Everyone envisions chefs laboring away at the hot stove, so much so that we sometimes forget they do venture out of their kitchens, eat at other restaurants, try new dishes and relax with friends around a table.
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Executive Pastry Chef at Kahala Hotel and Resort
At his restaurant: Apple confit at Hoku’s ($11).
Moorhouse’s favorite dessert may also be the most labor-intensive. For the apple confit, apples are first sliced paper-thin, layered with Maui turbinado sugar and left to rest overnight. The next day, Moorhouse squeezes out all the liquid and then bakes the apples at a low temperature for eight hours. A slice of this apple lasagna is served on a macadamia nut sablee (akin to a crumbly cookie) and topped with a rosemary-tinged, white-chocolate mousse and vanilla-butter sauce. Kahala Hotel and Resort, 5000 Kahala Ave., 739-8780, kahalaresort.com.
He also recommends: Kimchee miso ramen at Ramen Nakamura ($11).
“I like it because not only does it have kimchee in it, but it has the fried garlic chips,” he says. Ramen Nakamura also has a spicy ramen, but Moorhouse finds the kimchi broth has more depth of flavor. (Ramen Nakamura is also BYOB). 2141 Kalakaua Ave., 922-7960.
Chef/Owner of Le Bistro
At his restaurant: Wild salmon sashimi ($14.80).
During the wild salmon season (late spring to summer), Takasaki prepares a salmon sashimi with a local watermelon dressing, accompanied by endives, Maui onions and Hauula tomatoes. It’s a refreshing distillation of summer flavors. Takasaki admits its ephemerality—drawing on the short season of wild salmon and watermelon—is part of what makes this dish so appealing to him. 5730 Kalanianaole Highway, 373-7990.
He also recommends: Torchon of foie gras with pineapple gelee at Halekulani (off the menu).
This was a pairing tasted some time ago, but as Takasaki describes the smooth richness of foie gras against the gentle acidity of pineapple, it’s as if the two are dissolving on his tongue all over again. “It was amazing. It’s hard to find something where the balance is just perfect,” Takasaki says. “The pineapple was sweet and tart, a little bit crunchy—that, with the foie gras, it was amazing. That was something.” This isn’t a regular dish at the Halekulani, but can be ordered ahead of time. 2199 Kalia Road, 923-2311, halekulani.com/dining.
Executive Chef at Halekulani
At his restaurant: Oxtail soup (not on the regular menu).
Garg’s recommendation is for the humble oxtail soup, a startling choice given Halekulani’s high-end dining experiences. “But if you have to ask for my absolute, absolute favorite, that would be it,” Garg says. It’s served twice a month at the Halekulani employee dining room, but “regular guests get to know [about it] through the coconut wireless and we save it for them.” What makes it so special? “It’s just the way one of the cooks makes it,” Garg says. “It’s family-style, the combination of flavors. We have a lot of people call to see if they can get some.” It’s become so popular that Garg promises, “Look forward to it coming onto the menu soon.” 2199 Kalia Road, 923-2311, halekulani.com/dining.
He also recommends: Pork belly at Nobu Waikiki ($40).
The pork belly at Nobu has at least one loyal fan: “I could eat that every day and not get bored of it,” Garg says. Garg loves sharing this slightly spicy and rich dish with others—he goes for the large, big enough for two or three to share. Waikiki Parc, 2233 Helumoa Road, 237-6999, noburestaurants.com/waikiki.
Chef/Owner of V Lounge
At his restaurant: Margherita pizza ($14).
When asked for his recommendation, Briceno says, “I can’t say Prima,” referring to the crowd darling topped with pancetta, truffle oil and a runny egg. Instead, he prefers the much simpler Margherita—in essence, a cheese pizza—made with San Marzano tomato sauce, hand-pulled mozzarella di buffala, and garnished with a simple basil leaf or two. 1344 Kona St., 953-0007, vloungehawaii.com.
He also recommends: Short ribs pipikaula-style at Helena’s Hawaiian Food ($5.20 for small, $10.40 for large).
Helena’s pipikaula-style short ribs are a clear favorite for Briceno. “I love the texture, love the flavor,” he says. Like pipikaula, these meaty ribs are dried—at Helena’s, you can see them hanging over the kitchen stove—for a chewy, juicy bite. “I just love Helena’s,” Briceno says. “I go all the time; they know my order.” 1240 N. School St., 845-8044, helenashawaiianfood.com.