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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Chef at Home Bar and Grill
At his restaurant: Kimchee or Wafu steak ($17 for 12 ounces, $23 for 16 ounces), tater-tot nachos ($9).
"Our two most popular dishes are the tater-tot nachos and negitoro—aahi with green onion coulis—almost every table will have one,” says Nakasone. “But, at heart, I’m a carnivore, so I’m gonna eat steak.” Home’s specialty steaks come in two varieties: kimchee or wafu. The kimchee is topped with an egg and kimchee (of course), whereas the “lighter” wafu is a Japanese-style steak served on onions and mushrooms braised in kabayaki sauce, and covered with grated daikon and green onions. 1683 Kalakaua Ave., 942-2237.
He also recommends: All-you-can-eat yakiniku at Sikdorak ($19.95).
Nakasone hardly ever eats at home, his own home, that is. “The only thing I eat every week, religiously, is noodles, whether pho, cake noodles, ramen,” says Nakasone. “Lately, I go to Sikdorak the most.” It’s a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat yakiniku place. “We just gorge ourselves on protein—beef tongue, pork belly.” 655 Keeaumoku St., 949-2890.
Chef/Owner of Himalayan Kitchen
At his restaurant: Fish coco vindaloo ($16.95).
Due to Nepal’s geography, Nepalese cuisine, like modern-day Hawaii cuisine, melds a variety of ethnicities for a unique flavor profile. It’s only natural, then, that when Basnet brought Nepalese food to Honolulu, he would add some of Hawaii’s best ingredients, such as tropical fruit and fish, to the pot. Basnet’s favorite dish at Himalayan Kitchen combines the fresh catch of the day with Nepalese-style flavors and spices. He simmers the fish in a ginger, onion, tomato, and coconut-based curry, for a Nepal-meets-Hawaii dish. 1137 11th Ave., 735-1122, himalayankitchen.net.
He also recommends: Crab fried rice at To Thai For ($16).
Basnet’s recommendation centers around fried rice. His favorite is the crab fried rice down the street at To Thai For, where fried rice is elevated with chunks of crab and fresh Thai spices. “It’s perfectly spiced for me,” he says. It’s not on the menu; you have to ask for it. 3571 Waiaalae Ave., 734-3443, itstothaifor.com.
Executive Pastry Chef at Morimoto Waikiki
At his restaurant: Haupia semifreddo ($12).
Though Skurnick says picking just one of his desserts is like picking a favorite child, when pressed, he names the haupia semifreddo. It’s an ice cream sandwich, but done up Morimoto-style, it becomes a whimsical plate of haupia ice cream between two crisp matcha wafers, surrounded by clouds of green-tea sponge cake and cubes of coconut-water gelée. Magenta micro amaranth sprouts from Nalo Farms and honey from Manoa finish this elegant dessert. Waikiki Edition, 1775 Ala Moana Blvd., 943-5900, morimotowaikiki.com.
He also recommends: House charcuterie platter at Salt ($18).
“When one is surrounded by sugar all day, [he gets] a serious craving for salt,” Skurnick says. He recommends the house charcuterie platter, which includes local, house-cured meats, such as the bresaola, shaved, dried beef; cotechino, a cooked salami; lomos, cured pork loin; braunschweiger, a pork liver sausage; and coppa, cured pork shoulder. Salt, 3605 Waialae Ave., 744-7567.
Chef/Owner of Olive Tree Café
At his restaurant: Tarama salata ($6.69).
Mojarrad is a man of simple, clean flavors, as evidenced by the menu at the Olive Tree and in his recommendations. His favorite dish at the Olive Tree is the tarama salata appetizer, a Greek fish-roe spread served alongside pita. When he can get his hands on it, Mojarrad will make tarama salata with mahi mahi roe, “one of the most prized roe,” he says but, usually, the restaurant takes an imported salted roe from Greece and mixes it with olive oil, bread, fresh lemon juice and garlic for a thick spread studded with crunchy roe. 4614 Kilauea Ave., 737-0303.
He also recommends: Hamachi kama at Yanagi Sushi ($15.95).
Hamachi kama, or yellowtail collar, offers up fatty, tender pieces of fish, if somewhat awkward to eat. At Yanagi Sushi, the kama is broiled and served with a wedge of lemon, “so it reminds me of Greece,” Mojarrad says. “Greeks put lemon on everything. The kama is oily, but it’s excellent and delicious.” 762 Kapiolani Blvd., 597-1525, yanagisushi-hawaii.com.