Jon Matsubara Heads New Merriman’s Honolulu
The restaurant, owned by chef Peter Merriman, is slated to open in June at Ward Village.
Jon Matsubara is the new executive chef of Merriman’s Honolulu, which is scheduled to open in June at Ward Village.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox
Jon Matsubara has done a lot of things in his culinary career.
He’s opened three O‘ahu restaurants—including his most recent stint as the culinary executive director at Forty Carrots at Bloomingdale’s—and worked for some of the best chefs in the country, including David Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Floyd Cardoz.
But, he says, he’s never worked for a chef as ingredient-focused as Peter Merriman.
Last month Matsubara was named executive chef at Merriman’s Honolulu, slated to open in June in the new Anaha complex in Ward Village—right beneath that glass-bottom pool. It will be the first Merriman’s in Honolulu directly owned by the chef. (Monkeypod Kitchen and Moku Kitchen are partnerships with Bill Terry’s Handcrafted Restaurants.)
“This is really gonna be something different for me, to work for a restaurant that’s so ingredient driven,” Matsubara says.
He just came back from training on Maui and can’t stop talking about the tomatoes he saw delivered to Merriman’s from a farmer who exclusively grows for the restaurant chain.
“I have never ever seen tomatoes that perfect,” he says, shaking his head. “The ingredients give Peter a big advantage. That’s what he’s known for.”
The menu at Merriman’s Honolulu won’t venture too far from the others; you’ll still find the iconic Kahua Ranch lamb, wok-charred ʻahi sashimi and Peter’s Original Caesar with local baby Romaine and fried green tomato croutons. But the design of this one will be different, slightly more whimsical and sprawling over 6,000 square feet, with notable design aspects commissioned by local designers and artisans. It will be a nice balance between upscale and casual dining—or as Matsubara puts it, “simple, elegant but not pretentious.”
The details—including the menu—can’t be revealed yet.
But, Matsubara assures, the ingredients will be the showpieces. Think Merriman’s signature appetizer that features just slices of vine-ripened local tomatoes, Hirabara Farms baby fennel, shaved Maui onions, blue cheese from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. in California and fried capers topped with a drizzle of chili-lime vinaigrette and basil oil. Yeah, like that.
“It’s simple stuff, but the ingredients—you can’t even compare them,” he says.