Farm to Fork Mānoa Serves Hawaiian Plates With a French Accent
Where can you get a local pork lau lau and pumpkin bisque? In Puck’s Alley.
Photos: Lesa Griffith
There’s a new Hawaiian plate place in town. Farm to Fork Mānoa opened recently in Puck’s Alley (the former Curry House space), with a design-your-own Hawaiian plate as the highlight of the menu.
It’s good lū‘au food, and it all makes sense when you find out the counter-service eatery is run by four managers of the Waikīkī Aquarium–based Diamond Head Lū‘au, which touts its use of farm-fresh ingredients.
“Everybody loves our food at the lū‘au, so we just brought that concept into a restaurant environment,” says Farm to Fork Mānoa co-owner Okalani Tallett, who is also a member of Vicky Holt Takamine’s Pua Ali‘i ‘Ilima halau. His partners are Sam Isaac, CEO of Diamond Head Lū‘au, Jimmy Lower and Brent Pantohan.
The restaurant orders two pigs a week from 2 Lady Farmers in Wai‘anae to make its nicely unctuous kalua pork, which is seasoned with sea salt, smoked, then cooked four hours in an oven. The handmade lau lau is filled with that quality pork as well as butterfish (a vegan version is also available). Hawaiian plate sides include hō‘i‘o fern salad and a delicious, thick poi mashed on site with taro from Aloun Farms.
Co-Owner Okalani Tallett and Chef Jean-Pierre Maharibatcha
But they also wanted to “bring something a little different,” says Tallett. So they recruited veteran chef Jean-Pierre Maharibatcha, who has cooked everywhere from the John Dominis and Morton’s to Kōkua Market and the O‘ahu Country Club. He even worked as an army chef.
Maharibatcha was born in Vietnam, raised in France and adopted by his Indian stepfather. Though he has been here for decades, “Hawaiian food for me is something new.”
His Gallic touch can especially be found in the “local stew,” which has more in common with a slow-cooked, rich boeuf bourguignon than the beige stuff you normally find at island drive ins. “I’m French. The local stew here doesn’t have enough flavor—it’s watery and they use flour,” he says in a thick accent that gives George Mavrothalassitis a run for his argent. “And I don’t use flour or sugar in my food. There’s organic potato, carrot, celery, and I sauté it and I deglaze with French red wine. What make it thick because I cook down the sauce. And I put fresh tomato too.”
Grilled i‘a burger, the fish was swordfish on the day we visited.
Maharibatcha’s specialty is soup, and you can expect daily specials such as split pea, ‘ulu bisque, borscht, green lentil, broccoli-spinach bisque and pumpkin-carrot bisque (very good).
Rounding out the menu are university student–pleasing things like burgers (made with Kunoa Cattle beef or the impressive plant-based Beyond Burger), avocado toast, vegan coconut curry and fish burger. And they serve breakfast too.
Reading about Farm to Fork Mānoa on its website, you might think it’s an urban reincarnation of the much-missed He‘eia Kea Pier General Store & Deli. It doesn’t rise to that high-low standard initiated by chef Mark Noguchi, but it is a good fresh alternative to fast-food joints. And the aloha vibe is free.
Open daily 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Puck’s Alley, 1009 University Ave., (808) 425-4767, farmtoforkmanoa.com