New Honolulu pop-up restaurant: Miso and Ale
Above left: scallop and shrimp sausage with grits, curried, roasted tomato sauce. Right: sweet pea panna cotta
Miso and Ale, a pop-up restaurant that started earlier this year, is young and cheeky. The five-course menu is broken into "chapters" and placemats introduce themselves: "Hello, I'll be your placemat for the evening. Feel free to drip wine or drop a crumb or two on me. I want to enjoy this experience just as much as you."
And in a frenzy to capture all the current, trendy dining terms, it has billed itself as a "gastropub pop-up." (How can you be a gastropub if you don't serve alcohol?)
But all this belies a solid menu that both comforts and surprises.
Two Chris' are behind Miso and Ale: Chris Gee (33) and Chris Okuhara (28). Their family culinary history runs deep. Both Gee's grandfathers were in the restaurant business and his uncles own Legend Seafood Restaurant. Okuhara's great grandparents opened Likelike Drive Inn; his "grandfather still goes in everyday," Okuhara says.
Gee trained on the Mainland and worked in Bay Area restaurants including Chez Panisse while Okuhara attended KCC, cooked at Hoku's and opened the YWCA's Laniakea dining room. Their paths crossed when Okuhara left Laniakea and interviewed Gee for his old position. But they connected, knowing that eventually, they would want to do their own thing.
Miso and Ale is that thing, the pop-up a path to their own restaurant as the Chris' build funds and a name for themselves.
Above left: hot and sour ramen. Right: "Green Eggs and Ham"
At their most recent pop-up at Moke's Bread and Breakfast in Kailua, highlights included a sweet pea panna cotta—cool, fresh and summery, smooth against toasted, spiced pumpkin seeds. Crispy pork belly squares, sweet potato hash and a perfect, molten poached egg, all topped with a bright green, herby Hollandaise composed the Green Eggs and Ham. Some dishes could have used more punch—I wanted more of that curried, slow roasted tomato sauce on Miso and Ale's take on shrimp and grits, and more flavor in the hot and sour ramen broth (also, something more like ramen noodles rather than somen).
Above left: liquid nitrogen coconut ice cream, toasted honey-thyme cake and mango compote. Right: Chris Gee (left) and Chris Okuhara (right) making ice cream.
For dessert, a bit of show with liquid nitrogen coconut ice cream, smoke billowing out as the ice cream churned in front of us. Paired with a sesame tuile, a perfect square of toasted honey-thyme cake and mango compote, it was less a "Deconstructed Girl Scout Cookie" as the menu advertised, than a Very Good Dessert.