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Hale ‘Aina Happenings: What’s New With Hawaiʻi Restaurants in March 2018

Salt Kitchen and Tasting Bar pops up at Encore Saloon, MW Restaurant takes over Maui Onion Burger and Café Laufer closes—then opens again.


Encore Saloon has some new dishes—including this Mexican burger—and an event on Sunday featuring dishes from Salt Kitchen and Tasting Bar.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox​


Salt Kitchen Pops Up at Encore Saloon on Sunday, March 18

When Salt Kitchen and Tasting Bar in Kaimukī closed in 2014—and, subsequently, cursed the space on Wai‘alae Avenue, which has seen a few restaurants come and go since—Honolulu foodies never fully recovered. We still miss the poutine with duck confit and fresh cheese curds, the house-made charcuterie board and that burger.


But from 5 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, March 18—for one night only—Salt, which earned Best New Restaurant in the 2013 Hale ‘Aina Awards, returns, popping up at Encore Saloon in Chinatown. On the menu will be five of its most popular dishes and five cocktails, cooked and served by some of Salt’s former staffers, including chef Quinten Frye and Danny Kaaialii, who owns Encore. (Hence the connection.) You get one more chance to feast on Salt’s kim chee grilled cheese, oxtail empanada with tomato jam and the Salt Burger, with grass-fed local beef and house bread-and-butter pickles. No reservations are needed.


Encore is also serving papas fritas with house-made habanero ketchup.


Speaking of Encore and tasty burgers, the restaurant is now serving the Tortaguesa, a Mexican-inspired burger with traditional house-made telera bread, ground grass-fed Kulana beef from the Big Island, grilled onions, melty Grime Time cheese, pickled jalapeños, Cotija and fresh cilantro. You can also order papas fritas—fries tossed with roasted garlic, Cotija, tajin and cilantro and served with its house-made habanero ketchup that’s not too hot but very addictive.


These two dishes are specials right now, but Kaaialii is planning to add them to the regular menu sometime this month.


10 N. Hotel St., (808) 367-1656, encoresaloon.com


MW Restaurant Takes Over Maui Onion Burger This Weekend


MW Restaurant may not be known for burgers, but that all might change after this weekend.


The restaurant, helmed by Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka, will be taking over Maui Onion Burger at The Street, A Michael Mina Social Hall at the International Market Place on Saturday, March 10 and Sunday, March 11, debuting four different burgers, a loco moco and something called shave ice shakes from noon to 10 p.m. All of the burgers will be served on house-made mochi Portuguese sweet bread buns, created by Karr-Ueoka.


MW Restaurant is also hosting a street food tapas event on March 18, featuring inspirations from Southeast Asia in both small plates and cocktails. The event will run from 5 to 9 p.m. at the restaurant on Kapi‘olani Boulevard. Dishes will run from $5 to $25. Reservations are recommended.


“Wade has been writing his menu for the street food concept for weeks and everyone in the kitchen is getting involved and learning about Southeast Asian food,” Karr-Ueoka says. “It has been a good learning experience.”


(808) 955-6505, mwrestaurant.com


Renowned Chef Kunio Tokuoka is Back at 53 By The Sea For Three Days This Month

Last February Michelin-starred chef Kunio Tokuoka prepared a seven-course meal alongside James Beard Award-winning chef Alan Wong at 53 By The Sea, and anyone lucky enough to have snagged a $300 seat at the dinner knows just how phenomenal the experience was.


A new three-day dinner series with the renowned Japanese master this month in the Japanese kaiseki tradition may just top it.


For the occasion, the oceanside Kaka‘ako restaurant will be transformed to set the mood, with a Japanese garden, handcrafted lanterns, ikebana floral arrangements and a custom washi paper light fixture designed by renowned Japanese artist Eriko Horiki.


The March 13 omakase lunch ($185 per person, limited to 100 guests) will showcase fresh, seasonal ingredients and start with a Japanese tea ceremony. The March 15 dinner ($615 per person, limited to 100 guests) features Wong, Senia’s Chris Kajioka and master sommelier Patrick Okubo collaborating with Tokuoka and honors the 150th anniversary of gannenmono, the first group of 148 Japanese immigrants who arrived in Hawai‘i in 1868. And the March 16 dinner ($800 per person, limited to 25 guests; the second, $900-per-person seating is already sold out) offers the full kaiseki experience, with a classic multicourse meal that pays homage to kaiseki’s rich 400-year history. Specialty plates, some thousands of years old, will be hand-carried to Honolulu from Kyoto just for the event.


Tokuoka has won a total of six Michelin stars for his three Japan restaurants, including the flagship Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama.


53 Ahui St., (808) 536-5353, 53bythesea.com/TOK


Café Laufer Reopens with a Different Name

Café Laufer, the beloved European bakery and eatery in Kaimukī, closed on Jan. 31 after 22 years. Regulars were devastated. People stood in lines to get one last pastrami sandwich, a slice of Black Forest tort or a fresh fruit tart.


But, a week later, the restaurant reopened with a new lease—the old lease ending was cited as the reason—and a new name.


Chef Melvin Avecilla, who took over the restaurant from owner Cyrus Goo last year, is now calling it Kaimukī Café. The menu will be the same. Whew!


3565 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 735-7717


Orchids Hosts Exclusive Wine Event with Master of Wine Geoff Labitzke on March 15

Photo: Courtesy of Kistler Vineyards


Geoff Labitzke, one of only 369 Masters of Wine in the world, will lead a wine event on March 15 at Orchids at the Halekūlani, featuring wines from Kistler Vineyards and Occidental, both from Northern California. Kistler Vineyards is a small family-run winery focused on chardonnay and pinot noir using old-world Burgundian techniques. The first vintage in 1979 produced 3,500 cases of wine; today, the winery produces about 35,000 cases a year. Occidental is a new Kistler family winery, dedicated to producing pinot noir from its 85 acres in the Freestone-Occidental area.


The event starts at 6 p.m. and includes a four-course, Mediterranean-inspired menu created by Orchids chef de cuisine Christian Testa. Dishes include Kahuku shrimp tartare, strips of veal with kalamata olives and pine nuts and a spread of imported cheese, house-made chutney and truffle, all paired with wines from these vineyards.


Cost is $143 per person, and reservations are recommended.


2199 Kālia Road, (808) 923-2311 ext. 35, halekulani.com


12th Ave Grill Serves a Local-Style St. Patrick’s Menu on March 17 and 18

From left, the corned beef and shepherd’s pie—both made with local ingredients—on the St. Patrick’s Day menu at 12th Ave Grill.
Photo: Courtesy of 12th Ave Grill


What’s better than feasting on traditional Irish fare on St. Patrick’s Day? Eating these dishes with ingredients sourced locally.


12th Ave Grill has a menu brimming with Irish favorites on Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18 at the Kaimukī restaurant. (Chef-owner Kevin Hanney is 100 percent Irish, so he’s really into this holiday.) Specials include a Ni‘ihau lamb shepherd’s pie with roasted Ho Farms tomatoes, house-made Hawai‘i Ranchers grass-fed corned beef with a liliko‘i-mustard glaze and braised cabbage, and a Bailey’s cheesecake with a dark chocolate sauce made with Guinness and Mānoa Chocolate.


1120 12th Ave., (808) 732-9469, 12thavegrill.com


Talk Story with James Beard Award-winning chef Vivian Howard on March 19

Photo: Courtesy of Vivian Howard


James Beard Award-winning chef Vivian Howard, more recently known as the star of the PBS hit show A Chef’s Life, will be sharing stories and thoughts about the need for more farm-to-table food with local chef Ed Kenney at a book signing and panel discussion on March 19 at the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club.


The event, which runs from 6 to 8 p.m., will also feature small bites from select recipes in Howard’s cookbook, Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South (Little, Brown and Co., 2016). For every book purchased, $45 will be donated to Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international organization of women leaders in the fields of food, beverage and hospitality. (Howard, who owns Chef and the Farm, a restaurant in Kinston, North Carolina, is a member of the organization.) Moderating the panel is Jo McGarry Curran, founder of MoJo The Business of Food and host of Radio MoJo, and Hayley Matson-Mathes, president of Les Dames d’Escoffier and executive director of the Hawai‘i Culinary Education Foundation. Reserve your spot and purchase your book here.


412 Lewers St., (808) 923-8882


Master Sommelier Patrick Okubo Shares His Favorite Italian Wines at Azure Waikīkī on March 29

Photo: Courtesy of Patrick Okubo


Part of the Epicurean Journeys wine dinner series at Azure Waikīkī, Vino Viaggio Epicureo features the favorite Italian wines of master sommelier Patrick Okubo, paired with dishes from the restaurant, on March 29. Dinner starts at 6 p.m.


Dishes include spanner crab-stuffed squash blossoms, spiced squab with caramelized onions and aracini, and local porchetta with fennel and apple. Each dish comes with an Italian wine specially selected by Okubo.


Cost is $130 per person. Reservations are recommended.


The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, 2259 Kalākaua Ave., (808) 931-7837, azurewaikiki.com


Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival Raises a Record $414,000 for 23 Nonprofits

Photo: Courtesy of Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival


In its seventh year, the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival raised $414,000 for 23 nonprofit organizations including the Culinary Institute of the Pacific ($80,000), the Hawai‘i Agricultural Foundation ($70,000) and the Maui County Farm Bureau ($20,000). The festival also gave $10,000 each to the Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the Sonoma County Community Foundation Resilience Fund to support victims of the California wildfires.


The events this year attracted more than 10,000 attendees for the first time, with giving totalling more than $2 million to date.


Brunch like you mean it at HONOLULU Magazine’s BrunchFest presented by American Savings Bank on Sunday, March 25 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Salt at Our Kaka‘ako. Embrace the relaxed Sunday Funday vibe with seven local chefs, live entertainment, lawn games and a photo booth during this unique dining experience. Tickets on sale now. Click here.




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