Finally, Senia is Open For Lunch

The buzzed-about Chinatown restaurant started lunch service, but the menu is slightly different.


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The chicken liver mousse, a favorite from the dinner menu, is now served at lunch at senia.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox

 

A friend of Chris Kajioka, chef and co-owner of Senia, recently dined at his restaurant in Chinatown for dinner. She asked him, “When are you going to start lunch service?” To which he replied, “We did already.”

 

“People just think we’re open for dinner,” he says. “I don’t think they know we’re open for lunch.”

 

SEE ALSO: Is Restaurant Senia Worth the Hype?

 

Lunch service began in early May, Tuesdays through Fridays with a $35 prix fixe menu of three courses, including dessert. You can choose from a handful of dishes and there’s a snack menu with canapé-style bites to add to your meal. And, yes, the bar is open, with an extensive list of cocktails, beer and wines by the glass.

 

Turns out, Kajioka says, the cocktails are selling well during lunch. “It’s kinda crazy,” he says, laughing.

 

Many of the lunch offerings—barbecue beets, ricotta ravioli with eggplant calabrese, beef tartare—are smaller versions of dinner dishes. But there are a few lunch-only dishes, including the already-popular ‘ahi burger with Napa cabbage slaw and Sriracha aioli, and the porchetta sandwich served on brioche with red onions and arugula. So, when the dinner menu changes, so will the lunch menu.

 

“Not everything will change all at once,” says Kajioka, who opened the restaurant in December 2016 with partner Anthony Rush, “but it will all change eventually.”

 

Another popular dinner item, the barbecue beets—with avocado, green garlic, and seeds and grains—is available at lunch.

 

These poppable croquettes are filled with kālua pork and cabbage.

 

This colorful tako option for the first course of the prix fixe menu features Ho Farms cherry tomatoes, ramps (similar to leeks) and a Spanish romesco sauce.

 

The prix fixe menu gives patrons the opportunity to have what Kajioka calls “a complete experience, as opposed to coming in for a quick sandwich.” The idea was to give people who couldn’t make it to Senia for dinner a similar dining experience in the middle of the workday.

 

Service is quick, which is important for Downtown workers on a tight lunch break. You can get in and out in 45 minutes (if you don’t take pictures of all the food, like we do).

 

“We don’t limit people, you can stay as long as you want,” Kajioka says, “but [lunch service] is really quick.”

 

There’s no chef’s counter at lunch, and you can’t order dishes—including the popular charred cabbage—that aren’t on the lunch menu. People have tried.

 

The snacks are worth the additional charge. The poke cracker ($3 each), a hit from dinner and an Instagram sensation, features cubed ‘ahi served on rice crackers made with squid ink (hence the color) and served on a bed of polished rocks. The visually striking look is reminiscent of Kajioka’s time at Vintage Cave.

 

The chicken liver mousse ($7), also from dinner, is offered at lunch. The mousse is prettied up with perfect dabs of honey vinegar and served with little “everything spice” financiers.

 

the playful poke crackers—on the snacks menu—served on a bed of rocks.

 

Most of the entrées, including the mafaldine with wild-boar ragu topped with rosemary bread crumbs, will change every few weeks.

 

sandwiches are only at lunch, including this porchetta  on brioche.

 

you can order this pineapple upside-down cake with ice cream for dessert.

 

For dessert, there are two choices: pineapple upside-down cake with brown butter and a thyme Chantilly, or a peanut-butter-and-Valrhona-chocolate cookie studded with toffee. Adding ice cream ($2) is a good choice; both the vanilla beeswax and the smoked banana with macadamia nut blend familiar and unexpected flavors.

 

So Senia.

 

Lunch runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 75 N. King St., (808) 200-5412, restaurantsenia.com

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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