Review: MW Restaurant
The new MW Restaurant serves food with influences from two of Hawaii’s most beloved kitchens, Alan Wong's and Zippy's.
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Photos: Steve Czerniak
MW Restaurant’s menu, stripped down, reads like a Hawaii diner’s—fried chicken, ahi poke, Portuguese bean soup, oxtail stew, kalbi, tonkatsu. The dessert list, too (almost as long as the entrees), gives a survey of familiar comfort: candy bars, cheesecake, chocolate banana cream pie.
Except nothing is what you expect: An oxtail stew and rice is an oxtail deboned, stuffed with more meat and braised, set on top of a beef-stew risotto. The banana cream pie doesn’t resemble a pie at all, but is instead chocolate, bananas, custard and whipped cream layered in a jar and topped with an oatmeal crumble.
This is local food interpreted by two former Alan Wong chefs, with a little French Laundry and a lot of Zippy’s thrown in.
Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka, the wife-and-husband team of MW Restaurant, each spent almost 20 years working alongside Alan Wong—Michelle for most of those years as pastry chef and Wade as chef de cuisine. She attended the Culinary Institute of America and staged at some of America’s temples of haute dining, such as Daniel Boulud’s flagship restaurant and Thomas Keller’s Per Se and The French Laundry, a gig she got by sending a toothbrush with her application: She was willing to do whatever it took to get into that kitchen, even if it meant scrubbing the toilets with a toothbrush. As for Wade, while he also spent some time at The French Laundry, his most touted credentials are Zippy’s and Alan Wong’s. But you don’t need a bio to taste those influences in almost every one of his dishes, from the Chinese roast-duck open-face sandwich, a tribute to the gravy-covered, hot turkey sandwich at Zippy’s, to the ahi nachos with avocado salsa and won ton chips, resembling Alan Wong’s ahi and avocado stack.
The open kitchen at MW Restaurant.
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