Alan Takasaki



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Alan Takasaki
Chef/owner, Le Bistro, Niu Valley
Oven Steamed ‘Opakapaka

All Photos:Oliver Konig

After years of managing restaurants and nightclubs, cooking at restaurants and catering and a long search for a location, Takasaki opened his Niu Valley restaurant in 2001, in a location that had been unlucky for other notable chefs. "There was good food here before and good service; to be honest, it's been a lot of luck," says Takasaki about his good fortune at being named a Hale 'Aina "little restaurant you love.

Attribute more than luck to Takasaki's success in satisfying East Honolulu diners. Earthy, satisfying flavors and inventive combinations based on classic principles are his hallmarks, as seen in his foil-wrapped pouch of 'öpakapaka, seasoned with mushrooms, onions, herbs, jam and stock. The balance of savory and sweet flavors against mild 'öpakapaka is a natural match.

In a second dish, Takasaki poached a whole weke'ula in a heavily seasoned broth over very low heat for over an hour. The result: a flaky, moist, well seasoned fish that can be served as an appetizer, cold or at room temperature.

Oven Steamed 'Opakapaka

4 portions of 'opakapaka, about 6 ounces each (1 1/2 pounds total)
4 tablespoons porcini duxelles [see tips section below]
Salt and pepper to taste
16-20 baby onions, peeled and blanched
16-20 small chanterelle mushrooms or other mushrooms
2 leeks, blanched, layers pulled apart
4 bay leaves
4 pinches of saffron
4 tablespoons quince jam
1/2 cup lobster stock
1/4 cup port wine reduction

Preheat oven to 350°.

Form a pocket in the fish by cutting a horizontal slit in the middle of the fillet. Place a tablespoon of duxelles in the center and close. Season fillet with salt and pepper on both sides.

Assemble individual servings by placing a large square of aluminum foil in an 8-inch skillet. Place onions and mushrooms in the center to form a bed for the fish. Place fish on top of onions and mushrooms.

Weke ‘ula ready for poaching.

Lay pieces of leeks on top of fish, forming a decorative pattern that serves as a "skin" for the top. Place one bay leaf, a pinch of saffron, 1 tablespoon of quince jam, 2 tablespoons lobster stock and 1 tablespoon port wine reduction in the packet. Gather the top of the foil to seal the packet.

Assemble the four packets, then place them in a large skillet over high heat. When the pan gets hot, place it in the preheated oven. Cook for about seven minutes, then remove from oven and let sit about five minutes.

Open each packet and place the fish on a warm serving plate; cover to keep warm. Empty the liquid from the foil pouch into a small saucepan and place over medium high heat to reduce. When the liquid has thickened, drizzle over the fish and serve. Garnish plate with zucchini fan, green and yellow beans, baby squash, finely diced tomato or other vegetables.

Poached Weke 'Ula

Serves two

1 whole weke 'ula, cleaned, about 1 pound
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup diced leek
1/4 cup diced tomato
8-10 whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons coarse salt

Poached Weke ‘Ula

Place a layer of crumbled aluminum foil in the bottom of a pan the size of the fish. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the foil. Place whole fish on top of parchment. Place remaining ingredients over the fish and cover all with water. Place pan on the stove top over low heat and cook for about an hour. Remove from heat, cool and let stand overnight in refrigerator to marinate and pick up more flavors from the broth.

To serve, remove fish from the liquid and cut fillets from the bones. Serve chilled with salad greens, sliced tomatoes or other chilled and cooked vegetables.


Chef Takasaki's tips:

'Opakapaka

Duxelles is a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms cooked in butter with shallots and herbs to form a thick paste. It can be made with any kind of mushroom. You could also use a prepared mushroom paste.

In place of lobster stock, you can also use chicken, seafood or vegetable stock.

In place of port wine reduction, use white wine.

A nice accent would be a relish of finely chopped tomatoes, capers, niçoise olives, chives and olive oil.

Weke 'Ula
Use any small reef fish for this preparation.

It looks like a lot of salt and vinegar, but you do need it to flavor this dish.

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