Three new restaurants: 678 Hawaii, Greens and Vines, HASR Bistro
Carnivores, vegans and wine, oh my!
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Kakazu’s vision for HASR Bistro was originally French classics, but Kakazu’s not one for sticking to original visions, nor just one, for that matter (hence the dive bar and the upscale wine shop in her portfolio, the future plans for a crab and chardonnay night, all-you-can-eat fried chicken night, an Excalibur-themed dinner—wait, what?). So that’s why there’s osso buco, that’s why there’s cioppino—because Kakazu loves it. HASR’s rendition of this San Francisco classic is easy to love: a medley of seafood in a tomato clam broth that we can’t leave alone until we’ve drained every drop. I would have liked it with some crusty sourdough to sop it all up; instead, it came with rice, a reminder that you are not in San Francisco, but Chinatown, Honolulu.
The kitchen can clearly cook, but sometimes insecurity creeps in. There’s cheese on everything, as if the kitchen were using it as a crutch. What’s it doing on the cassoulet, the duck pot pie, the crab sandwich? Mostly it muddies flavors and drags down an already heavy dish. When the dish calls for cheese to rise to the occasion, such as with the French onion soup, it suffers from stage fright. What should have been a nutty cheese such as Gruyere or Emmental loses to a four-cheese blend in which a flat mozzarella dominates.
But it’s a little thing, to be quibbling about too much cheese. “Soaker clams” offers plump clams soaked in garlic butter, with bursts of freshness courtesy of cherry tomatoes and arugula. The striploin comes out impressively charred yet still medium-rare, accompanied by a creamy pasta (though with spaghetti, not the egg noodles promised). Green peppercorns in the sauce cut the richness. But really, if we’re talking about cutting richness, nothing did that better than the Carrefour cabernet franc we picked up next door (the bistro waives the corkage fee if you bring in wine from HASR Wine Co.). The osso buco in particular, that wine, the cold, drizzly night outside all made for a comfortable, cozy bistro experience.
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