You Can Only Try This Exclusive Local Menu at Forty Carrots in Honolulu
Most locations of the chain restaurant Forty Carrots are identical, but the new one that just opened in Bloomingdale’s at Ala Moana Center is different, thanks to chef Jon Matsubara.
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Forty Carrots’ over-the-top version of the loco moco features Keāhole lobster and foie gras.
Photos: Steve Czerniak
Bloomingdale’s opened its signature café Forty Carrots in 1975 to appeal to health-conscious customers with low-calorie soups, salads and sandwiches served right in the department store. Anything to get shoppers to linger.
At each Forty Carrots—whether on the seventh floor of Bloomingdale’s flagship location at 59th and Lexington in New York City or tucked away in the department store that anchors the 13-million-square-foot Dubai Mall—the menu is the same. The same smooth carrot soup, the same classic tuna sandwich, the same Astoria spinach pie paired with the same Greek salad. It’s this consistency—and, to be honest, Bloomingdale’s crazy-popular frozen yogurt—that has made Forty Carrots a destination for work lunches or breaks between shopping sprees.
In 2007, though, the department store expanded its concept to include a more chef-driven menu featuring designed salads and sandwiches on artisan breads. The core elements and menu items, though, remained the same.
Then came Hawai‘i.
With much fanfare—including a hula performance and Chinese lion dance—Bloomingdale’s opened in Ala Moana Center’s new ‘Ewa Wing in November, serving as the centerpiece for a major expansion of the mall. The store boasts three levels and 165,000 square feet of retail space with a curated assortment of luxury goods and coveted brands. And hidden on the third floor, surrounded by shelves of Villeroy & Boch plates, Kate Spade stemware and golden birdcages, is the café, a replica of the Forty Carrots spots in Bloomingdale’s around the world. The green-and-orange décor, the bright space with glossy white tables and orange-framed mirrors—the brand recall is instant.
But take a closer look at the menu and it’s obvious this Forty Carrots is decidedly different. Instead of a grilled salmon club sandwich, there’s a French dip made with slow-cooked Ni‘ihau lamb. Replacing the signature chopped salad is an ocean-inspired version with Kona lobster, Kaua‘i shrimp, ‘ahi, and greens grown at Hirabara Farms in Kamuela on Hawai‘i Island.
The menu was created by award-winning local chef Jon Matsubara, who left his post as chef de cuisine at Japengo at the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī to helm this new eatery at Bloomingdale’s.
“We knew we wanted to work with a master local chef and Jon’s background and passion perfectly aligned with our goal of offering an upscale take on local cuisine,” says David Starr, operating vice president and director of food services for Bloomingdale’s. “Chef Matsubara brought a wealth of knowledge to create an unprecedented Forty Carrots menu that has delivered on our initial aspirations and expectations.”
It’s a menu, Starr adds, you won’t find anywhere else.
“Hawai‘i is extra special,” he says.
So special that Bloomingdale’s is even allowing Matsubara to rename the eatery Restaurant Kaona, though it hasn’t been made official and only appears on the menu as part of names of dishes. Matsubara says the name translates to “peaceful eats.”
The name is fitting for this casual, 40-seat café, where I’ve never felt rushed. When you’re seated, it feels like you’re relaxing in a garden gazebo—except, instead of being surrounded by colorful bougainvillea bushes and Meyer lemon trees, you’re amid well-dressed mannequins and expensive cookware.