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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Photos: Steve Czerniak
Another talked-about item is the a‘a (black lava) tea, grown in an ‘ōhi‘a forest on Hawai‘i Island and considered some of the rarest in the world. The tender leaves are picked, fired and rolled by hand, resulting in a smooth and balanced tea with notes of honey, vanilla and apricot. Teapot service is $30—pricey, considering a cup of any other tea here is $4—but it sells well, Matsubara says. This special black tea, produced by The Tea Chest, is only served here.
Lunch is busier than dinnertime, especially on weeknights, and the menu doesn’t change for the evening crowd. But there’s always a steady flow of customers at the grab-and-go counter, where the restaurant sells pre-packaged sandwiches, salads, frozen yogurt and fresh juices.
The juices are made to order, with combinations using carrots, green apples, celery, parsley, spinach, cabbage, kale, oranges, cucumbers, ginger and the largest beets I’ve ever seen, pulverized in Robot Coupe or Vitamix blenders. The Kaona Juice is the daily special using some of the exotic fruits grown at Frankie’s Nursery in Waimānalo.
But it’s the froyo that most people seek out. The special formula hasn’t changed in three decades. And why should it? The original Forty Carrots restaurant has sold more than 3.2 million servings to date, with its tart, low-fat plain flavor topping the list.
This Forty Carrots serves the staple flavors of plain, chocolate, strawberry and coffee, with toppings that range from local honey to crushed Oreos to chocolate-covered kakimochi.
You’re in Bloomingdale’s, so expect to pay a bit more for lunch or dinner, which is served by thoughtfully attentive staff in a space that’s carefully constructed to be relaxing and casual. A meal for two here—including the can’t-skip froyo—can easily start at $60. But you’re dining on dishes crafted by a skilled chef who knows how to prepare and showcase local ingredients, who loves to play with preparation and flavors, who puts on a chef apron in a department store eatery and elevates it to something beyond soups and salads. For that alone, it’s worth braving the parking at Ala Moana Center.
TAKEAWAY: Splurge with the Kaona Bowl and froyo for dessert. Go before noon or after 2 p.m. to avoid the lunch rush, or opt for dinner. Parking outside Bloomingdale’s in the makai lot is rarely crowded.
Meet the Chef
Hometown: Hawai‘i Kai
High School: Punahou School
College: University of Puget Sound, with a bachelor’s degree in Native American history; some law school; French Culinary Institute in New York City
Family: Married with three daughters, ages 10, 8 and 6
Got his start: Washing dishes at both Alan Wong’s and Roy’s Restaurant
Work away: Jean-Georges, Tabla and Bouley Restaurant in New York City
Sept. 11 memory: Matsubara spent two straight weeks cooking meals for rescue workers and volunteers, working 20 hours a day. “Everything you thought was important just wasn’t that important anymore,” he says.
Last post: Chef de cuisine at Japengo at the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī
Plans for Forty Carrots: To install a beehive upstairs and an aquaponics system in the restaurant
Dinner he cooks most often for his family: Spaghetti. “I would spaghetti challenge anybody!” he says.
Guilty pleasure: Pigs’ feet. “I make my own,” he says.
Bloomingdale’s, Ala Moana Center, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. 800-3638.