A Month of Vegetarian Cuisine
Vegivore Month: Three high-end restaurants take vegetarian cuisine from earthy to ethereal.
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Little rounds of baby zucchini. A cipollini onion caramelized with sugar and hit with Banyuls vinegar. A sparkling little portion of orzo (a pasta that looks like rice) in parsley and Korean watercress butter.
The second row also had something that didn’t look like much—soft, red and chunky. But it lit up your mouth: charcoaled tomatoes, diced and sautéed with capers and olives.
The third row got even better. It began with roasted Kahuku corn with bell pepper and green onion, proceeded through Waialua asparagus and a diced squash of some sort. Then it ended with two things so brilliant they stick in my memory.
The first was a deep, black trumpet mushroom atop cauliflower in brown butter. The other was cocktail-size tomatoes, roasted in olive oil, bursting with wonderful, rich, sweet, tomatoey goodness.
The calorie and fat burden of my meal was obviously less than that of the vast Snake River pork chop my wife consumed, or even the sizeable wild-salmon fillet on my daughter’s plate. Still, the satisfaction index on this meal was like eating your way through a vast, chewy chunk of protein. (I did, by the way, succumb to a few of the escargot my daughter ordered to start. “Snails are nearly vegetables,” she assured me.)
I was full, but not heavy. I often skip dessert after a conventional meal. Not this time, because who would want to skip Takasaki’s simple and perfect tart tatin: a layer of fresh apple slices on a thin layer of pastry, sprinkled with sugar that caramelizes as it bakes. It’s topped with a hillock of sweet whipped cream, which, in this case, I didn’t even feel guilty about consuming.
The Le Bistro vegetable platter is $28.80, a bargain for a dish so labor-intensive. “I have to lock the back door,” says Takasaki. “Otherwise the cooks would run away when the order comes in.” Accordingly, a 24-hour notice is required.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort, 5000 Kahala Ave., 739-8780, Dinner nightly Monday through Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Validated valet parking, major credit cards.
I ran into Wayne Hirabayashi, the Kahala’s executive chef, at the second annual Hawaii Rice Fest.