A Month of Vegetarian Cuisine
Vegivore Month: Three high-end restaurants take vegetarian cuisine from earthy to ethereal.
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Of course, we didn’t get our mango kulfi on a stick. Pastry chef Mark Freischmidt had taken this traditional Indian treat and gone nuts. His kulfi came topped with 23K gold foil.
Not fancy enough for you? The plate also offered shortbread cookies, fruit pates and a tube full of pistachio cream. Literally. Freischmidt had gotten some new empty tubes (like you’d get toothpaste in), filled them with a rich green pistachio cream, crimped the ends and put one on each plate. I was tempted to squirt the pistachio cream directly into my mouth. But this was La Mer, as elegant a restaurant as Hawaii affords. I minded my manners.
Toyama completed the dessert with a Sauternes, which is like drinking the essence of every peach, plum, apricot and nectarine you’ve tasted.
Dinner took nearly four hours and was so entertaining—what could possibly come out next?—the time seemed to fly by.
I’ve sat through many six-course dinners. They can be overwhelming. By the meat course (often something that would normally seem wonderful, like rare Colorado lamb), you’re so full, you don’t even want to look at it.
This dinner was perfect. You were sated, but not comatose. The only thing I couldn’t eat were the little chocolates, candies and cookies that arrived at meal’s end. I’ve never figured out why you only get them in restaurants like La Mer, after a dinner so long you’re in no position to appreciate them. No one ever serves them after a Chinese-chicken-salad lunch.
Shades of Per Se, the vegetarian degustation at La Mer is $165, plus $85 for the wine pairings. If $500 for two seems too much to you for vegetables, you haven’t tasted these vegetables.
John Heckathorn has been writing award-winning restaurant reviews for HONOLULU Magazine since 1984.