Downtown Foodies Can Get Their MW Fix Soon

Artizen by MW opens at HiSAM on Dec. 1.
Artizen by MW, which opens on Dec. 1, will serve a daily éclair created by pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka. From left, a lemon meringue éclair with yuzu curd and a shiso meringue; a strawberry cheesecake éclair with yuzu and li hing strawberries; and a chocolate haupia éclair with haupia tapioca, chocolate dobash and coconut cream. 
Photo: Courtesy of MW Restaurant


If pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka had her way, MW Restaurant would have been named Artizen.


That was her suggestion for the name of the award-winning restaurant on Kapi‘olani Boulevard that opened in October 2013.


MW— the first initials of Karr-Ueoka and her husband, chef Wade Ueoka—won out instead.


But that’s OK, Karr-Ueoka says. She’s getting her way with the couple’s latest venture, Artizen by MW, a new casual, grab-and-go lunch concept that will open in the Hawai‘i State Art Museum on Dec. 1.



The logo for Artizen by MW. It features an ear of wheat symbolizing bread, a leaf representing nature and a fish as a nod to the farm-to-table movement.
Graphic: Courtesy of MW Restaurant


The name is a play on the word, “artisan,” and expresses how Karr-Ueoka feels about food.


“Food is art on a plate, and Zen is balance and harmony,” she says, on a break during the lunch rush at MW Restaurant last week. “Food brings people together, and I want people to feel that when they’re dining here, they’re getting an experience of plated memories.”


Artizen is moving into a space recently vacated by Grand Café & Bakery, which closed in May after two years in operation. It will only offer takeout—no table service—though diners can eat in the dining area, which seats around 80.


Ed Kenney’s popular Downtown restaurant operated here for five years before closing in 2012, citing “failed lease negotiations.”

Artizen’s menu, which debuted at a recent Sunday afternoon tea service, will feature more casual fare, such as sandwiches, chili, stews, salads, poke bowls and bentos (though not the ones currently sold at lunchtime at MW). Expect about 12 to 15 items on the menu, with specials that change daily.


Some special items include a Korean-style “mix plate” sandwich, with kalbi, spicy pork and fried chicken on a house-made potato roll, and an ‘ahi pesto sandwich with an olive tapenade on whole-wheat bread made with cacao (that tastes a lot like olives).


“We’re just trying new stuff,” Ueoka says.


Karr-Ueoka is making four to five different breads to use for sandwiches here—“I refuse to buy bread,” she says—and she’s creating new tarts, cookies, brownies and cakes for this eatery. Artizen will also feature a new éclair every day, with flavors that include lemon meringue with yuzu curd, vanilla cheesecake with li ling strawberries, and chocolate haupia and coconut cream. She’s thinking about selling furikake bagel chips, too.


Bakery items will be priced around $2 to $6 each. Lunch will run from $8 to $15.


There’s only one dish on the menu so far that will look familiar to MW fans: a mochiko-crusted fish plate.


The couple plans to do more catering and private party events out of this space.


“We’re excited to be in such an interesting venue,” Karr-Ueoka says.


Adds Ueoka: “It’s always good to do something different.”


Artizen by MW, Hawai‘i State Art Museum, 250 S. Hotel St., 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Opens Dec. 1. Hours subject to change.