Editor’s Page: Finding Comfort

Here’s to food, books and travel.
Photo: Adam Jung 

Putting together an annual restaurant guide presents the enviable task of seeking out what’s new, different or consistently wonderful in Hawai‘i’s food universe.


Each year, we track the trends and sometimes puzzle over which to emphasize. But this year’s theme of comfort food won over just about everyone. Who doesn’t love comfort food? We quickly found that defining comfort food was the more complicated part. While the term apparently first surfaced in print in the ’60s in the Palm Beach Post, referring to stress-relieving foods linked to childhood memories, we found that it’s an evolving concept.


Depending on who you ask, comfort food is: indulgent, decadent, sweet, salty, gooey, soupy, cheesy or found mostly in a bowl of rice or noodles. So we sought out upgraded restaurant versions of these comforting concoctions. 


One of my assignments ended up a splurge with an old friend over the Japengo luxury version of loco moco. (It includes locally raised filet mignon, foie gras and Hāmākua mushroom risotto.) And, while comfort food alone can improve your day, the same dish enjoyed with someone who knows you well and likes you anyway is truly comforting. We turned up a little dining news while there. We knew that the chef who dreamed up the fancy loco moco, Jon Matsubara, has moved to 40 Carrots at Bloomingdale’s. But we found out the successor chef at Japengo is Joseph Rose, who moved from Chicago’s Gwen hotel, after earning a Michelin star at Sixteen in 2011. We’re told chef Rose is a fan of the dish he inherited, but expect to see his own revamp of the menu rolling out in the coming weeks. 


Photo: David Croxford 

When we were outlining our story, we realized we’d be forced to rule out burgers, pizza, most breakfast/brunch, bar and dessert dishes, because those deserve their own day on our plates and in future stories. We didn’t ban them all, because we know that comfort differs person to person and we celebrate food diversity. We hope you’ll enjoy the mix, tell us about your own favorites and what we missed.


Of course, as a city magazine, we want to go deeper with our reporting of what’s important in our community: social issues, trends, food, fashion and fun. And that’s why we also delved into some of the difficulties of running a restaurant in challenging times. 


Food/dining editor Catherine Toth Fox sat down with restaurant owners and experts who’ve opened and closed places, including one of the biggest names in our restaurant scene, chef Alan Wong. We also hear from one of our favorite food writers, Kawehi Haug, who had the difficult job of explaining in a personal essay what it was like to be locked out of her own restaurant in a business transaction gone sour.


While many of us indulge a little fantasy about running our own place, we respect the hard work and sacrifices required to stay successful in an often brutal business and we thank the restaurateurs who stick with it.


Since summer is a time when longer days lure us away from our workday routines, we’ve also got the lowdown on a shelf-full of local books worth reading. Our senior editor Don Wallace (a noted author himself) left no page unturned as he dug through the locally connected books published since last summer. Don found a lusty vulcanist, a time-traveling teenager, along with the secret lives of albatrosses. 


And since summer also hints of travel, we’ve got our Holoholo Guide to Lāna‘i, the little island that’s seen a whole lot of change over the past decade. Writer Shannon Wianecki gives us an insider look at what us local folks might find on a getaway there.  


Here’s to the start of a summer that takes us where we want to go.


Thoughts about the magazine? Please email me at robbied@honolulumagazine.com