Faria, a Portuguese Pop-Up, Makes Us Wonder: Why Aren’t There Any Portuguese Restaurants in Hawai‘i?
The new pop-up, by the chefs and partners in Hukilau restaurant, goes beyond bean soup and malassadas.
Caldeirada à pescadora, a seafood stew
Photos: Martha Cheng
It’s not just here in Hawai‘i: While Lisbon’s pretty rooftops are all over Instagram, Portuguese restaurants are largely absent from the national culinary landscape. But with Hawai‘i’s sizeable Portuguese population, it especially makes you wonder: Where are all the Portuguese restaurants? Isn’t there more than bean soup and malassadas and sweet bread?
Yes, there’s more. A lot more. And Faria, a new weekend pop-up by the chefs at Hukilau in the same restaurant, proves it. You’ll find caldeirada à pescadora ($28), a tomato-based stew crowded with seafood including cod, clams, mussels, squid and more; and picado à Madeirense ($26), tender steak and fries in a meaty mushroom gravy scented with bay leaves. These dishes are from the Azores and Madeira, the two isolated archipelagos where many of Hawai‘i’s Portuguese originated from.
Espetada, beef and pork skewered on bay leaf branches and grilled
To eat at Faria is to realize how much we have forgotten, or ignored, or just never knew. Faria tells a multitude of stories, through a full menu with dishes including espetada ($17)—beef and pork vinha d’alhos (cooked in vinegar and garlic) skewered on bay leaf branches harvested from an auntie’s tree. Then there’s last weekend’s special, Francesinha, an over-the-top open-face sandwich heaped with ham, sausage, cheese, an egg and gravy—like Hawai‘i’s loco moco counterpart from Porto.
You will, of course, also find Portuguese bean soup ($9), for Faria is proudly “Hawai‘i Portuguese … a reflection of everything we are and everything we eat as local Portuguese,” write the “Pochos from the Hukilau Restaurant ‘ohana” on the first page of the menu. The soup, just like everything else I’ve tried, is generous in ingredients (no skimping on sausage here!) and flavor. Not everything tastes or looks like its counterpart in Portugal, or, in the case of the Portuguese bean soup, in your home or Punahou Carnival, but in the case of Faria, this doesn’t detract from the food—people are not carbon copies of each other, so why should dishes be? And like people, items including the pasteis de nata ($10 for three)—Portugal’s famous custard tarts, which I thought for sure Faria wouldn’t get right, because I’ve never had one outside of Lisbon that I’ve liked—feel a little bit like heartbreak, because Faria’s run ends on April 26.
Pasteis de nata (left) and bolo de mel (a Madeiran yeasted honey cake)
I have gone back twice to Faria because everything tastes so unique and yet familiar—as if Faria has been unearthing dishes from our collective unconscious. When I asked Kawehi Haug, one of the chefs and partners in Faria and Hukilau, about the genesis of the pop-up and its dishes, it was instantly clear how much thought she’s put into all of it. So here it is from her directly:
MC: What prompted a Portuguese pop-up?
KH: My end goal has always been to open a Portuguese restaurant on O‘ahu. It’s always struck me as a shame that Portuguese food is not as well represented here as other “plantation” cultures. Unlike other plantation cultures (Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, etc.) whose food has really become a fixture in what we call “local” food, Portuguese food is somehow distilled down to Portuguese bean soup and malassadas. I’m not sure why we’ve lost so much of the Portuguese food culture here. But Portuguese food is good! And I feel like it deserves a wider audience than just Pocho family reunion potlucks. Over the past decade, I’ve been on a journey to learn as much as I can about the restaurant business, all in an attempt to one day be able to open a Portuguese restaurant that really delivers on all fronts: food, ambience and culture. … The pop-up is my proof of concept. My test kitchen. A challenge to myself to see if there’s even any demand for this. We'll see.
MC: What’s your heritage?
KH: I am Portuguese Hawaiian on my mom’s side, and some kind of Euro mash-up on my dad’s side. My Hawaiian grandfather cooked at home as much as my Portuguese grandmother, so we were raised on poi and laulau, he‘e and dried aku, poke and rice … and also on sweet bread and vinha d’alhos, tremocos and bacalhau. “Faria” is my grandmother's last name, so the name is an homage to her.
One of my business partners, Kim Potter, is also local Portuguese, and out of all of us, she’s the one who really REALLY grew up eating Portuguese food. Her grandparents were both full-blooded Pocho, and only second-generation locals. So, many of the recipes on our menu are also from her family.
MC: What’s the story behind the Portuguese bean soup?
KH: We’ve had so many arguments about the soup! Macaroni or no macaroni? I say no, because my family doesn't make it with macaroni. But to my partners Kim and Sheldon [Lo], it’s not Portuguese bean soup without the macaroni. And, to most locals, Portuguese bean soup is made with macaroni. So, we put in the macaroni. Portuguese bean soup is a local thing. We include it on the menu because we want the menu to reflect our Portuguese roots here in Hawai‘i. And that looks very different from a Boston-Portuguese experience or a California-Portuguese experience. We are Hawai‘i Portuguese, and it’s very important to us that we stay Hawai‘i Portuguese. It’s who we are.
Faria, Saturday and Sunday only, from 5 to 9 p.m., from Feb. 15 to April 26. Reservations recommended. At Hukilau, 1088 Bishop St., (808) 523-3460, dahukilau.com
READ MORE STORIES BY MARTHA CHENG