Hale ‘Aina Happenings: What’s New With Hawai‘i Restaurants in December 2018

MW team opens new Hawai‘i concept in San Francisco, Mud Hen Water named one of Eater’s essential restaurants and Christmas stollen soon available at The Kāhala Hotel & Resort.
A rendering of the mezzanine at Trailblazer Tavern, opening in San Francisco next month.
Photo: Courtesy of Trailblazer Tavern


Couple Behind MW Restaurant Start New Concept in San Francisco

Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka, the culinary couple behind MW Restaurant and Artizen by MW, are launching a new concept in San Francisco next month.


Called Trailblazer Tavern, the restaurant is backed by the Mina Group and will open on Dec. 3 in the Salesforce Tower, the tallest office tower west of the Mississippi River. (This is the second joint venture between the couple and the Mina Group. They also partnered on Burger Hale at The Street, A Michael Mina Social Hall at the International Market Place.) The sprawling 7,000-square-foot restaurant will seat nearly 200 people on a mezzanine, in a dining room, on an outdoor patio and at the bar.


The menu boasts upscale local comfort food—what Ueoka is known for—including ʻahi poke nachos with avocado salsa and bubu arare, miso-honey-glazed butterfish with watercress and bean sprouts, huli-style chicken on crispy rice cakes, mentaiko pasta, oxtail stew and rice on peanut risotto, short rib pot roast with a black-truffle soy sauce, porchetta lau lau with kālua pig and lomi tomato, and kim chee fried rice. There’s even a faux Spam musubi on the pūpū menu, which swaps the canned meat with mochi-crusted smoked pork arabiki meatloaf.


Many of the dishes feature Hawai‘i-grown ingredients including Kualoa oysters, Maui Gold pineapple and Kona kampachi.


The dessert menu will look very familiar to MW fans: tropical Creamsicle brûlée, coconut chiffon cake with haupia pudding and the popular MW chocolate cake with Valrhona Manjari chocolate dobash.


The restaurant will start with dinner service, then add lunch and happy hour.


“We are excited,” says Karr-Ueoka.


350 Mission St., San Francisco, (415) 625-5445, michaelmina.net/restaurants/san-francisco-bay-area/trailblazer_tavern/


Stripsteak Waikīkī Rolls Out New, Elevated Happy Hour Menu

‘Ahi poke tacos on the happy hour menu at Stripsteak Waikīkī.
Photo: Courtesy of Stripsteak Waikīkī


As if we needed any more reason to head out for pau hana, Stripsteak Waikīkī has unveiled a new happy hour menu with upgraded bites, from a baked king crab dip with spinach, mozzarella and garlic streusel ($14) to elevated ʻahi poke tacos ($11). New to the menu is something called Between the Bread ($12), a special sandwich that rotates every month. In December, the featured sandwich will be pork belly bao buns with black pepper-soy glaze, Asian slaw, fresh cilantro and Fresno peppers. Need more food than pūpū? Stripsteak Waikīkī also offers a Sunset Supper ($50 per person), which features a 12-ounce New York stripsteak, ʻahi hand roll, duck-fat fries and garlic spinach. Happy hour runs daily from 4 to 6 p.m. exclusively at the bar. The menu also offers a selection of craft cocktails for $7, including Down the Hatch, the bartender’s daily cocktail creation.


Stripsteak Waikīkī also made the 2018 list of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants in Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It was the only Hawai‘i restaurant to be named on this annual list. The magazine noted Stripsteak Waikīkī’s innovative and creative wine program crafted by lead sommelier Chris Burman. “Restaurants in Hawaiʻi are not often known for having a strong wine selection and we want to change that,” Burman says. “It’s an honor to be recognized alongside some of the best restaurants in the country.”


2330 Kalākaua Ave., (808) 800-3094, stripsteakwaikiki.com


Mud Hen Water Named One of Eater’s Best American Restaurants

The fresh fish and lūʻau, with two poached eggs, roasted root veggies and inamona dukkah at Mud Hen Water.
Photo: Courtesy of Mud Hen Water


Bill Addison, who served as Eater’s roving critic for almost five years, compiled his final list of essential restaurants this year—and Mud Hed Water earned a spot on it. (Addison announced he was leaving Eater on Nov. 16.) The annual guide, compiled after 34 weeks of travel and almost 600 meals in 36 cities, highlights restaurants that, Addison explains, are indispensable to their neighborhoods, spur trends, stir conversations and help us understand ourselves (and others) at the table. Mud Hen Water, which opened in 2015 in Kaimukī, earned its place on the list because, as Addison puts it, chef-owner Ed Kenney “connects the cultural dots like no one else on the Islands.” He mentions the restaurant’s he‘e lūʻau, i‘a lawalu (whole fish cooked in coals) and chicken long rice croquettes as examples. Read the entire list here.


3452 Waiʻalae Ave., (808) 737-6000, mudhenwater.com


12th Ave Grill Hosts a Big Bottle Italian Wine Dinner on Dec. 6

It’s extravagant, indulgent—and a great way to start the holidays. Kaimukī’s 12th Ave Grill is hosting a sumptuous dinner event on Dec. 6, pairing classic Italian fare with special-occasion 6- and 5-liter bottles of wine. (Bigger bottles allow wines to age better and gain more complexity.) The five-course dinner, which starts at 6:30 p.m., will feature a rare opening of Barolo Metuselah and two 5-liter Riservas. The wine lineup is courtesy of Donato Loperfido of Flavors of Italy and Jay Kam of Vintage Wine Cellars. The menu boasts classic beef tartare, slow-roasted pork with a tomato ragout and grilled polenta, braised Molokaʻi venison shoulder with Small Kine Farm cremini mushrooms and grilled hanger steak with marrow butter and red-wine shallots. Cost is $195 per person and reservations are required.

Dec. 6, 1120 12th Ave., (808) 732-9469, 12thavegrill.com


Shop and Lunch at Pai Honolulu on Dec. 6 and 7

Pai Honolulu will host a holiday market with food gifts and handcrafted goods on Dec. 6 and 7 at its Downtown restaurant. The pop-up market, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., will feature a range of gifts, from ceramics by Kuhn’s Pottery (the maker of the dishes used at the restaurant) to chef-owner Kevin Lee’s Fire Water hot sauce and furikake-caramel popcorn. The restaurant will also be serving grab-and-go sandwiches ($8 each) with house-made chips and salad add-on options. Otherwise, Pai will be serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and happy hour will start earlier, at 4:30 p.m. A portion of sales will be donated to the Evan M. Nakashige Foundation, a nonprofit focused on increasing mental health resources for young adults in Hawai‘i and California. “The holidays are a time of joy, but also, for some people, a stressful and emotionally difficult time. We recognize these struggles and want to offer support to those in need,” says Justine Kadokawa Lee, general manager of Pai. “This is our way of giving something back to our community.”


Dec. 6 and 7, 55 Merchant St., (808) 744-2531, paihonolulu.com


Fresh Baked Christmas Stollen at The Kāhala Hotel & Resort

Christmas stollen will be available at The Kāhala Hotel & Resort starting on Dec. 1.
Photo: Courtesy of The Kāhala Hotel & Resort


It’s not Christmas until The Kāhala Hotel & Resort starts selling its freshly baked stollen. Originally baked and served in Germany’s Saxon Royal Court in 1427, stollen is a loaf-shaped cake-bread that’s traditionally made with dried fruit, nuts and spices, then dusted with sugar or icing. The Kāhala’s version includes dark and golden raisins and candied orange and lemon peels soaked in dark aged rum for a couple of days. Pastry chef Michael Moorhouse folds them into a heavy dough with roasted almonds and a slew of warm spices. The entire loaf is dipped in clarified butter and covered in Maui vanilla sugar. Cost is $27 per loaf—and so worth it. The Christmas stollen is available between Dec. 1 and 31 and gift-wrapped. Preordering is a must. The resort’s signature Kona coffee chocolate macadamia nuts are also available now through Jan. 31, 2019. Cost is $30 for a half-pound box.


5000 Kāhala Ave., (808) 739-8760, kahalaresort.com