Tuesday, 29. November 2011 5:25
HONOLULU, OAHU – Alan Wong. Sam Choy. Roy Yamaguchi. George Mavrothalassitis. And Peter Merriman.
Together, they make up a large part of the culinary cognoscente who first put Hawaiian fine-dining on the map. In their hands, the unique ingredients of the islands have been elevated to new heights with sophisticated techniques and glorious ethnic influences.
On a recent trip to Oahu, courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, I was invited to dine as a guest at two of these pioneering Honolulu restaurants. They did not disappoint, either.
In 1995, the flagship Alan Wong’s restaurant opened in an unlikely spot: the third floor of a rather non-descript office building. It boasts no view of the ocean or beach, just cars whizzing by on the street or kids skate-boarding after dark.
But when the elevator doors open to the restaurant, you step into a warm, inviting and always busy dining room full of couples and families celebrating birthdays as befits this special occasion place.
The menu offers a la carte choices, as well as two tasting menu options — a five-course menu sampling and a six-course chef’s tasting menu. The former is a roundup of some of Wong’s signature dishes, while the latter features newer dishes.
My husband and I opted for the $75 five-course, though the cooks threw in a few extra goodies.
Wong’s food is full of whimsy and bold flavors, as evidenced by the famous “Soup and Sandwich,” which features chilled Hamakua Springs tomato soup in a martini glass that’s playfully juxtaposed with a grilled cheese kalua pig sandwich. Yes, in Hawaii, you can get great tomatoes practically all year-round. Eat your heart out, mainlanders. Bite into the crisp sammy and prepare to swoon as tender, smoky pig meets gooey mozzarella.
Another inventive take was the ahi, which comes wrapped in slivers of wonton wrappers, then is deep-fried until it looks like a golden sea anemone on your plate.
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