Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
The Mrs. and I attended a wine dinner recently at one of the new restaurant kids on the block — a place called Bread + Butter. It’s located on the street level of the Ala Moana Pacific Center. After Angelo Pietro vacated the space adjacent to Shokudo Japanese Restaurant and Bar, Diamond Dining — which owns Shokudo as well as Buho Cocina y Cantina in Waikïkï — decided to lease the old Angelo Pietro site. However, Diamond decided on a restaurant concept that wouldn’t compete with Shokudo.
Bread + Butter focuses on healthier take-out and coffee during the day and then turns into a small plate and wine bar in the evening. Toward that end, they’ve paired with Southern Wine & Spirits to create their Pinot Bar and Honolulu Coffee for their caffeinated options.
During the workday hours, Bread + Butter operates cafeteria-style — you place your order and pick it up. You can either dine in at one of their communal tables or sofas, or do a take-out. In the evening, the restaurant offers full table service.
Although they’ve only been open for five months, they’re already expanding their dining options to include a monthly wine dinner on the third Thursday of every month. How this wine dinner is created turns typical wine pairings on its head. You see, Micah Suderman of Southern Wine & Spirits brings five wines to Chef Arnaldo “Masa” Gushiken every month. After sampling the wines with his staff, Chef Masa creates dishes for each wine . . . a little role reversal, as wines are normally selected for a completed dish, not the other way around.
As we waited for our dining companions to arrive, we chatted with Hide Sakurai, the president of Diamond Dining. He shared that the Pinot Bar was created because his favorite grape varietal is Pinot Noir; thus, Bread + Butter’s wine list currently offers only Pinot. It also offers champagne on the wine list because it’s Sakurai’s other favorite wine. Just Pinot Noir and champagne? No complaints from me!
He also mentioned that he’s toying with another dining theme for Bread + Butter: Tuesday Paella Night. For $25, you receive one glass of Pinot Noir and unlimited trips to the Paella Bar. We reminded him that Hawai‘i residents tend to want to get their money’s worth at all-you-can-eat buffets, so he might want to rethink that $25 charge.
We normally do not attend weekday events, as it’s hard for the Mrs. and myself to leave work on time — more so her than me. And, waking up the next morning is a challenge after you’ve sipped a fair amount of wine the night before. It just so happened that the Mrs. was off on Thursday, and I needed to burn some vacation time, so I opted to take Friday off.
So, it was time to dine. What was on the menu?
CHEF ARNALDO “MASA” GUSHIKEN
DUCK CONFIT SALAD
Cold duck breast, blood-orange supreme,
mixed greens, Spanish dressing
black lava sea salt
Pairing: 2013 Pazo Barrantes
SMOKED BABY PUMPKIN SOUP
Whole smoked baby pumpkin,
Pairing: 2014 Fevre
& HOTARU IKA
Homemade pasta, baby ika,
nori, mentaiko dust
Pairing: 2011 Domaine Faury
Fresh local white fish, clams, mussels,
saffron soup, Pernod, homemade crostini
Pairing: 2014 Magnon Rose
FILET MIGNON WITH
Filet mignon, porcini cream sauce,
Pairing: 2011 Inglenook Cask
Wine is poured for each course, but they also allowed us to bring in our own wines and waived the corkage fee. I brought a 2008 Evening Land “Summum” chardonnay for the pumpkin course, along with a 2013 Clos Ste Magdeleine “Bel Arme” Cassis for the bouillabaisse.
The confit of duck was very tender with the crunchy bits of black salt giving a textural contrast while the Albarino nicely cleansed the palate between bites. I plan on “borrowing” the idea of the smoked pumpkin soup, which all of the diners enjoyed and served as a food epiphany for me. While the Chablis paled a little to the smoky flavors in the soup, the Evening Land chardonnay more than nicely complemented the whole dish.
Several of our dining companions didn’t care for the homemade squid ink pasta. I, on the other hand, thought it was one of the highlights of our meal, with rich fish and crab flavors, even if the Syrah wasn’t a good pairing with the pasta (nor were any of the wines our group brought). Two fellow diners weren’t impressed with the squid ink pasta, so they encouraged me to “doggie bag” their portions — we had it the next evening, complete with a sunny side egg, which I added. I thought the egg made it taste better, with the rich yolk muting some of the saltiness from the seafood.
The bouillabaisse broth wasn’t as rich as the traditional broth in which boney fishes and other seafood are “smashed” to extract flavors from the flesh and the bones. But it was still a very good dish, and the Rose perfectly complemented each component of the dish, including the mussels, clams and onaga, along with balancing the composite flavors of the dish as a whole.
Finally, there can be nothing wrong with a piece of filet mignon that’s perfectly cooked medium rare (It appeared sous vide, or cooked sealed, since the color was consistent throughout the thickness of the steak.). And though it wasn’t advertised on the menu, we also were served a dessert course of oozing chocolate cake and gelato, which capped the meal.
All this for $85, plus tax and tip. If you assume the wine pairings are about $30, that makes a six-course meal just $55. I say well worth it. Now, hopefully, the Mrs. is off on Nov. 19 . . . you see, I still have one more day of vacation I need to use or lose . . .
Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet.”