Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
So what will 2017 bring us in the world of food and wine? For starters, probably the most anticipated restaurant opening since . . . since . . . Come to think of it, I can’t think of anything more anticipated than this long-awaited opening.
By the time The Pig & The Lady settled into its brick-and-mortar location in Honolulu’s Chinatown, they were already regulars at local farmer’s markets and had held numerous pop-ups, so the anticipation was somewhat muted. It was more a relief that they had finally opened.
Roy Yamaguchi’s Roy’s and Alan Wong’s Honolulu were hardly household names when they first opened years ago, long before the term “Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine” became a buzz phrase. Neither was Chef Mavro a household name when he first opened his eponymous restaurant almost 20 years ago. His popularity soared after he received his Gayot 18/20 ratings and Five Diamond awards.
Probably the last “major” opening was Vintage Cave’s in the old Shirokiya basement. The anticipation over the restaurant was probably due as much to the restaurant’s $295 price point and its mysterious Japanese billionaire-owner as its food. The opening chef at Vintage Cave was none other than local boy Chris Kajioka — the same Chris Kajioka who has partnered with fellow Per Se (in New York) alum, Chef Anthony Rush, at Senia.
The partnering of Chefs Kajioka and Rush was announced well over a year ago, but Senia’s opening was plagued by permitting and construction delays. There was also great excitement about the pedigree of the chefs: Kajioka received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and did stints at Per Se in New York, Willows Inn in Washington state, and the Ritz-Carlton and Aziza in San Francisco. Rush worked at Per Se in New York; The French Laundry in Napa, Calif., and at The Fat Duck in his native England. We had sampled Chef Kajioka’s cuisine at the Vintage Cave, so, we, along with hundreds of foodies in the 50th, are eager to book our table at Senia.
75 North King St.
Honolulu, HI 96817
Another Master Sommelier?
Senia’s recent opening also shined the spotlight on a rising star in the 50th’s wine world, wine director Chris Ramelb, who is on track to becoming Hawai‘i’s next master sommelier. Ramelb received the Walter Clore Scholarship for attaining the highest score in the certified sommelier exam, as well as the Rudd Scholarship for scoring the highest in the advanced sommelier exam. His final challenge is the master sommelier exam. Is a Krug Cup for the highest score in Ramelb’s future?
I’ve had the privilege of sharing a table at various food and wine events with the Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i, native, who is probably one of the most low-key sommeliers I’ve ever met. But once you’ve tasted and discussed wine with him, you realize his potential with his discerning palate, encyclopedic memory and passion for wine. And even if he doesn’t earn his master sommelier ranking in 2017, you know it won’t be far behind.
Pork Shank, Anyone?
Since Chef Bob McGee’s abrupt departure from The Whole Ox Deli back in 2013, we’ve been ‘ono for his hearty cuisine, whether for his 21-day dry-aged burger, or his house-made charcuterie or his pork shanks. McGee reappeared briefly on Kapahulu Avenue with Meatball Hawaii, a restaurant that featured various meatballs and sauces. It shuttered a short time later, however. McGee visited the weekly farmer’s markets, selling his house-made sausages and bacon, but slowly withdrew from even those outings to concentrate on butchering and distributing David Wong’s naturally raised swine. But low and behold, we’ve learned that Chef McGee will be running the kitchen of the second incarnation of the Aloha Beer Company.
Steve Sombrero and brew master Dave Campbell started the Aloha Beer Company as part of the Big Aloha/Sam Choy space on Nimitz Highway. As distribution in Hawai‘i and Japan expanded, the brewery on Nimitz was closed and moved to California. After a suitable Hawai‘i location was re-established, brewing began again in October. Sombrero’s and Campbell’s Tap Room is slated to open in mid-January. When it does, Aloha Beer Company and the Tap Room will be a complete brewpub, with Chef McGee once again cooking up beer-friendly foods like his house-made sausages and charcuterie, smoked meats and, hopefully, that luscious pork shank.
Aloha Beer Company and Tap Room
700 Queen St.
Honolulu, HI 96813
Ever since Dr. Chris Miura halted his “bread tasting” at Vino years ago, I’ve missed the taste and texture of artisanal, handcrafted bread. Chris would bring about four different breads to Vino, where master sommelier Chuck Furuya would pair each bread with a different wine. I bake bread, but not on the level as Miura, who is gainfully employed as an OB-GYN physician. Dr. Miura travels to Europe routinely to learn more about the bread-making craft from the masters. He even built a wood-fired brick oven in his backyard to bake his own breads. Miura’s sour cherry chocolate bread, which he makes only during the holidays, is the stuff of legends.
The wait for fresh-baked artisanal breads is over with the arrival on the scene of Chris Sy, whose Breadshop recently opened in Kaimukï. Sy began his culinary career with Hank Adaniya of Hank’s Haute Dogs fame at Chicago’s legendary restaurant, Trio. His career has since taken him to New York, France, California and Copenhagen. But he is home now and launching his own bread shop. I sampled his bread for the first time several years ago — back then, he was only selling them at farmer’s markets through The Pig & The Lady, although he would occasionally create a bread dish at the MW Restaurant or at Hank’s diner events.
Now, finally, Sy has his brick-and-mortar boulangerie right in the heart of Kaimukï. Prior to his grand opening, he offered a one-year bread “subscription” for $425 (early subscribers paid $350). For $425, Sy will provide you with one loaf of bread per week for 50 weeks. You simply choose the day of the week, Wednesday through Sunday, that you would like to pick up your bread for the next 50 weeks.
I’m sure some of you are probably thinking, “Seven dollars for a loaf of bread?!” Well, Sy’s breads aren’t just any loaf of bread. This isn’t your typical supermarket variety of bread. I would place Sy’s breads above any specialty baker’s loaves, from its superb crackly crust, to the tender inner crumb and chewy interior, to the exquisite flavor of the starter. Chris Sy’s breads aren’t just something to slather on a topping. Oh no, no, no, they are the focus, with the butter, tuna salad or jelly being the secondary players on your palate.
3408 Waialae Ave. (Waialae and 8th Aves.)
Honolulu, HI 96816
An Unwelcome Change
Unfortunately, change isn’t always for the better. By the time you read this, The Liquor Collection at Ward Warehouse, will have closed its doors after 33 years in business. Dec. 31, 2016, was its final day of business. The uncertain timetable for the eventual demolition of Ward Warehouse due to the development of Kaka‘ako, along with health issues of one of its owners, led to The Liquor Collection’s regrettable closure.
Over the years, I could always count on The Liquor Collection to stock the craft beers I wanted in individual bottles for my annual Oktoberfest celebrations, or that special liqueur or whiskey that I couldn’t find anywhere else, but needed for my own crafted cocktails.
But, like everything else, change is inevitable and not always for the better.
Therefore, to help keep these local food producers in business, I encourage you to patronize the establishments that support local.
Mountain View Farms and Pono Pork, LLC
J. Ludovico (poultry)
Local Produce (too many farmers to name)
Kalei Eggs/Waimana Eggs
REAL, a gastropub
The Pig & The Lady/Piggy Smalls
Town/Mud Hen Water/Mahina and Sons
12th Avenue Grill
Morning Glass Coffee & Cafe
Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar
VJ’s Butcher Block
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.”