Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Last year, at a Nattö Day event organized by Mari Taketa, Scott Pang and Greg Sekiya, we sampled the cuisine produced by Dell’s Kitchen & Bakery — newcomers to the event — for the first time. As I picked up our four take-away containers of food (just for Ms. S and myself) I noticed the person staffing the register was functioning like a sous chef, making sure take-out orders were completed and bagged at the same time. I also noticed he was donning a Vein at Kaka‘ako shirt and asked him if Vein at Kaka‘ako was part of the same restaurant group.
Turns out that Dell’s Kitchen & Bakery brainchild Chef Dell Valdez is also the executive chef of Vein at Kaka‘ako and also operates the adjacent Mio Pastalogy, both of which opened at the end of 2020 and are all part of the Maisen Group.
Because both Dell’s Kitchen and Mio Pastalogy share the same space and opened just as the FDA granted emergency-use approval for the current COVID-19 vaccinations, both sites only offer take-out. There are a couple of two-top tables outside but the main indoor dining area is still partitioned off from the public.
At last year’s Nattö Day, we sampled all three of the nattö specials including the bakery’s nattö epi which should be renamed nattö epi-phany. It featured a very chewy baguette stuffed with nattö, mozzarella cheese and iriko (Dell labels them as shirasu though I’ve always called those small fish iriko). The nattö epi is a crusty and chewy bread with melted mozzarella and umami flavors from both the nattö and iriko.
Dell’s Kitchen also featured a miso eggplant with seafood nattö which was their usual miso eggplant but instead of the usual miso-Parmesan breadcrumb topping, they filled it with diced shrimp, Bay scallops and imitation crab while the nattö omurice featured fried rice and nattö, iriko and takana filling under soft scrambled eggs covered in a kabayaki gravy. But that nattö epi…
Because we made a special trip just to sample the Nattö Day specials, we also tried the yakisoba plate which featured freshly made spaghetti from Mio Pastalogy — a cross between fresh spaghetti and fresh ramen fried with pork and mixed vegetables. While the flavor was very good, it seemed slightly oily. We also sampled the soy ginger chicken which is Dell’s Kitchen version of teriyaki chicken which was heavier on the ginger with just a touch of shoyu. I didn’t mind as I feel fresh ginger is an underused staple in the kitchen. But that nattö epi…
Right next to Dell’s Kitchen is the Bakery with two large display cases featuring French style baguettes and loaves, including traditional Japanese shokupan not unlike those large square loaves that Kimuraya Bakery used to produce. There’s also a wide range of both sweet and savory baked goods and though I’m not really a pastry eater, if it’s in the display case, a chocolate pan or Nutella brioche (or both) will be making the trip back with us to Käne‘ohe. The bakery section is reminiscent of the old St. Germain at Shirokiya but at least Dell’s Bakery is still in business. But that nattö epi…
Under the same roof and just 20 feet away, sharing the same kitchen as Dell’s Kitchen & Bakery, is Mio Pastalogy. At Mio Pastalogy, six varieties of pasta are made in-house including spaghetti, linguine, rigatoni, casarecce, pappardelle and tagliatelle. You can customize your pasta by first selecting one of six pasta ($4) then adding one of six sauces ($3 to $4) and finally adding proteins and/or vegetables which range from $1.25 for scallions or fried garlic up to $3.50 for mentaiko (spicy, seasoned cod roe). Finally, topping with either ricotta or Parmesan cheese is another $1.
If you can’t decide how to customize your bowl of pasta, they also feature about 11 signature and wafü (Japanese-style vinaigrette) as well as several different salads.
The Subsequent Visit
Because the nori shiso chicken was described as marinated then stuffed with nori and shiso then coated in mochiko flour, I had to order it! Shiso is one of my favorite herbs and it didn’t hurt that this dish was almost like shiso stuffed mochiko chicken. I still plan on planting a little shiso garden as just 10 leaves at Marukai costs $1.99. However, planting shiso isn’t as easy as it seems as once those Chinese rose beetles (we used to call Japanese then beetles when I was a child) find them, they’ll literally consume your whole shiso garden overnight. Most of the plate lunch selections include a scoop of Japanese style potato salad, a scoop of white rice topped with purple shiso furikake, pickles and a thinly sliced cabbage salad with a sweet-sour vinaigrette (perhaps with a touch of ume).
Ms. S ordered outside of the box by sampling the cauliflower kalbi which was shoyu and garlic marinated slices of cauliflower, which were then grilled charring just the edges to give that same flavor when the sugar in kalbi marinade chars on the edges of real kalbi. Ms. S said she would order this dish again in a heartbeat!
Since we didn’t sample the solitary nattö pasta during Nattö Day, I ordered the nattö carbonara which was a bowl of spaghetti with an aglio olio sauce (olive oil and garlic) topped with nattö, bacon, sautéed mushrooms, broccoli and a poached egg. Surprisingly, the egg yolk was still runny after the 40-minute drive back to Käne‘ohe and once it was mixed with the nattö into the spaghetti, it created a rich sauce balanced by the salty bacon and earthy mushrooms. Ms. S sampled the yuba ginger cream pasta, which was spaghetti topped with yuba (the skin that forms on the surface when making tofu – it’s like thin sheets of very firm tofu), mushrooms, spinach, and was served with a ginger cream sauce. Normally she never orders any cream sauces for her pasta but this sauce perfectly balanced the ginger flavor almost like the flavor of gari with enough ginger flavor to counteract the richness of cream but not overwhelming to clear the sinuses. The ginger cream sauce almost made me forget about the nattö epi…
The only drawback to take-out from Mio Pastalogy is that the sauces are served in separate containers; I assume they’re separated to prevent the pasta from getting soggy during your drive home. However, pasta that sits in a mass eventually clumps so that when you do get home, mixing sauce into clumped noodles is a challenge. But that means we also have a little extra ginger cream sauce…
Of course, sister restaurant Vein at Kaka‘ako also makes a great carbonara, their porcini carbonara with porcini and other assorted mushrooms, fried rosemary and pancetta topped with grated Parmesan and a runny egg yolk is a great dish but I think I’ve achieved making a reasonable facsimile at home. And highlighting the eateries at Salt at Our Kaka‘ako is one or two columns in itself. But until then, I recommend a trip to Dell’s Kitchen & Bakery and Mio Pastalogy. Especially for the yuba ginger cream pasta and hopefully, that nattö epi…
Dell’s Kitchen & Bakery
1110 McCully St.
Honolulu, HI 96826
Phone: (808) 840-0496 or (808) 840-0497
Dell’s Kitchen & Bakery and Mio Pastalogy are open daily from 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Bakery open daily from 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
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” (nichibei.org/columns/gochiso-gourmet/).