Photo of venison on smoked brioche
Venison on smoked brioche

Ryan Tatsumoto
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Xenia: The ancient Greek concept of hospitality, generosity and courtesy shown to those from near and afar.

Senia: The newest and most anticipated restaurant in the 50th’s dining scene.

As I mentioned in an earlier column, the opening of Senia was likely the most anticipated restaurant event in recent Hawai‘i history, in large part because many fine diners here in the 50th had previously sampled co-owner/Chef Chris Kajioka’s cuisine at either Roy’s, or Aziza or at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. Or, they might have shelled out a hefty $300 for a Chef Kajioka meal at Vintage Cave at Ala Moana Center, or enjoyed his fare at a pop-up in one of several local restaurants.

When Kajioka left Vintage Cave in 2014, rumors began circulating that he was planning to open his own restaurant in Hawai‘i, so the “anticipation” really began well over two years ago. The first rumor I heard was that he was teaming up with Chef Mourad Lahlou of Aziza. Subsequent talk had Kajioka launching his new venture on the continent. Finally, in mid-2015, it was announced that he was partnering with Chef Anthony Rush, a fellow Per Se alum, and Rush’s wife, Katherine Nomura-Rush. Per Se is New York’s version of California’s The French Laundry.

It took another year and a half before the two chefs finally opened their restaurant, Senia, to the public last Dec. 14.

Senia, the Restaurant

Senia is located on North King Street in the heart of Honolulu’s Chinatown district, between The Pig and The Lady and the gastropub, Smith & Kings. I never have any luck finding street parking, so I just park in the municipal lot behind the building. Senia’s décor is very simple, with one large light fixture almost resembling a Chihuly glasswork and a few potted succulents that grace the large brick wall. Most of the tables are two- and four-tops and you select your dishes from the ala carte menu.

Or, you can request seating at the “Chef’s Table,” which will give you a view of what’s happening inside the kitchen. The “Chef’s Table” seats between four and eight people who dine on a preset omakase menu consisting of 12 to 14 courses.

Ala Carte

We visited Senia in mid-January, about a month after it opened. I selected seating in the main dining area, as seats at the counter weren’t available at the time. That wasn’t a bad thing, as all of the dishes were new to us. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails — very good cocktails, mind you — that paired well with our starters.

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