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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

A Roundup Of Special Summer Dining

I had lunch at the Hukilau last week and was impressed as always with executive chef Jason Takemura’s ability to bring excellent quality to something as simple as a lunch buffet. Jason has been at Hukilau since opening day, but what you might not know is he’s also the chef behind the inspired new menu at Pagoda. If you haven’t seen that menu in a while, you’ll likely be amazed at the different offerings – especially for dinner. Fish is a specialty, and there’s an ever-changing array of local-style pupu that include poke, oysters, sashimi and smoked meats. Grab some friends and head over for a happy hour that those in the know already wish could be kept secret. The Pagoda website has all the details: www.pagodahotel.com

There’s probably no better time to try The Signature, the newest steakhouse in town than between 4:30 and 6:30 nightly. Honolulu’s latest steak house offers 50 percent off the bar menu during the pau hana hours. Steak Salad and Steak Sliders are just $7.50, Ahi Poke and Ahi Tartare are $7 and an order of chop steak over rice is just $10. From the 36th floor of the Ala Moana Hotel you can imagine how amazing the early evening view is. It ought to be one of the busiest happy hours in town. There are full details about the menu, pricing, wine list and private dining (there’s a wine room that’s cozy enough to seat eight) at signatureprimesteak.com

With all the rushing around we seem to do nowadays, I am reminded of a simple statement made by Bruno lezzi, the owner of Mix Café. We were chatting one day about fast food – Bruno believes in using simple ingredients and taking time to both cook them and eat them – when he looked at me quizzically and asked, “What is this … ‘eating’ in the car?” The phrase pops into my head far more regularly than I would have imagined as I notice that for many people the act of shopping for food, taking time to prepare ingredients and cook dinner and then sitting down for a family meal has been replaced by a stop at the drive-thru. Bruno, who was raised in Italy, is from a land where taking time to eat is considered something of a religious experience, unlike American dining which is in danger of becoming first-one-to-clean-off-plate-wins. I find it worrying that we are losing touch with a connection that binds us to one another. Knowing where our food comes from is a mantra of those who have a passion for food, so how about caring who we’re eating with? …

There are many food moments that define summer in Hawaii – fresh mangoes, the vibrant colors of summer fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, longer evenings to fire up the grill – but one of the things that means summer has arrived is a Guy Tai at Chart House in Waikiki. The now- famous cocktail, created by bartender Guy Maynard, using made-from-scratch syrups, has been a house specialty for years. It complements many things on the Chart House menu, but goes especially well with the restaurant’s signature pupu, a deconstructed sushi roll with warm rice, nori and spicy ahi poke. A Guy Tai, a Kimmi’s Firecracker Unroll, and a gorgeous sunset over the marina make for a perfect summer moment.

Happy eating!

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