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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Six Weeks Later, A Whole New Pagoda

If it’s been a while since you last visited the Pagoda Restaurant, you may not recognize the place.

But you’re sure to like it.

And the six-week renovation comes with a new executive chef, Jason Takemura.

The “new” Pagoda is almost unrecognizable as its former self. There’s a new bar, new menus and a renewed emphasis on local produce and high-quality ingredients.

A couple of things won’t be changing, though: the Friday and Saturday night buffets that have become a tradition for generations of local families; breakfast, which will still be served from 6:30 a.m. daily, and the dozens of colorful koi swimming under the famous Japanese floating tea houses.

* Hopefully the news that 12th Avenue Grill will be closing won’t come as too much of a shock to those fans of the ultimate neighborhood restaurant.

I’ll just enjoy the couple of minutes it takes for that opening sentence to sink in before reporting the news in a slightly different way: Rather than really closing, the restaurant will undergo a name change and a rebranding.

Why? Because the busiest restaurant owner in Kaimuki is about to get even busier. Kevin Hanney will open a new 12th Avenue Grill in the spring of 2013 in the former Victoria Inn Building, and the current 12th Avenue Grill will get a new name – and a new menu.

“The new restaurant is on 12th Avenue,” says a smiling Hanney, who has been raising capital and working on his restaurant layout for months. “We couldn’t really name it anything else.”

The restaurant, which will utilize all of the former Victoria Inn’s vast banquet kitchen and dining room, provides an almost perfect environment, with lots of nearby parking. For Hanney, it is a dream location with enough room to satisfy his catering commitments and still create an open cooking station, seating booths, private dining room and enough bar seating to satisfy all those spontaneous diners (like me) who just want to show up and eat.

“It is kind of a dream restaurant,” says the chef, who has adopted a farm-to-fork attitude throughout his entire career. “We’re really excited about the opportunities, and we feel being here on 12th Avenue, it’s kind of the right next step.”

Hanney will continue to operate the current 12th Avenue Grill until spring of next year – no word yet on the restaurant’s new name – and he’ll also continue to operate the hugely popular SALT Kitchen and Tasting Bar. To have three successful restaurants in one city is quite an achievement. To have them within a half-mile radius of each other may be unique.

As for the menu at the “old” 12th Avenue, I promise you’ll love it – but I also promised not to tell.

* At The Pacific Club, executive chef Eric Leterc is showing off his gorgeous new kitchen with pride to everyone who wants a peek. When I caught up with him last week, he was in the midst of the holiday rush, cooking hundreds of turkeys-to-go for club members.

“It’s an incredible kitchen makeover,” he says. “We took apart the entire kitchen and redid everything.”

And while most guests at The Pacific Club will enjoy the elegant dining room refurbishments, the kitchen is definitely worth a tour.

Happy eating!

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