Chef Profeta Pops Up For Valentine’s Day

New York chef Greg Profeta | Jo McGarry photo

If you could think of a way to test out a new restaurant, try some conceptually different dishes and generally dip your toes into the culinary waters of Hawaii, then the ideal thing would be to open a restaurant for a week, take note of diners’ comments, and then get to work building on what you’ve learned.

That’s exactly what chefs Greg Profeta (formerly of Restaurant Mark Forgione, Tribeca) and Koji Tanaka (La Grenouille, Telepan and Forge, New York) are about to do in anticipation of the opening of Waikiki’s newest restaurant, Sakai Honolulu.

Scheduled to open some time in early April, restaurant Sakai will introduce Profeta and Tanaka to the local dining scene. But as they await the restaurant’s completion, a “pop-up” opportunity at Lotus Honolulu seemed the perfect way to say hello.

“It’s a really great way to start to immerse ourselves in Hawaii and to let people see what we can do,” says Profeta, who’s spent these past couple of weeks wandering the farmers markets and hanging at the fish auction. “It’s a way to feel out the neighborhood. ”

So far, the neighborhood is impressing him.

“The fish auction just blew my mind,” says a smiling Profeta. “When you see the care and attention that everyone is putting into the fish, it’s incredible.”

He’s finding the farmers market a blast, too.

“The produce in Hawaii is just amazing,” he enthuses. “Everyone is very, very passionate about food. ”

As you might expect, Profeta plans to draw on our bountiful oceans and farms for inspiration for his menus Feb. 14, 15 and 16, and says his New York style has lots in common with Hawaii.

“When I say I’m bringing ‘New York food’ here, what I mean is that I’m bringing pretty much the way I see food – no limits, fresh ingredients and letting the dishes speak for themselves,” he says. “New York is all about sourcing and using everything at its peak. It’s what a lot of chefs in Hawaii are doing already.”

Profeta’s Valentine’s popup will feature a bevy of aphrodisiac-inspired dishes including Oyster Shooters; Avocado Mousse with Hearts of Palm, Maca Root and Miso Dressing with Caviar; Chilled Asparagus Salad with Charred Maui Onion Vinaigrette, Manchego and Pine Nuts; and Seared Sea Scallops with Pink Pepper and Cardamom Yogurt, Celery Root and Blood Orange.

His Valentine’s dessert is Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Crème Anglaise drizzled with Honey.

“We’re using foods that lend a helping hand to romance,” says Profeta, who brings a taste of Tribeca to a dining room in much need of some sparkle.

And look for some surprises with a local twist. Profeta admits to being delighted by what he’s finding in local restaurants and markets.

“I love lau lau,” he says, laughing. “I never saw anything like that before. I’m definitely going to play around with the lau lau theme.”

And the charm of the humble plate lunch has not been lost on Profeta.

“I went to Rainbow Drive Inn and had a great time there,” he says. “I’m definitely loving the food in Hawaii.”

Happy eating!

Chef Greg Profeta@ Lotus Honolulu:

Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day) Costs $75 per person, plus tax and gratuity; Feb. 15, 16, 17, $60-plus per person

Reservations: 922-1700