What we think we know about the traditional restaurant–as a place to go for one menu prepared by one chef–is challenged more frequently these days, and we’re not talking about pop-up events and trucks. Perhaps the most exciting idea is the actual modification of the restaurant archetype, like that taking shape at Taste.
At quick-bite (okay, fast food) restaurants, one often gives up fresh, healthy ingredients in exchange for ease and low cost. Thankfully for the time-pressed and hungry, the owners of these recently opened restaurants are prioritizing food quality while somehow finding a way to speed the time from order to plate.
In ancient times, the ahupuaa of Waiahole was known for the uniqueness of taro grown there: kii kalo paa o Waiahole, or “the hard taro of Waiahole.” At the mouth of this region sits the Waiahole Poi Factory, a place that is, in its own way, the modern spirit of this solid kalo. It is more than a place where you can get hand-pounded or machine-milled poi and a Hawaiian plate–it is a movement.
For a Hawaiian Thanksgiving, various spots around the island will be hosting imu, authentic underground ovens in which the public can have their Thanksgiving birds or beasts cooked overnight. An imu is a deep pit that primarily uses steam to cook whatever is placed into it–pigs, bananas, taro; the choices are endless.
If America is indeed a melting pot, as the old metaphor goes, then Hawaii floats in the section of the pot where the kimchee, sushi, and dim-sum simmer together, creating the feeling that jumping between the different bars/restaurants on Oahu is like skipping all over the continent of Asia. Of all the styles and genres of places to go, perhaps none strike a patron with the same felling of Japanese authenticity as an izakaya–a traditional Japanese bar and restaurant, similar to a western pub, where, along with an eclectic array of sakes and beers, a variety of appetizers fill the menu.
Although raised in a Korean family, I’ve never much enjoyed eating in Korean restaurants. I chalk it up to having been spoiled by the pleasures of our home kitchen: our great-grandmothers rolling out the thick, elastic man doo dough and teaching us to fill and shape the dumplings with a mash of diced pork and kim chee; our mother’s succulent braised hot-spicy shortribs we called chong ji dim (kal bi jim); best of all, of course, my grandparents’ barbecued beef.
With the exception of New York’s Central Park, it’s hard to think of a town with a public interface like Honolulu’s Kapiolani and Kuhio Beach Parks. It’s fractal and uneasy, this zone between the ocean, Waikiki, the Parks, the Shell and Zoo and Aquarium, but the bottom line, economically and demographically, is its real estate.