Hoku’s Star Appetizers
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Seeing the line of beautifully prepared pupus exit the kitchen at Hoku’s in The Kahala Hotel & Resort makes you understand just how appropriate the term “culinary arts” is. Each item, from the Seared Foie Gras to the upscale local favorites created by executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi and recently arrived chef de cuisine Jeremy Shigekane, combines the bold flavors of locally grown products with a presentation that matches the interior decor and stunning ocean views just beyond your table.
Hoku’s Ahi Musubi ($18) is a softball-sized crunchy pocket of everything you like in a musubi, only better. Cut into fourths, fresh ahi is stuffed into a ball of sushi rice, coated with furikake and quickly deep-fried. The result is a creamy, crunchy and somehow, slightly sweet creation that matches perfectly with the Asian remoulade dipping sauce, namasu and sea salad that accompanies the main attraction.
In what can only be described as eye-closing good, Seared Foie Gras ($22) is exactly as it should be — light, creamy and artfully displayed. The foie gras is served on a crunchy slice of Hawaiian sweet bread with a balsamic reduction sauce and chopped mango that has been sauteed in fresh lemon grass.
“People go crazy for our short ribs,” says Hirabayashi. That’s no surprise. One bite into the tender Short Rib Tempura ($16) makes it obvious why it has been a favorite for years. The ribs are braised in a concoction of shoyu, sesame oil, red onion, green onion, garlic, ginger and other good stuff, topped with a kalbi jus and served with an avocado tempura. It’s awesome.
At first glance, Big Island Hearts of Palm ($17) looks more like dessert than the beginning of a satisfying meal. The julian-shaved hearts of palm, watermelon radish, orange and grapefruit with ahi and hamachi, and topped with yuzu-vinaigrette, looks almost too good to eat.
Not for long though. Hunger and the delicate pile of fresh, crunchy ingredients guarantee a short table life, and I was more than happy to oblige.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
Wednesday-Sunday, 5:30-10 p.m.
Sunday Brunch, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.