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The exquisite sounds of jazz intermixed with the alluring flavors of Pacific Rim cuisine create the perfect marriage. So, let’s do the math: World-renowned saxophonist Michael Paulo plus one of Hawaii’s premier restaurants, 3660 on the Rise, equates to this week’s truly unforgettable Dining with the Stars experience. We were lucky enough to snag local boy, now L.A.-based, Paulo one afternoon for a quick lunch at this award-winning establishment on the corner of Waialae Avenue and Wilhelmina Rise.
“3660 on the Rise is upscale and local — and in Kaimuki of all places. Chef Russell Siu and I went to school together at Saint Louis,” says Paulo of this hidden gem.
Considered to be one of the most versatile and cosmopolitan saxophonists in pop, soul and contemporary jazz for nearly 20 years, Paulo just wrapped up concerts with acclaimed jazz musician David Benoit in Philippines and Indonesia.
“I’m home (in Hawaii) for a bit, and, of course, I wouldn’t miss the chance to eat here!”
Usually closed on Mondays, 3660 on the Rise graciously opened its doors to accommodate Paulo’s busy schedule, and better yet, chef de cuisine Lydell Leong prepared three dishes that were out-of-this-world. Enter Shichimi Seared Ahi on a bed of truffled dry-land pea shoots salad; Pan-Seared Masago Arare Crusted Salmon with honey chili aioli and pickled Maui onions; and the restaurant’s signature Mile High Waialae Pie, a decadent dessert composed of layers of macadamia nut crust, Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, caramelized sugar, chocolate sauce and coffee ice cream.
“Everything is delicious,” Paulo says with a smile. “First of all, with the Masago Arare Crusted Salmon, the flavor of the crust is really good, and the salmon is moist, but firm. It tastes good! And I love seared ahi. The way chef Lydell made it is perfect; it’s not dry and not overcooked.
“I think I’m in heaven,” he adds, while taking a bite of Mile High Waialae Pie. “I have a sweet tooth. I love desserts, and I have to say, macadamia nut ice cream is my favorite ice cream in the world. This dessert has big chunks of macadamia nut, ice cream and chocolate.”
With an ear for music and a palate for superlative eats, Paulo’s gearing up for the third annual Pacific Rim Jazz Festival, Nov. 3 from 4 to 10 p.m. at Hawaii Convention Center’s Kalakaua Ballroom. As the producer of this much-anticipated event, Paulo says attendees can expect a spectacular evening complete with a lineup of international artists along with national and local stars, including guitarist Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons, Grammy award-winner Deniece Williams, saxophonist Kaori Kobayashi, jazz trumpeter Rick Braun, smooth jazz pianist Brian Simpson, Hawaii’s “King of the Keyboard” Rene Paulo, Na Hoku Hanohano awardee Starr Kalahiki, Michael Paulo and more.
“This jazz festival is for everyone. The entertainment will be very animated party music. When it comes to food and music, I always look for variety,” Paulo says. “I love the fact that I’ll get to perform with all the artists, and that’s the most enjoyable part of it all.”
Paulo has been playing the saxophone for the past four decades, and stumbled upon the instrument at age 15 while in his high school band.
“When I started playing saxophone, I found a passion for it and I loved it. I began playing in shows in Waikiki, and then I got my big break locally with Kalapana to be their saxophonist. The first gig I did with them was at Waikiki Shell in front of 11,000 people,” he recalls. “I traveled all over the Mainland and Asia with them, but after a while I began to feel like I needed to branch out on my own.
“I moved to Los Angeles and got my second big break as the saxophonist for Al Jarreau, who is considered legendary. For me, that was such a validation. That put me on a world stage. It was totally awesome and launched me into my career today.”
Tickets for Pacific Rim Jazz Festival cost $60 for general admission and $75 for gold reserved seating. VIP reserved seating costs $130 and includes access to gourmet food tasting stations featuring some of Hawaii’s best restaurants, such as 3660 on the Rise, Jade Dynasty, The Chart House and more. Platinum seating is available at $300 per person and includes reserved table seating and a five-course plated dinner. Proceeds will benefit The Kapolei Foundation, an organization that grants scholarships to deserving students in the Leeward community. To purchase tickets, visit TIX.com or call 951.696.0184. For more information, visit pacificrimjazzfestival.com.
“Music is universal. I’m blessed, my job is so rewarding,” Paulo says.
3660 On The Rise
3660 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 5:30-8:30 p.m.