Rise Above the Rest at 3660
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Talking pupus with chef de cuisine Lydell Leong of 3660 on the Rise is always an entertaining and informative way to better understand the art and science of fine food preparation. Leong is an expert at pulling off the flavorful and visually-appealing dishes customers have come to expect. He’s even smart enough to listen to diners who suffer from flavor withdrawals over a long-time menu favorite that’s been retired in favor of new culinary challenges. For the record, that would be Crispy Garlic Scallion Prawns ($12.95).
Off the menu for about two years, Leong reintroduced the dish at the constant urging of customers. The dish offers a good introduction to the organization and culinary skills necessary for pulling off tasty and seemingly simple dishes. Prawns are floured and quick fried by one member of the kitchen staff, while another sautes a mixture of vegetable oil, garlic, scallions, gin and a touch of salt. After 40 seconds of cooking time, the prawns are tossed with the sauce, served on a bed of crispy spinach and drizzled with a honey chili aioli. The result is incredibly crunchy prawns that maintain their moisture and sweetness. The aioli provides creaminess and a bit of heat to each bite, while the spinach and fried garlic add just another texture and flavor profile.
Sticking with the ocean-born appetizers, Pan Seared Hatcho Miso Glazed Scallops ($11) is a must-try. Scallops are seared, topped with a relish of Kahuku corn, shiitake mushrooms, Kizami wasabi and red bell peppers, drizzled with a yuzu butter sauce and served on a bed of stir-fried Dry Land Nursery pea shoots. Naturally sweet, scallops need to be handled with a light hand and Leong’s staff do this even while including so many ingredients. Though the scallops and the fresh toppings get the headline, and rightfully so, the miso is perhaps most interesting. Imported from Japan’s oldest miso factory, the organic miso paste is sweeter and less salty than most types and works perfectly with the subtle scallops.
One more gift from the sea is Porcini Seared Ahi Tataki ($14.25). A four-and-a-half ounce portion of sashimi-grade ahi is dusted in a porchini mushroom powder and seared with a blowtorch. Sliced thin, the fish is served on a bed of pea shoots mixed with truffle oil, lemon and salt and drizzled with a yuzu butter sauce. The torch creates a thin outer crust without compromising the buttery texture of traditional sashimi. Enjoyed with the yuzu and salad, each bite combines the acidity of the yuzu, the natural sweetness of the ahi and the earthiness of the truffle oil and porcini.
Not everything on the pupu menu is created so quickly. Garlic-Lemongrass Braised Veal Cheek ($12.95) takes about three hours from preparation to presentation. Veal is seared then braised with cherry, veal stock, orange, star anise, lemongrass, and kafir lime. The result is a tender, almost buttery piece of meat that slightly resembles a well-prepared beef tongue. The side of scallion rice provides a fresh counterbalance of flavors and is great after being dragged through the jus reduction.
Finally, an appetizer that’s not necessarily an appetizer, but is often ordered as one. Everything is better with basil and pork products, and Tomato and Mozzarella Salad ($12) is no exception. Prosciutto, house-made truffled mozzarella, Dry Land Nursery micro basil and Wow Farms tomatoes are tossed with truffle oil, Kona sea salt and a smoked balsamic reduction to create a light, fruity pupu that is a perfect cleansing agent for the more bold flavors on the menu.
3660 On The Rise
3660 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
Tuesday-Sunday, 5:30-8:30 p.m.