Pagoda Floating Restaurant
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Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite restaurant? Well, much credit goes to the many chefs, owners and managers who work diligently day in and day out to make sure Hawaii’s diners have a top-notch dining experience.
This week, Dining Out gets the inside scoops from Pagoda Floating Restaurant’s executive chef and partner Jason Takemura, who gives us a little taste of Pagoda and shares just what fuels his culinary drive.
NAME Jason Takemura
TITLE Executive Chef/Partner at Pagoda Floating Restaurant
TRAINING/EDUCATION Le Cordon Bleu, Western Culinary Institute, Portland, Oregon
Who or what inspires you as a chef/manager/owner? What inspires me most as a chef/owner is the people we serve. The reason why I love being a chef is because I get to see the smiles on our customers faces when they eat one of our creations. If a customer has a special request or wants a dish modified to his or her liking, I am more than happy to do so. Without them, we have no job. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t a chef.
What is your favorite dish on the menu? Why? My favorite item on the menu is our surf and turf: Sake Soy Braised Big Island Beef Short Ribs and Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops with Uni Butter. It’s served with grilled vegetables and wasabi mashed potatoes. Braised Short Ribs, when done right, are one of my favorite meats, and scallops are by far my favorite seafood. When I go out for sushi, you can guarantee that I will be eating uni to finish off my meal. This plate has it all. That’s why I chose those flavors.
What is your favorite ingredient to work with? Why? For the past few years, I have been very into working with fresh fish. Depending on what type of fish you have, it can be prepared in many different ways — from raw to marinated, grilled, steamed, poached, seared, etc. Not only can you prepare fish in many different ways, but you also can pair it up with an unlimited combination of different flavors that help to complement the fish, rather than overpower it. That takes a lot of skill to do it right. On our A la Carte dinner menu, we have nine or 10 fresh fish dishes using all of the above preparations. We try to showcase different local fish with different preparations and flavors. No two fish dishes on the menu will be alike.
Is there a dish that you create that’s not on your menu, but available upon request? At Pagoda, we just started our new a la carte menu this past week. So the answer to that at Pagoda, is no. But at Hukilau Honolulu, where I also oversee the kitchen, we do it on a regular basis. We have so many regular diners that come in on a weekly basis. We have to be able to accommodate them in that way. It’s not uncommon to have someone email me that they are coming in for lunch and want something special that is not on the menu. Normally after a while, those items actually make it onto our menu.
What are your culinary goals? What do you hope to improve on? My goals are to continue to be able to grow not only as a chef, but as a teacher. There are a lot of people that get so caught up in the stress and day-to-day operations that they forget about letting their staff grow as individuals, and as cooks. A good analogy is that just because you are a great baseball player, that doesn’t make you a great coach. Coaching takes a great skill that lets you not only teach the game, but also lets you help the players grow. I want to be a great coach.
Pagoda Floating Restaurant
1525 Rycroft St., Honolulu
Breakfast: Daily, 6:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m-2 p.m.
Happy Hour: Daily, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Dinner: Nightly, 5-9 p.m.
Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.