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Foodie Fare
Foodie Fare

Here Comes a Burst of Fusion Flavors

By Christina O Connor Photos By Leah Friel
October 27, 2013

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Combining European fare and Asian flair, Kit n Kitchen has been known for its well-balanced fusion of flavors since opening on University Avenue 13 years ago. The restaurant has become so popular that it recently opened a second location in Pearl City, near Walmart.

One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes is the Seared Scallop Spinach Risotto ($14.95), which features jumbo scallops resting on a bed of spinach, all on top of a creamy risotto stocked with bell pepper, zucchini and onion.

“It is actually really healthy because there are so many vegetables in the risotto,” says owner Kit Yiu.

“We use nice-sized scallops and they are really tender and tasty,” he adds. “We get a lot of comments on this dish and people love it.”

Another all-time customer favorite is the Spicy Ground Beef with Eggplant ($11.95) over Kit n Kitchen’s crowd-pleasing spaghetti.

“One of our main sells is spaghetti,” says Yiu, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, May. “Customers just love it because we cook our spaghetti al dente … and we keep it as light as possible. I think nowadays, people are aiming to be healthier, so we try to keep it healthy and light.”

That method of cooking pasta by keeping it light and al dente is something that Yiu says he picked up while he was training at a restaurant in Japan.

Yiu, who derives a lot of his culinary inspiration from traveling, cooks up a Sizzling Seafood Paella ($15.95) that some customers have told him rivals paella from Spain. The dish features shrimp, squid and mussels and is accented with saffron, which has a mild spiciness to it.

“I put it on the sizzling plate so that it will make the rice a little bit crispy on the bottom,” he says.

Yiu is constantly looking to create new dishes and one of his recent concoctions joins the menu today.

The Pillow Pyramid ($8.95) is a new take on Kit n Kitchen’s popular pillow toast desserts. The dish features crispy-onthe-outside, fluffy-onthe-inside cubes of toast with ice cream, all drizzled in a decadent sauce of strawberries, honey and cream.

“The other dishes feature a half-loaf of the toast … I see customers eating them all the time, and I think wow, maybe I can cut up the toast and stack it up like a mountain,” Yiu explains.

One day he whipped up the revamped version of the dish and doled it out to a few friends.

“They tripped out!” he recalls. “They said, ‘Wow, you have got to put this on the menu!'”

On the Side

For all of his passion for creating tasty fusion items, Kit n Kitchen owner Kit Yiu began his career in the restaurant industry as somewhat of an accident. He started out as a waiter for an Italian-Japanese restaurant, where he ended up striking a friendship with the chef.

“The chef said, ‘Why don’t you come try working in the kitchen?'” he recalls. So Yiu gave it a try and he was hooked.

After working in other restaurants and training in Japan for a stint, Yiu opened Kit n Kitchen.

When it first opened, they anticipated that they would primarily be dealing with nearby University of Hawaii students. But they soon found that their popularity spread far beyond campus.

“As time went by, there was a lot of word-of-mouth about our restaurant,” he says.

“From the beginning, our menu has changed a lot because we like to feed the taste of our customers,” Yiu says.

For example, the restaurant has started serving brown rice and Romaine lettuce.

“We learn from our customers,” he says. “I always think that that is the most important thing, and I teach that to my waiters, too. I tell them, ‘I am not your boss, the customer is your boss.’

“The main thing is that we want to the customer to walk out happy,” he says.

In order to keep pace with the ever-changing tastes of the public, Yiu travels frequently to scour the world for the best flavors. He visits various locales across the country, as well as throughout Asia. “I travel a lot, and every time I travel, I take notes and see what good things that we can bring back to Hawaii,” Yiu says.

Contact Christina O’Connor at diningout@staradvertiser.com

Kit n Kitchen

UNIVERSITY
1010 University Ave.
942-7622
Open daily, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5 p.m.-midnight

PEARL CITY
1029 Makolu St. (by Walmart)
294-5888
Open daily, 11 am.-10 pm.