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Ono, You Know

Here’s the Scoop on Nom-worthy Nachos

By Ali Resich Photos By Nathalie Walker
October 6, 2013

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Órale, Ono readers! Perhaps it’s because football season is in full gear, or the fact that living in Hawaii means beach potlucks are always in season, but the question on everyone’s mind lately has been where to find the best appetizer? Seeing as I’ve always been a fan of Mexican fare, nachos immediately jumped out at me as the perfect pupu to seek out this week.

One of the most appealing aspects of nachos is that the possibilities are endless. What is believed to have originated some 70 years ago in a small town in Mexico near the Texas border as a simple snack consisting of tortilla chips, cheese and jalapenos has since grown into an internationally adored treat found with any and every combination of toppings imaginable.

And, of course, there’s my personal favorite facet of eating nachos — strategically deciding which chip to go in for in order to scoop up as much melted cheese as possible.

So, adorned with my trusty sombrero, I set out to summon the finest nachos in town. Not surprisingly, chefs at the following Ono You Know locales introduced me to an incredible range of nachos, from traditional renderings to unique recipes with local flair.

HASR Bistro

I couldn’t resist starting my journey at HASR Bistro downtown, where for the past year diners have cozied up to country-style European-American cuisine with an ethnic twist. There, co-owner and executive chef Rodney Uyehara presents Spiced Ahi Nachos ($14), his own creative take on the classic.

“This being Hawaii, ahi is prevalent in our food culture,” explains Uyehara, when describing his inspiration for the nachos. “It’s something different you can do with ahi as opposed to what’s out there.”

To create the foundation for this dish, Uyehara uses unbelievably crispy fried wonton chips, which are made from scratch in-house, in lieu of tortilla chips.

Then, the nachos heat up with blackened ahi seasoned with salt, paprika, cayenne and other spices before it is seared to perfection.

“(The seasoning) adds a certain bite to it, but it’s not overpowering,” adds the chef.

To complement his savory ahi, Uyehara piles on chunks of fresh avocado, scallions, white onions, bonito flakes and crisp slivers of nori imported from South Korea.

Last, but not least, Spiced Ahi Nachos is taken to the next level with a duo of aioli drizzles. By adding mayonnaise to unagi sushi sauce and Sriracha respectively, the chef presents two addicting sauces that dress up the dish with HASR’s signature touch. This complex and distinctive melange of flavors comes together marvelously for a rendition of nachos that is simply ono-licioso.

HASR Bistro
31 N. Pauahi St.
533-4277

Jose’s Mexican Cafe and Cantina

Jose’s Mexican Cafe and Cantina in Kaimuki is without a doubt the place to go for a traditional bite of nachos. For nearly 40 years, the Martinez clan has shared its authentic family recipes with generations of local diners, and Macho Nachos ($14.95) stands out as one of the most popular items.

Say hola to mouthwatering ingredients that take this item to great heights, such as green chilies, onion, tomato, olives, re-fried beans, ground beef (or chicken for an additional fee) and a mix of Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses gloriously melted on top. Sour cream and homemade guacamole round out the flavors.

Macho Nachos ($14.95) at Jose's

Macho Nachos ($14.95) at Jose’s

An essential factor to classic nachos that is often overlooked is having a nice, firm tortilla chip to hold its own against a slew of ingredients. This is something Jose’s masters, as the eatery cuts its own chips from fresh corn tortillas and fries them daily.

“They’re really crispy and they hold the beans and the cheese and the toppings really well,” says general manager Brian Martinez, when describing the secret to Macho Nachos’ success. In addition to their crisp personality, the tortilla chips are served heated, adding another layer of richness to this epic pupu.

Martinez recommends sharing Macho Nachos among friends, and they’re perfect for munching on with some drinks during UH football games, which are televised at the cantina.

Jose’s Mexican Cafe and Cantina
1134 Koko Head Ave.
732-1833

Beach Bar

When it comes to great bar food, nachos are all the rage. That’s why I had to make my final destination Beach Bar at the Moana Surfrider hotel in Waikiki. Offering an island-inspired interpretation of typical bar food, this beachfront spot presents Ahi Poke Nachos ($19), complete with local flair.

The sizable appetizer features an eclectic mix of flavors that highlight fresh island poke in an exciting way. Yummy bites of raw ahi are flavored local-style with onions, chili flakes, green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and Hawaiian salt, and they sit on a bed of wonton crisps.

According to executive sous chef Brooke Tadena, kabayaki sauce adds a touch of sweet goodness to the nachos. “It’s nice, rich and thick,” he explains. “It has a soy taste to it, yet since it’s reduced down with the sake, you’ll still have this sweetness to it.”

Beach Bar's Ahi Poke Nachos ($19) Leah Friel file photo

Beach Bar’s Ahi Poke Nachos ($19) Leah Friel file photo

The kabayaki sauce is accented with other flavor components such as chili cream, bonito flakes and seaweed.

Tadena suggests scooping up a piece of fresh avocado with each bite as well, since the classic accompaniment to nachos lends balance to the dish. “The avocado gives it some creaminess and ties everything else together. And it gives some smoothness and richness,” explains the chef.

In keeping with Beach Bar’s ongoing efforts to promote healthy dining, Ahi Poke Nachos presents a light, yet absolutely scrumptious dish to share.

Just as my corazon melted for these amazing nacho creations, yours too will fall in love with a visit to these restaurants.

Beach Bar
Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa
2365 Kalakaua Ave.
921-4600