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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

Take a Fresh Bite this Year

By Ali Resich Photos By Leah Friel
January 12, 2014

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To people of all ages and walks of life, the dawn of a new year presents an opportunity to welcome a fresh start in life. Beginning a new chapter is something renowned chef Chai Chaowasaree knows well, as he embarked on an epic culinary journey in March of 2013 when he opened Chef Chai at Pacifica Honolulu a mere two months after closing the doors to Chai’s Island Bistro, his adored 14-year-old eatery at Aloha Tower Marketplace.

Complete with a contemporary decor scheme and updated menu, Chef Chai champions clean, healthy Asian fusion cuisine with an emphasis on Thai flavors. To do this, the establishment avoids unhealthy fats such as butter, and utilizes lean meat and healthy fish in its preparations.

“It’s kind of fun and interesting,” says Chaowasaree when describing the process of transforming his menu for the new restaurant. “It’s also challenging — for a lot of chefs, having butter off the menu is a big thing.”

Chaowasaree rises to the occasion by incorporating a wide range of Asian cooking techniques into his dishes, allowing him to keep the menu light without skimping on flavor. “In Asian cuisine, we don’t use a lot of butter anyway,” says the chef.

With the success of Chef Chai solidified, Chaowasaree takes on another new endeavor with his early bird four-course menu ($40 per person, 4-5 p.m. daily). According to the chef, the meal was created to give those who prefer to dine earlier an up-scale yet affordable option. Since the restaurant is centrally located on Kapiolani Boulevard, the early bird menu also provides an ideal way to start a fun night on the town. With a slew of exciting events in the area — such as The Lion King at Neal Blaisdell Center starting this month — Chaowasaree suggests enjoying a relaxing meal before the show.

The early bird four-course menu kicks off with delectable Chicken Sate with Thai peanut sauce, cucumber salad and Asian flat-bread. Customers also will enjoy a Combination Appetizer Platter featuring Fresh Ahi Katsu with Wasabi Curry Sauce, Kataifi and Mac Nut Encrusted Jumbo Black Tiger Prawns, Gravlax Salmon Roulade with Cream Cheese and Crab Meat and a Roasted Butternut Squash and Lobster Bisque Shooter.

The entree selection features three exquisite choices, all of which eloquently display Chaowasaree’s guilt-free and flavorful Euro-Asian fare. Choose from Spicy Lemongrass Oxtail Soup; Grilled Fresh Wild New Zealand King Salmon with Kabayaki Sauce and Spicy Pineapple; or Vegetable Terrine with Thai Green Curry Sauce.

To top it all off, White Chocolate Amore Truffle with raspberry guava puree dessert is just as tempting.

Chef Chai’s early bird menu isn’t the only innovation Chaowasaree has come up with. During magical evenings when the full moon rises — another symbol of new beginnings — the eatery will host a Monthly Full Moon Concert. The series is set to debut Thursday, Jan. 16 at 6 p.m. and will include a four-course menu prepared especially for the event ($75 per person, reservations required), as well as a performance by Robert Cazimero and Halau Na Kamalei that will commence at 7:15 p.m.

At Chef Chai, diners and dreamers alike can look forward to a fresh, scrumptious start.

Chef Chai

Pacifica Honolulu
1009 Kapiolani Blvd.
585-0011
Nightly, 4-11 p.m.
ChefChai.com
Note: Reservations are recommended.