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Ono, You Know

All That Pineapple Pizzazz

By Alana Folen Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
February 2, 2014

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The weekend calls for a drive to the North Shore for a day full of adventure that revolves around surf, fun, sun and, most importantly, food! And the route? Well, of course, that’s just as important as the destination. The best route to Haleiwa Town is the one that takes you past the pineapple fields and historic Dole Plantation, which I affectionately like to call “pineapple paradise.” Dole Pineapple Whips are to die for (whether at Dole Plantation here in the Islands or by the Tiki Room at Disneyland).

Luscious and juicy, pineapple is by far one of my must-have fruits. Offer me anything with a pineapple essence, and you may as well be my new BFF. I’m not exaggerating either. I can eat slices of pineapple until the acidity hurts my tongue, but no biggie — it’s all worth it for this liquid gold of a fruit.

If you also share a crazy love for this tropical fruit, then hop aboard the Pineapple Express! A fun-filled day to the North Shore is always a plus, but when time is of the essence and ordinary slices of the fruit just won’t do, the following Ono, You Know establishments know what’s up. The chefs at Hoku’s and Chef Chai’s are pure geniuses. This week, they shared exactly how the acidity and sweetness of the fruit can complement the most simple and savory of dishes. I’ll also give you the inside scoop on the honest to goodness best tasting pineapple I’ve ever had! Ono readers, we’ve reached pineapple perfection!

Chef Chai

Celebrity chef Chai Chaowasaree puts a whole new spin on healthy dining amid an atmosphere of casual elegance with Chef Chai at Pacifica Honolulu on Kapiolani Boulevard. The restaurant, which opened last March, is the product of Chaowasaree’s reinvention of himself, as he wanted to offer a guilt-free approach to fine dining.

Peruse the menu and you’ll notice that the majority of items don’t revolve around a lot of fats and butter. Instead, a plethora of aromatic herbs, olive oil, coconut milk, vegetables, and lean meats and seafood call your attention.

On my recent visit to Chef Chai, Chaowasaree knew that I came with every intention to devour a guilt-free meal with a great emphasis on pineapple. Two starters that I absolutely love are Kataifi and Macadamia Nut Jumbo Black Prawns with Organic Baby Greens ($13) and Sundried Tomato and Puna Goat Cheese Wontons with Pineapple Chutney (5 pieces, $13).

“Kataifi and Macadamia Nut Jumbo Black Prawns is a best-seller,” Chaowasaree says.

The prawns are amazing, but what about the pineapple? Now, that’s what I really wanted to dig into. “The prawns are served with fresh pineapple and pineapple vinaigrette,” the chef assures. “Although the majority of what we serve is extremely healthy, we do serve some things that are deep fried. The acidity of the pineapple balances out the richness of these deep-fried dishes,” he says.

As for the wontons, I hate to be biased, but this is my most adored appetizer of the bunch. Goat cheese is an acquired taste, so if you’re not a fan, then you might be hesitant to bite into these crispy wontons. However, I am a firm believer that Chaowasaree’s creation will change your mind about this somewhat gamey cheese. If after a couple of bites you become an avid fan of these savory deep-fried dumplings, then perhaps you can thank the pineapple chutney for that. Pineapple chutney, composed of diced pineapple, diced white onions, chopped red jalapeno peppers and cilantro, tops each morsel of wonton, lacing each bite with a hint of sweetness and spice that is spot-on perfect!

Finally, I must save the best for last. Here’s a secret that must be revealed. Chef Chai’s is the one and only restaurant that serves Frankie’s Nursery Honey Cream White Pineapple ($8) for dessert. While it may not sound like the most decadent of desserts with all the bells and whistles — don’t be quick to judge — this patented, locally grown pineapple is by far one of the best pineapples I’ve ever set my taste buds on. According to Chaowasaree, Frankie’s Nursery’s Mele Kalima Honey Cream pineapple has a smooth texture that is hard to come by. And I can attest to that. Each slice of pineapple melts in your mouth, and the creamy, sweet taste is a refreshing burst of flavor that’s incomparable to any fruit I’ve ever had in my life! My palate is cleansed.

Chef Chai
Pacifica Honolulu
1009 Kapiolani Blvd.
585-0011

Hoku’s

Pamper your palate at Hoku’s at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, as guests are invited to sit in the lap of luxury while dining on exquisite creations played up with Asian, Hawaiian and European flair.

Chef de cuisine Jeremy Shigekane recommends Hoku’s Innovative Sushi Platter ($19) as an eclectic appetizer selection, featuring fresh island sashimi, including ahi, kampachi, hamachi and salmon. All three varieties of sashimi are delicious. But since I’m all for pineapple, I take my chop-sticks and delve into hamachi infused with pineapple carpaccio first and foremost.

Pineapple carpaccio graces the top of each sliver of fish (5 pieces total), which adds subtle nuances of pineapple zest, a kick of red jalapeno peppers and a clean taste of chiffonade mint.

“It tastes like salsa, but the pineapple carpaccio is made to look like pickled ginger — a play off of sushi,” Shigekane explains. “The pineapple slices provide a balance of sweetness and acidity, refreshing if you will.”

To glamour up the fish even more, Shigekane does away with the traditional soy sauce, and ups the ante on his masterpiece with a drizzle of kabayaki sauce.

“We get a lot of our sashimi from Japan, but it’s important to use locally grown pineapple to give our variation of sushi an authentic local flair.

Five-star status all around, Hoku’s presents visitors and kamaaina alike with a top-tier dining experience worth investigating.

Hoku’s
The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
739-8888