Sensational Seafood Buoys the Du Vin Experience
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“Wine a bit … you’ll feel better.”
It’s a succinct, yet fitting slogan emblazoned on a throwback poster behind the bar of Brasserie Du Vin that sufficiently sums up the restaurant’s entertaining dining experience, during which guests are transported half a world away.
Nestled in downtown Honolulu across from historic Hawaii Theatre, Brasserie Du Vin offers a casual, rustic environment modeled after the inviting cafes and bistros found throughout the French countryside. In addition to a full indoor bar and seating area, the restaurant features a quiet outdoor patio resembling a quaint French setting, where diners can escape the hustle and bustle of the city that surrounds them.
Chef Marco Elder works tirelessly to enhance and craft Brasserie Du Vin’s evolving menu, and recently introduced fresh oysters and caviar available Wednesday and Thursday evenings, respectively, from 6 to 8 p.m. Elder explains that the oysters are so fresh, the decadent treats go from the ocean Tuesday afternoon to being packed in ice and shipped to the Islands in time for Wednesday’s dinner service.
“The freshness of these oysters is phenomena;, that’s why I love working with them,” explains Elder, who worked his way up through a small fine-dining restaurant in Maine before supplementing his repertoire with culinary training at The Art Institute of Colorado. “When it comes to seafood, and especially oysters, you need to enjoy a fresh product.”
Elder explains that he first enjoyed oysters as a 15-year-old student on break from boarding school in Cape Cod, Mass., along with a friend and his friend’s father. The chef, who grew up in South America in the Andes Mountains, explains that his buddy’s dad simply reached into the ocean, pulled out an oyster and shucked it with a Swiss Army knife — and the rest is history.
A frequently asked question fielded by Elder at the Oyster Bar usually revolves around whether or not oysters serve as aphrodisiacs. The chef explains that oysters contain high levels of zinc — a key contributor to boosting testosterone. He also tells diners that, from a mythological standpoint, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, was said to have risen out of the ocean in an oyster shell — an image that has been portrayed through art for centuries.
The Wednesday evening Oyster Bar features the freshest selections available at market price, and usually range between $3 and $3.50 apiece. During Dining Out‘s recent visit, Elder featured three distinct oyster varieties: Kumamoto oysters, which are smaller, a desirable quality among oyster varieties, imported from Humboldt Bay, Calif., and offer a melon finish; Fanny Bay oysters, which are beach-raised in British Columbia and have a cucumber finish; and Goose Point oysters., which are tray-raised in Willapa Bay, Wash., and feature a mellow, fruity finish with a strong, briny start.
The ever-popular Oyster Shooters (market price) are also available, and feature three crafted flavor combinations paired with a fresh oyster. The shooters are composed of champagne and hack-leback sturgeon caviar; rose petal mignonette steeped in vinegar coupled with honey, cracked pepper and shallots; and lilikoi ceviche that pairs the sweetness of fruit with the tartness of lime.
“Luscious Caviar” takes the spotlight Thursday evenings, and customers may indulge in American Hackleback Sturgeon Caviar ($30) served traditionally over ice alongside finely diced boiled egg whites, capers, creme fraiche, red and green onion and eight blinis. The caviar can be paired with a cold glass of Chandon brut sparkling wine or a super-chilled glass of Russian vodka ($13 each).
“For people who haven’t enjoyed caviar, I choose hackleback as a more approachable variety — both cost-wise and when it comes to taste,” says Elder, who enters his sixth year as a member of Brasserie Du Vin’s heart of the house staff, and was elevated to lead the kitchen roughly three years ago. “It’s a bit milder than some of the caviars, such as beluga, which can have a very strong fish flavor. I would consider it a beginner’s caviar.”
Diners are also invited to join Brasserie Du Vin at 6 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 24, for its Monthly Wine Dinner ($65 per person; gratuity not included, reservations recommended). Patrons are treated to a four-course dinner menu that features a specific wine paired with each dish and information from guest speaker Jeremy Sylva from Young’s Market Company. Menu highlights include Aji de gallina, braised chicken in a creamy sauce over cilantro rice and stewed carrots, which is accompanied by Domaine Carneros Brut NV.
“We offer a fun dining experience, and we’re all about encouraging that laid-back, relaxed community feel. People often spark up a conversation with those dining at tables next to them,” Elder says. “It’s all about popping a bottle of wine and enjoying the company of friends and family. We have a great happy hour, and it’s an excellent way to check us out.”
Brasserie Du Vin offers happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m., during which diners can enjoy drink specials and a special food menu. To find out about other special events and happenings, log on to BrasserieDuVin.com and sign up for the restaurant’s e-newsletter.
Brasserie Du Vin
1115 Bethel St., Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Dinner: 4 p.m.-closing,
Happy Hour: 4-6 p.m. Closed Sundays