Trying – And Loving – Escargot
With Christmas in sight, the time of year for celebratory feasts is upon us, presenting the perfect opportunity to try a delicacy reserved for special occasions — something like escargot.
Now, if you’ve never tried this snail specialty before, I know what you’re thinking, and trust me, I was reluctant to order it at first too. But the truth is, escargot has long been cherished in France, Spain and Portugal, and for good reason. It has a beautifully delicate flavor that actually reminds me of seafood, seeing as the land snail is part of the mollusk family. That means if you like oysters, opihi, abalone, scallops or other mollusks, you’re bound to enjoy escargot as well!
Still not convinced? Take a look at these three tips for giving escargot a go. I’m confident you won’t regret it.
1. Don’t overthink it
2. Keep it classic at Hy’s Steak House
Let’s go on this escargot adventure with an open mind, without focusing on the snail label. After all, this is a high-quality farmed-raised food item that is produced much the same way as some of our other favorite foods, like oysters or abalone.
The best way to try any delicacy is to start with a traditional rendition, and you can find an amazing Escargot a la Hy’s ($16.95 for six) at Hy’s Steak House. The iconic Waikiki eatery gives the same attention to detail to this widely adored appetizer as it does to its succulent kiawe wood-broiled USDA Prime steaks.
Like all of Hy’s menu items, the escargot dish is rooted in classic preparations. The eatery enhances our star ingredient with a special butter mixture consisting of blue and Parmesan cheeses and Dijon mustard, which provide a gorgeous golden sizzle when cooked in the oven at 450 degrees. Shallots, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice round out the quintessential seasonings, and you can soak up the remaining mouthwatering butter sauce with fresh bread.
“I always encourage people to try Escargot a la Hy’s once. If you don’t like it, then we can always find something else that you like, but people come here because that’s what we’re known for,” says executive chef Justin Inagaki. “Recently, I talked to a couple here from France. They said they dine all over the world, and that this was the closest escargot that they could get to their mom’s (recipe).”
And to go along with such a magnificent starter, the restaurant’s four certified sommeliers can recommend an outstanding bottle of wine.
Hy’s Steak House
2440 Kuhio Ave., Waikiki
ON THE SIDE
Hy’s Steak House will have adjusted hours (opening at 4 p.m. daily) and suspended happy hour during the holidays until Jan. 2. Next year, look forward to a special menu with wine pairings for Valentine’s Day, which will be oﬀered in addition to the regular menu.
‘Tis the season to feast on JJ’s traditional Yule Log cake. Light yet moist, the cake is oﬀered in Chocolate Mocha, Chocolate Chocolate or Chocolate Raspberry fl avors (8-inch for $35; 12-inch for $45; 18-inch for $55; and 24-inch for $75). Individual Chocolate Chocolate pieces also are available for $5.95.
3. Get creative at JJ Bistro & French Pastry
Head chef and owner JJ Luangkhot is known for taking classic dishes and putting a fusion-filled spin on them, and he does exactly that with his unique — and utterly delicious — Escargot ($9.95 for five pieces) at JJ Bistro and French Pastry.
The chef always is open to customer feedback, but says he hasn’t needed to change the recipe for this pupu since he introduced it 15 years ago because customers continue to rave about it.
In an effort to avoid making his take on escargot too oily, the chef uses roasted garlic — which is slow-cooked overnight — and heavy cream for his sauce, which he adds to the dish after sautéing the escargot. He tucks the pieces of escargot into French bread, along with blue cheese for an extra burst of flavor.
This creamy creation is balanced with lively veggies, and tastes amazing in combination with the savory bread.
“Escargot is nothing to be afraid of,” says the chef, adding that it has a very mild and smooth flavor. Luangkhot familiarized himself with escargot while learning the basics of French cuisine at the onset of his career in New York City. Just as he has done with other dishes, he has taken this old-school ingredient and used his creativity to come up with an artful and one-of-a-kind presentation of it — one you have to try!
JJ Bistro & French Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave., Honolulu