California Dreamin’ With Cioppino
Listen up, seafood aficionados: I’ve got a dish in store for you that you’re going to fall for, hook, line and sinker!
There are many a great fish stew out there, from the golden, garlic-filled bouillabaisse of France to the Moqueca de Peixe of Brazil, enhanced with tropical fish and coconut milk. Perhaps my favorite version of these seafood specialties is Cioppino, which brings an ocean’s worth of flavors and salt water-kissed ingredients together in one pot simmering with rich wine and tomato flavorings.
At first glance, from its name and key flavors, I assumed Cioppino was a dish from Italy. Interestingly, however, it does have Italian ties, but its origin actually is San Francisco Bay, where Italian immigrants are said to have come up with the stew using fresh catches such as Dungeness crab commonly found in the area.
So this week, I’ll be taking my cue from Otis Redding and “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” to find some jaw-dropping Cioppino at a number of Ono, You Know favorites.
BEACHHOUSE AT THE MOANA
Spending an evening at Beachhouse at the Moana always is a sincere pleasure, not only because you are dining in one of Waikiki’s most historic and beautiful destinations, but also because of the remarkable talent executive sous chef David Lukela brings to the menu.
I normally seek out the chef’s high-quality steaks — which rival those at Honolulu’s best steak houses — but on my last visit, I had to indulge my seafood cravings.
Lukela recently revamped the eatery’s Cioppino ($38) recipe to be more “traditional and straightforward.” The San Francisco-style dish highlights everything from king and snow crab to prawns, Hokkaido scallop and mussels. There’s also seasonal local fish — ehu (red snapper) when I came — in the beyond heavenly tomato and bell-pepper broth. The flavors absolutely blossom in this broth, with freshness you can taste.
When asked what gives the Cioppino its authentic California cool, Lukela explains, “It’s a little chunkier and shellfish-based, so I actually use clam broth and a little bit of lobster as the base to create a little bit more depth.”
Patrons will be interested to know that Lukela will be preparing a very special four-course dinner for platinum and gold-table holders at the upcoming For the Love of Jimmy event, a benefit concert for the Jimmy Borges Endowed Scholarship Saturday, Jan. 30, at Moana Surfrider. For more information about the event or to purchase a table, call Moana Surfrider Executive Office at 923-2828.
Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa
2365 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki
I’ve got Scott McKenzie’s 1960s hit in my head, which goes something like, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” And as I seek out the best Cioppino, luckily I don’t have to fly all the way to the Golden Gate City to find more great versions of the dish.
Another must-try resides right here at home in Chinatown at Restaurant Epic, where classic comfort food with upscale touches and hints of ethnic flair always is on the menu.
From lamb, short ribs and burgers to pasta and seafood, there’s plenty to choose from, but ask general manager David Chang what one of the most epic menu item is, and he’ll point you in the direction of Cioppino ($23 during dinner; add pasta for $1).
He explains that ever since the eatery updated the recipe, patrons have been raving about the creative spin Epic puts on the traditional dish. The entrée makes quite a splash with a unique and delicious mix of seasonings — from fennel and paprika to celery salt — which are known to blend well with seafood. Customers can dive into shrimp, mussels, crab and clams in a tomato sauce that’s a little thicker than the usual broth-like stews.
With a burst of fresh lemon and scallop right on top, as well as fabulous bread adornments, this light entrée has a beautiful presentation. Chang adds that the chunky style of preparation allows patrons to see the ingredients that make up their meal — a definite plus.
The eatery reminds guest to check out its popular happy hour, served Monday through Friday, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
1131 Nuuanu Ave., Chinatown