Gorgeous Food, Flavors
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As Dining Out enters four-month-old Chai’s Waikiki Hawaiian Fusion, owner and renowned chef Chai Chaowasaree is trimming red ginger flowers, which will be on display throughout the restaurant that night. The vibrant red stands out against the establishment’s classically simple décor, which perfectly mirrors the elegance and precision of Chef Chai’s cuisine.
“Everything we do is about presentation, color, flavor and texture,” Chef Chai recites like a mantra. Such words become truth with dishes like Roasted Parker Ranch Beef Tenderloin Salad ($15). Thin slices of roasted beef are spread out on the plate, with chunks of cucumber, mango, Ho Farms tomatoes, Aloun Farms onions and roasted peanuts arranged on top. Edible viola flowers are added, alongside basil and other herbs from Chef Chai’s garden outside of the restaurant. The colorful salad is mixed with a lemon grass garlic vinaigrette and tossed at your table.
“I could eat this every day,” Chef Chai says, as he tosses the salad himself.
When asked what inspires his recipes, he says, “We start with local ingredients, and from there, we try to achieve a more modern, contemporary presentation, with some Thai influences, too.” This concept is what sets Chai’s Waikiki apart from the owner’s second restaurant, Chef Chai off of Kapiolani Boulevard. Both, however, offer gluten-free and vegetarian options, and each succeeds in delivering beautiful, quality fare.
Chef Chai describes the venison he uses in his Grilled Rosemary Garlic Maui Nui Venison ($30 small, $49 large) as lean, tender and mouthwateringly good. In this dish, a small portion gives diners one venison chop, as opposed to the large portion with two. Jumbo white beans are sautéed with mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, and a rich, deep-hued merlot demi glace accompanies the meat. Fried parsnip provides the missing crunchy texture to the dish, and all is as it should be, according to the chef and culinary mastermind.
Chai’s Waikiki Hawaiian Fusion
1910 Ala Moana Blvd., Waikiki
Nightly, 4-11 p.m. Early bird special, 4-6 p.m., 25 percent off entire food menu