Best Of Both Worlds at Chai’s Waikiki
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By Maria Kanai
At renowned chef Chai Chaowasaree’s newest restaurant, dishes boast bold flavors from Thailand, subtle tastes from Japan and unique dishes from China, tied together with ingredients from Hawaii. The result? An East-meets-West fine dining experience patrons have come to know and love as Chai’s Waikiki Hawaiian Fusion.
Chaowasaree might not have a culinary education, but he learned from the best: his mom. Since he was 8, he helped his family run a restaurant back home in Thailand. “I was a nosy child and I always wanted to be involved and try new things,” he says. By age 10, he was accompanying his mom to the market, and by 12, he was going on his own. “The vendors would give me a good deal, and I’d learned from my mom how to pick out and buy only the freshest, best ingredients,” says Chaowasaree. “Nothing beats real world experience.”
His chic Waikiki eatery specializes in Hawaii fusion cuisine prepared with ingredients sourced from farms all around Hawaii.
Take Roasted Parker Ranch Beef Tenderloin Salad ($15), for example, which is Chaowasaree’s “all-time favorite,” featuring beef sourced from Big Island’s Parker Ranch. The thinly sliced, grass-fed beef rests under a colorful medley of baby carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Roasted peanuts add texture, mango adds sweetness, and with the tenderloin as the main event, the dish is a must-try appetizer.
The Tasting Menu ($65) is a good choice for first-timers, with Fresh Ahi Tartare in mini waffle cones as part of the appetizer course. The dish is also available on its own for $15. “The tartare is similar to the ahi poke, but we wanted to lift it up another level,” says Chaowasaree. The avocado mousse at the bottom of the cone gives a light balance to the ahi flavor.
Foie Gras Chawan Mushi ($18) is a dish that often sells out. Traditionally, chawan mushi is a savory egg custard dish that hails from Japan, usually cooked together with vegetables and small pieces of meat. At Chai’s Waikiki, you’ll instead find it made with the gourmet liver delicacy and accompanied by toasted slices of thick brioche and sweet blackberry compote.
Chaowasaree believes in taking advantage of the best Hawaii has to offer, because of the Islands’ unique status as a diverse melting pot. “I believe in the best of both worlds, and using whatever is best from each cuisine and making it your own,” says Chaowasaree.
This philosophy shines with Waialua Chocolate Wonton with ube haupia sauce ($8). The deep-fried wonton is crispy with melted, local chocolate inside, and the sauce adds a rich dimension to the chocolate with its sweet potato and coconut flavors.
Enjoy great food and savings during the Early Bird Special currently available at the restaurant from 4 to 6 p.m., when you receive 25 percent off all food.
Chai’s Waikiki Hawaiian Fusion
1910 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
Daily, 4-11 p.m.
Parking located on the second and third floors of Canterbury Place condo building