Chef Chai’s second location going strongA La Carte Columns
April 3, 2016
Story By: Dining Out Team | Photos by: BODIE COLLINS
Since arriving in Hawaii nearly 28 years ago, Chai Chaowasaree has become one of Hawaii’s top Hawaii Regional Cuisine chefs, known for his fusion menu of culinary masterpieces that are exquisite in both presentation and taste.
His newest restaurant, Chai’s Waikiki Hawaiian Fusion, is no exception. Located at the entrance to Waikiki at Canterbury Place, across from Wailana Coffee House, the casual, elegant restaurant serves farm-to-table Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Among the local farmers he works with are Frankie’s Nursery, Aloun Farms, Nalo Farms, Ho Farms and more.
“The reason we want to serve local ingredients is we want the tourists to be able to experience what Hawaii cuisine is all about,” explains Chaowasaree.
For example, on the pupu (Hawaiian for appetizer) menu, Chaowasaree offers his take on the favorite caprese salad called Ho Farms Heirloom Cherry Tomato Burrata Caprese Salad with Roasted Big Island Beet and Aged Balsamic Reduction ($12). “It’s not like traditional caprese that uses beefsteak tomato and mozzarella cheese,” he says. “For us, we use burrata cheese and Ho Farms heirloom cherry tomato. Burrata cheese is very similar to mozzarella but the center is soft and creamy.”
For the main course, Chaowasaree recommends Grilled Rosemary Garlic Maui Nui Venison ($30-$49), featuring sautéed jumbo white beans, Ho Farms tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and merlot demi. “The venison is from Maui, and I think the venison itself is so good,” he says. “It’s very lean and very tender, not like lamb, which has a lot of fat. And it’s not gamy at all.”
Half of the menu consists of original dishes exclusive to Chai’s Waikiki, while the other half are signature dishes from the menu of Chef Chai at Pacifica Honolulu, such as Kataifi and Macadamia Nut Crusted Jumbo Black Tiger Prawns.
“Chai’s Waikiki is Hawaiian Regional Cuisine and focuses more on local ingredients and is more contemporary,” says Chao-wasaree. “The other one is Asian Fusion and focuses on more healthy, so we don’t use butter there. This one, we use butter.”
Chai’s Waikiki opened in December and occupies the space of Chaowasaree’s original restaurant Singha Thai Cuisine, which opened in 1988. He explains how Thai food was very popular at that time and only offered at a handful of places, whereas today, he counts about 44 Thai restaurants on the Island.
Chef Chai, which opened three years ago, is located at 1009 Kapiolani Blvd. across from Neal S. Blaisdell Center. In addition to running his two restaurants, Chaowasaree also serves as executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines, and continues to be in high demand for many off-site catering events.
Just for Dining Out readers, receive 25 percent off your bill when you dine before 6 p.m. and mention Dining Out (Chai’s Waikiki only).
OH, BY THE WAY
Dining Out would like to clarify Izakaya Restaurant Ko’s current special, which we listed incorrectly last week. From now until an undecided date, the Kaimuki restaurant is offering 25 percent off the entire food and drinks menu on Thursdays only, which means a discount on its full bar, including Asahi on draft and a selection of sakes and shochus.
Chai’s Waikiki Hawaiian Fusion
1910 Ala Moana Blvd. Waikiki
Daily, 4-11 p.m.
1009 Kapiolani Blvd. Honolulu
Daily, 4-11 p.m.