Little Bundles Of Joy
Well, I love adorable wee ones as much as the next person, but I admit the bundles of joy that I get most excited about actually are of the edible variety. Call me crazy, but I go totally gaga over my little dumplings, whether they’re yummy wonton floating inside Hong Kong-style soup, crispy morsels of fried mandoo or perfect pierogi, the Polish pot stickers I grew up eating … OK, more like devouring.
Most culinary cultures have their own form of dumpling, so Ono, You Know celebrated this recently with arguably the most universally loved type: ravioli, which hails from the Northern Italian region of Liguria (interestingly, also home to beloved pesto). I also feasted on some fanciful pockets of flavor, which prove there’s no limit to the creativity that can pop out of these doughy delights.
WRAPPED UP IN TENDER OXTAIL
When the culinary team at 3660 on the Rise needed to come up with seasonal menu items for a special event last year, they created a gourmet wonton-style dish that ended up being a hit at the party. After tweaking the recipe a bit, the dish now is on the regular menu as Braised Oxtail Ravioli ($15).
If you haven’t ventured to 3660 in a while for a taste of its Euro-Island cuisine created by executive chef and co-owner Russell Siu, it’s time to make a reservation. When you bite into this newer dish, for instance, you’ll notice that the oxtail is more tender and rich than you ever knew it could be.
Chef de cuisine Lydell Leong let me in on some of the secrets to attaining such deep flavors inside the Chinese-style dough wrapper, and it all starts with slowly braising the oxtail with Burgundy wine, garlic, mushrooms and a mirepoix ( chopped celery, onion and carrots). This not only makes the meat fall-off-the-bone tender, but it also releases an essential ingredient to this dish’s fullness: the gelatin from around the oxtail bone. As Leong explains, “It has that gorgeous mouth feel, it’s not meat, it’s not fat … it’s that extra texture that just really rounds out the whole dish, as far as flavor goes.”
These divinely cooked dumplings are drizzled with a truly sumptuous brown sauce, which is made from reducing the braising liquid even more to capture that concentrated flavor of the oxtail. Always striving to provide balance for your palate, 3660 adds puffs of sweet pea puree to the plate. “We put it together so the two flavors offset each other: You get the richness from the oxtail and it pairs with this light, fresh flavor of the sweet pea,” says the chef.
3660 reminds readers that it has four connected private rooms available for a wide range of events (both lunch and dinner), which can be opened up to accommodate anywhere from 20 to 200 people. You’ll also want to reserve a spot for the eatery’s cooking demonstration with wine pairing 6 p.m. May 25, showcasing Ahi Cake, Corn Bisque, Sauteed Veal Strips and an éclair for $75.
3660 on the Rise
3660 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki
NOT YOUR AVERAGE RAVIOLI
Within five minutes of talking to JJ Luangkhot, head chef and owner of JJ Bistro & French Pastry, it’s easy to see how he runs a successful East-meets-West fusion eatery. He constantly is bursting at the seams with creativity, often coming up with new ideas for dishes and variations on recipes, even while in casual conversation with Ono, You Know.
So it’s no surprise his menu holds some of the most unique takes on ravioli. At the moment, he’s offering two interpretations of the Italian classic, neither of which feature standard pasta pockets and sauce.
As a European-inspired dish, Cheese Ravioli with Lobster Tail ($21.95) presents house-made ravioli bursting with Parmesan, provolone, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, all made more velvety with the addition of cream. Together with garlic white wine sauce, the creaminess of the dish is an ideal accompaniment for the lobster tail towering over the ravioli.
Guests may order the dish with lobster meat on the side (rather than the full tail) for $16.95, or they can have it with two lobster tails for an additional $10.
“We have a very good lobster season coming up, so I want to give customers options,” says Chef JJ.
The chef brings his signature Southeast Asian touch to Baked Cheese Ravioli with crab and lobster meat ($18.95) by baking the cheese-filled ravioli with vegetables and seafood in a yellow curry sauce. All the ingredients are placed in a casserole dish and finished in the oven with a golden layer of melted mozzarella on top.
The dish shows that the chef is not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to bold flavor combinations. “In the past, we did this dish with a tomato base and it was too simple. For me, I like a little bit of spice, and cheese, creaminess and spice is a good combination — especially with the crab meat and lobster inside. There’s nothing wrong with that!” he says.
JJ Bistro & French Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave, Honolulu