If you’re cruising through the North Shore with your windows down, you’ll probably catch a faint whiff of garlic swirling through the air, just as you drive past the row of shrimp trucks lining the street in Kahuku. The mesmerizing aroma is reminiscent of our favorite crustacean to devour here on Oahu, which we love piled high on top of rice with copious amounts of the ever-so-coveted G-word.
It seems there’s no better match made in foodie heaven than shrimp and garlic, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t always have to head north to get it. If I’m unable to escape to the country when a craving hits, I know I can rely on some of my favorite chefs in town to enlighten me with their gourmet touches on this classic pairing — all while dining in the lovely confines of a restaurant setting.
One thing you’ll notice is that the terms shrimp and prawn are used interchangeably on many restaurant menus, as is the case with our flavorful finds here:
Most Americans associate Australian-style shrimp with the popular phrase “shrimp on the barbie,” a reference to throwing some shrimp on the barbecue, or barbie, as it’s called Down Under. But what’s incongruous about the saying is that Australians actually refer to shrimp as prawns.
You can see that at Bills Hawaii, the local outpost of Australian restaurateur Bill Granger’s international group of restaurants, where Prawn and Chili Linguine ($19) delights patrons on a daily basis. And regardless of what you call the seafood in this dish, it’s fantastically tasty!
In keeping with the eatery’s fresh, farm-to-table concept, executive chef Lucas Wood-den and his kitchen team make all of their sauces in house. For this one, they bring together fresh chilies from Fresno, California, and garlic for just the right amount of seasoned spice. White wine offers depth of flavor to the slathering, while butter and a splash of pasta water thicken it up. What I love about this entree is that it’s creamy without being heavy. “It has a light, buttery sauce,” confirms Woodden. “We then finish the dish with arugula and lemon to brighten it up and give it some body and textural differences.”
According to president Masa Kobayashi, this prawn pasta is very popular in Bills’ Japan locations. Granger also has restaurants in England, Korea and, of course, Australia, where it all started.
The Waikiki brunch spot, which opened in March 2014, recently debuted the company’s new international menu with standouts such as avocado toast for breakfast, and steak, rib and salmon entrees for lunch and dinner. Chefs from Bills restaurants around the world traveled to London earlier this summer to learn the new recipes from Granger himself.
But loyal fans need not worry — all of the favorites remain on the menu, from melt-in-your-mouth ricotta hotcakes served with bananas, to avocado tuna poke. And don’t forget to check out happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m.
280 Beachwalk Ave., Waikiki
3660 ON THE RISE
When in need of an upscale dining experience rooted in comforting local flavors, look no further than 3660 on the Rise. Distinguished executive chef Russell Siu and his culinary crew have been a delicious force in Euro-Island cuisine since the restaurant debuted at the foot of Wilhelmina Rise in 1992.
For a while now, customers have fawned over Crispy Garlic Scallion Prawns ($14), which features plump and juicy pieces of seafood quickly fried for a bit of crisp. The shrimp are then combined with toasted garlic and scallions for savory layers of flavor, which are then nicely contrasted with a sweet drizzle of honey chili aioli. And for extra texture, fried spinach is the perfect finishing touch.
“I like using prawns on the menu because they offer our diners another seafood option. We try to let the flavor of the prawns prevail, accented with the other flavors of the garlic, scallion and a little spice,” says chef de cuisine Lydell Leong.
He adds that shrimp is, in many ways, a chef’s dream ingredient. “Prawns are a good product to work with because of the numerous ways they can be cooked. They combine nicely with different flavors and cooking methods,” he says. “They are tasty when prepared simply to retain flavor, but also are easily adaptable to different inspirations.”
In honor of its 24th anniversary this month, 3660 on the Rise is offering 30 percent off bottles of wine through Sept. 10.
Additionally, there will be a four-course favorites menu priced at $48 from Sept. 11 to 24. Then, for the tail end of the celebratory month (Sept. 25-30), patrons who spend $50 on food and beverages will receive a $24 gift certificate. Some restrictions apply, so call the restaurant at 737-1177 for more details.
3660 on the Rise
3660 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki