Chef Chai Brings Cheers To The SeasonCover Story Features
December 11, 2016
Story By: Ali Resich |
For a dining experience that exemplifies modern elegance, one must head to Chef Chai on Kapiolani Boulevard.
The one-of-a-kind restaurant seamlessly blends inspiring Asian fusion cuisine with top-notch service and a host of special menus throughout the year, all in a chic and contemporary setting.
Though Chef Chai, which opened in 2013, feels brand new, it is steeped in the experience and expertise of renowned local chef Chai Chaowasaree, who has long dominated the restaurant scene with a host of successful restaurants, cook books, cooking shows and the like. Even before he started his career in the Islands decades ago, Chaowasaree developed his culinary chops from an early age in his hometown in Thailand, where his family operated a restaurant that is still in business to this day.
The chef’s Thai influences and lifelong relationship with cooking — he can still remember going to the market as a youngster with his mom to pick out fresh produce for their restaurant — can be experienced in the refined presentations offered at Chef Chai. The eatery specializes in a clean, healthy approach to Asian-inspired cuisine, with recipes that leave out unnecessary fat — you won’t find butter anywhere except the dessert menu — but still sing with bold flavors.
Since opening, Chef Chai has developed widely adored signature dishes such as Thai-style Ox-tail Soup with Spicy Lemon Grass Broth, and Vegetable Terrine prepared with a rich green curry.
Then, of course, there’s the classic Deconstructed Beef Tenderloin Wellington sizzling with grilled beef tenderloin and mashed potatoes in a mushroom foie gras puff pastry. Chaowasaree says he was inspired to make his own version of beef Wellington so that customers could have their individual portions of meat cooked to their liking. He puts this dish on a number of limited-edition menus, including an upcoming four-course dinner that will be served Christmas Eve ($50 a la carte; $60 as part of four-course dinner during the early bird 4:30 p.m. seating; $75 for four-course dinner after 4:30 p.m.). For the holiday, Chef Chai is giving the recipe a little twist with a sun-dried tomato and merlot demi glace.
The special Christmas Eve dinner also will offer tantalizing flavors such as Roasted Butternut Squash and Lobster Bisque with Crispy Seafood Dumpling; Pan Roasted Fresh Onaga with Creamy Hamakua Mushroom Risotto; and Rosemary Garlic Maui Nui Venison.
“The whole restaurant will be decorated and I think our Beef Wellington and Maui Nui Venison are perfect for Christmas,” says Chaowasaree.
Guests looking to host an intimate gathering will love the restaurant’s private dining room, which can accommodate up to 26 patrons and offers access to an exclusive multi-course menu. Situated a short walk away from Neal Blaisdell Center and Concert Hall, Chef Chai also has become a go-to spot for a pre-show dinner. Those who prefer to dine on the earlier side can take advantage of the eatery’s ongoing early bird special, which offers a four-course dinner for just $40 daily from 4 to 5 p.m. (this early bird menu not available Christmas Eve).
While the restaurant will be closed Christmas Day, there still is a bounty of ways to enjoy this upscale dining venue leading up to the holiday (see facing page and below for gift card promotion and Makaha Sons dinner event).
Mark your calendar for Dec. 26, when Chef Chai will host a special evening of dining and unwinding to the sweet Hawaiian melodies of special guests Makaha Sons.
Priced at $75 per person, the dinner event will hit a high note with four courses of combination appetizer platter (featuring Fresh Ahi Tartare, Foie Gras Chawanmushi and more), lamb chops and other entrée selections, and much more. Call 585-0011 to reserve your spot.
1009 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu
Nightly, 4-11 p.m.