We All Eat In A Yellow Submarine
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For us seafood lovers, there’s something about chowing down on a meal filled with plump bites of fresh ocean treasures that transports us to a “foodie utopia” of sorts, where all of our worries seem to drift away.
Perhaps it has something to do with the nautical theme of the song, but The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” always reminds me of that state of bliss, with its lyrics describing “a life of ease” aboard a whimsical, magical submarine.
Of course, listening to a tune about the ocean also leaves me craving some fresh catches, and as the culinary traditions of seaside towns around the world indicate, I am not alone in this. From great seafood stews — like France’s bouillabaisse and San Francisco’s cioppino — to other marine-inspired classics including Spanish paella and East Coast clam bakes, it’s easy to see that mixing fresh fish and crustaceans always makes for a great meal.
The aforementioned dishes are just skimming the surface of seafood delights out there. Let’s dive a little deeper into Oahu’s underwater abyss of flavors.
HERE COMES THE SEAFOOD
With images of shrimp cocktails and oyster shooters making my mouth water, it becomes crystal clear that one of the best ways to satisfy my cravings is with some chilled seafood. Don’t be surprised, however, that the place I recommend getting some is, well, a steak house.
The one I have in mind is Ruth’s Chris, where only the top-tier of USDA Prime-rated, wet-aged steaks make their way to your table, after they’ve been expertly seasoned and broiled at 1,800 degrees by executive chef Eser Domingo and his kitchen team. So when it comes to sourcing seafood for the Chilled Seafood Tower ($69 small, $138 large), Domingo says, only the same level of quality will do.
“People tend to not expect the Chilled Seafood Tower (on the menu) because we’re a steakhouse, but once they order it, they see that it’s full of nice, big pieces of seafood,” he says.
White chunks of colossal lump blue crab meat — among the most prized bites of crab — are just some of the steamed gems featured in the tower. Tender Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp and Alaskan king crab legs also join the delicious party.
According to Domingo, the tower is “contagious” in the sense that once one table orders it, other patrons can’t help but notice the impressive display of fresh fare, and before you know it, every table wants one. It’s also not uncommon for diners to order the smaller portion as an individual entree, while the larger portion is great for sharing with the whole group. But you’ll have to see for yourself whether you’re willing to share this pupu of epic proportions.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
HAPPINESS IS A WARM PASTA
You know a restaurant has made it when it’s invited to host one of a select number of prestigious dinners at the James Beard Foundation House in New York City.
Just last night, that’s exactly what executive chef Ron de Guzman and his team from Stage Restaurant were doing.
“It’s something I never thought I’d be apart of,” says the chef, modestly, as his team geared up for the trip earlier this week. But for any of us who have tried his uniquely elegant fusion of island flavors, this recognition comes as no surprise.
“We wrote a menu (for the James Beard dinner) reflecting what we do here at Stage,” explains de Guzman — and what they do is incorporate farm-fresh ingredients into an upscale presentation of modern Hawaii cuisine.
The humble chef’s culinary talents come through brilliantly in his Seafood Pasta ($45; see facing page). A large yet supple scallop tops off the clam-filled creation, while fresh Kona lobster tail and Kauai shrimp add local flair. Rather than drowning these bites in a too-rich tomato or overly creamy sauce, de Guzman allows the natural flavors of the seafood to shine instead, gently accenting them with capers, fresh herbs and a kick of chili flakes.
“It’s a lighter pomodoro sauce tossed with fresh Kamuela tomato, and the sauce is made from the clams, white wine and butter. It’s more so a seafood dish where you can really taste the ingredients,” he says.
Venture to Stage for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and be on the lookout for the James Beard menu, which de Guzman plans to share with kamaaina upon his return. He also has new dinner and tasting menus in the works — but rest assured, Seafood Pasta will remain on the lineup.
Honolulu Design Center, second floor
1250 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu