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Where Fine Flavors Take Flight

Cover Story

May 27, 2018

Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: File photos

Chef Chai at his Kapiolani Boulevard restaurant.

The early bird catcheth the worm.

This little morsel of wisdom can be traced back to the early 17th century, but its proverbial truth is demonstrated on a daily basis at Chef Chai, the Honolulu restaurant celebrated for its Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

At just $40 per person — a savings of $25 or more, depending on your choice of entree — Chef Chai’s Early Bird Special Four-Course Dinner, served every day at this popular eatery, is a spectacular bargain. Guests seated between 4 and 5 p.m. will be delighted by this four-course meal featuring some of renowned chef Chai Chaowasaree’s favorite dishes.

Pan-Roasted All-Natural Chicken with Hamakua Mushroom and Hennessy Cognac Peppercorn Sauce($40 as part of the Early Bird Special Four-Course Dinner, $30 a la carte). PHOTO BY ANTHONY CONSILLIO

“People really like the Early Bird,” says Chef Chai. “It’s a good deal for this town, and it’s perfect for people going to a show at the Blaisdell.”

Each Early Bird dinner includes a Family Style Appetizers Sampler. “This platter is one of our most popular because you get to taste a bit of everything,” says the chef. Naturally, Chai’s award-winning kataifi and mac nut crusted jumbo black tiger prawns are included in the sampler. “Technically this dish is similar to shrimp tempura, but we take it one step further by coating the shrimp with kataifi — shredded phyllo dough,” he explains.

Heart-Shaped White Chocolate Amore Truffle with Raspberry Guava Puree(part of Early bird menu)

The quartet of appetizers also includes fresh ahi katsu with Thai yellow curry sauce and wasabi; salmon gravlax roulade with cream cheese crabmeat; and gluten-free roasted butternut squash and lobster bisque shooters. “We puree squash to thicken the bisque; it’s healthier,” he says.

A new addition to the Early Bird entree choices this month, Pan-Roasted All-Natural Chicken with Hamakua Mushroom and Hennessy Cognac Pepper-corn Sauce is Chai’s take on steak au poivre. The crispily skinned chicken is served on a bed of sauteed Hamakua mushrooms with a delectably aromatic sauce, accompanied by mashed potatoes and Waialua asparagus. (Ordinarily, mushrooms don’t appear in this French classic, but Chef Chai says he added them to support local farmers.)

Family Style Appetizers Sampler (part of Early bid menu). PHOTO BY ANTHONY CONSILLIO

Also on the Early Bird entree menu: Vegetable Terrine with Green Curry Sauce, designed specifically for vegans and vegetarians. Layered with Okinawan potatoes, asparagus, roasted bell peppers, Portobello mushrooms, carrots, and kabocha, this gorgeous terrine is served with gluten-free curry made with coconut milk.

Last, but not least, Heart-Shaped White Chocolate Amore Truffle with Raspberry Guava Puree is a sweetly satisfying ending for each Early Bird meal.

Vegetable Terrine with Green Curry Sauce (entree option from Early bird menu)

Full Moon Rising

Hurry! There’s barely enough time to reserve a table for Chef Chai’s monthly Full Moon Dinner ($79) this Tuesday. In just two days, on May 29, legendary Hawaiian musician Robert Cazimero, joined by dancers Keola Makaiau and Sky Gora of Halau Na Kamalei, will perform in a wonderfully intimate dinner show at Chai’s. “The farthest table is only 30 feet away, but it’s never too noisy. No matter where you sit, it’s perfect,” says Chai. Among the evening’s unique menu options: Foie Gras Chawan Mushi with Toasted Brioche and Black Berry Manoa Honey Compote and Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom Foie Gras Puff.

King crab and lobster from the Father’s Day Buffet. PHOTO BY LAWRENCE TABUDLO

Dad-Approved Dining

Have a delicious Father’s Day when you celebrate with Chef Chai’s All-You-Can-Eat Lobster, King Crab legs and Prime Rib Buffet, set for Saturday, June 16 (dinner only); and Sunday, June 17 (brunch and dinner). The feast is priced at $79 per person (50 percent off for children under 12). The holiday spread will light up with Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, and Fresh Oysters with Spicy Lemon Grass Garlic Mignonette for starters. The entrees also will stand out with winners like Miso Sea Bass with Kabayaki Sauce and Miso Cream, and Crispy Bacon, Sausage and Scrambled Eggs (brunch only). Save room for dessert temptations such as Bread Pudding with Tahitian Vanilla Creme Anglaise and many others.

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