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‘Krazy’ About Kabocha

Ono, You Know

June 3, 2018

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

The editor feels that life is but a dream within Stage’s new interior, and the Roasted Kabocha appetizer only makes things better.

If you’re looking for a new, healthy ingredient to fall in love with, look no further than kabocha, aka Japanese pumpkin. Now, you may be wondering why I’m telling you to munch on a winter squash as we head into summer vacation, but the truth is that this rustic vegetable is enjoyed year-round here in the Islands, and can be found in recipes warm and refreshing alike.

I suspect kabocha’s popularity has something to do with its naturally sweet flavor and starchy texture, both akin to a sweet potato, as well as the sustenance that comes from devouring such a hearty bite. Perhaps the most comforting veggie around, kabocha is frequently incorporated into traditional Japanese cuisine, so it’s no surprise that it has been infused into Hawaii’s palate as well.

With that said, I’ve got some kabocha treats with a twist coming right up:

KABOCHA TAKES CENTER STAGE

Ono, You Know was delighted to check out the new and improved Stage Restaurant this week, where a little something called Roasted Kabocha ($12) is emblematic of the fresh, earthy feel of the newly renovated dining space.

Stage’s Roasted Kabocha ($12)

Executive chef Ron de Guzman agrees that kabocha brings the comfort factor, perfect for the more casual, approachable bites on his latest menu revamp. Diners can rest assured, though, that the chef’s knack for creating a gourmet fusion of island flavors is still alive and well.

In the kabocha appetizer, goat cheese serves as a rich, savory contrast to the roasted vegetable, whose sweetness is enhanced with a drizzle of Big Island honey.

“It’s a play on using local ingredients and flavors, the ingredient being the goat cheese from Sweet Land Farm (in Waialua), and the flavor being kabocha,” says deGuzman, who grew up eating the pumpkin in his mom’s Filipino stews.

A fresh garden of arugula, quinoa and delicate, edible flowers top the dish and mirror the whimsically decorated restaurant, complete with natural tones and green, nature-driven motifs that make you feel as though you’re dining in a fairytale forest.

Open for dinner on the second level of Honolulu Design Center, Stage still offers favorites like Beef Wellington, but also is constantly evolving with new goodies to try, such as Twice Cooked Braised Pork Belly with ume puree, corn and pickled onions. The renovation also extends to Amuse Wine Bar next door, as well as the café space on the ground floor level that’s open for lunch.

PUMPED UP FOR PUMPKIN

Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant is known for pleasing taste buds with delicious Hong Kong-style fare and traditional Chinese cuisine, but the Ala Moana Center restaurant also continues to keep diners on their toes by coming up with a range of fusion-filled menu items and specials.

Jade Dynasty’s Kabocha and Lap Cheong Fried Rice ($15.95) LAWRENCE TABUDLO PHOTO

Enter the eatery’s current special, Kabocha and Lap Cheong Fried Rice ($15.95). According to general manager Gary Lam, this sizzling showcase was inspired by the pumpkin mochi fried rice offered on Jade Dynasty’s Chinese-infused Thanksgiving menu over the last few years.

For this special, the dish has been adapted from the mochi rice recipe to offer a fluffy mound of perfectly cooked rice spotted black mushrooms and egg to accompany the kabocha and Chinese sausage.

“The lap cheong is more on the salty side, and the pumpkin is on the sweet side, so you get two different tastes in this well-balanced fried rice,” shares Lam.

If you love this dish — and I’m confident you will — then you’ll surely adore Jade Dynasty’s upcoming Father’s Day Buffet, which will overflow with a unique mix of dim sum, prime rib and seafood, among other specialties. Lam also notes that in honor of the Dragon Boat Festival June 18, the restaurant is currently selling joong, a stuffed mochi rice treat traditionally enjoyed during the festival season. Available for dine in or takeout, the eatery’s version is filled with abalone and pork belly.

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