Everything’s Comin’ Up Rosemary!

Columns Ono, You Know

April 14, 2013

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

Spring into spring with rosemary, a heat-loving herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple or blue flowers. A decorative plant often associated with the Mediterranean, rosemary needs no water (other than the humidity carried by the breeze) to live, making it an easy plant to grow and maintain.

Now, I have no green thumb whatsoever. Actually, to be clear, never leave any plant or garden in my care unless you want a rather unfortunate outcome. Yet rosemary seems like it may just stand a chance against my non-existent gardening skills, but I’m not holding my breath!

What I love most about rosemary is that its leaves, both fresh and dried, complement a wide variety of foods with its signature flavor. So, this week, in an effort to spare the life of an innocent rosemary plant, I ditched the gardening and decided to delve into remarkable rosemary masterpieces at the following Ono, You Know locations, where fare rich with rosemary always is in full bloom.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

With its exceptional Italian fare and honor system wine, Romano’s Macaroni Grill in Ala Moana Center’s Hookipa Terrace redefines your typical Italian classics by jazzing them up with top-of-the-line ingredients. Guests are treated like family amid a relaxing atmosphere, and some of the servers also take on the role of opera singers, making for an unforgettable dining experience.

Chef Nawai Kekoolani is very detail-oriented when it comes to flavoring his creations, and in a couple of entrees, rosemary is the shining star, as far as the seasoning goes.

First and foremost, Grilled Shrimp Spiedini ($17) presents robust rosemary flavors, as this dish features six zesty morsels of shrimp atop a medley of roasted vegetables doused in lemon oil.

“Eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers and roasted potatoes are garnished with garlic, rosemary, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper,” explains Kekoolani, noting that rosemary also is placed atop the dish for a finishing touch.

“We don’t go overboard with the use of rosemary because it can be overwhelming,” he adds. “We use just enough to achieve a perfect aromatic flavor that rosemary is known for.”

And as a self-proclaimed pasta addict, I am a firm believer that Macaroni Grill’s Penne Rustica ($17) is a blessing to Italian cuisine. Just imagine al dente penne pasta swimming in a decadent rosemary cream sauce, intertwined with heavenly morsels of tender chicken, shrimp and prosciutto, char-broiled to showcase an irresistible Parmesan cheese crispy exterior.

“The texture of this dish is very important, and everyone loves the rosemary cream sauce. It’s the perfect addition to the pasta,” Kekoolani says.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill
Ala Moana Center, Hookipa Terrace
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 4240

Kit n Kitchen

Keeping with the theme of rosemary, Kit n Kitchen on University Avenue pays homage to its Roasted Lamb with Rosemary — an entree infused with New Zealand influence and a flavor profile worth raving about.

Priced at $14.95, Roasted Lamb with Rosemary presents you with New Zealand leg of lamb roasted with herbs and rosemary and mixed vegetables over a bed of spaghetti or rice splashed with pepper-corn brown gravy.

The lamb takes top honors as it’s exquisitely seasoned with a blend of rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper, grilled and then seasoned once again with more rosemary and cayenne pepper.

“For a lot of people, lamb is an acquired taste. Some don’t like the gaminess of the meat, but the rosemary balances it out,” says owner Kit Yiu.

If you are a fan of a slight kick to your meal, then the bit of spice in the dish will appeal to you. There are many dimensions to this dish, and with each bite you’ll recognize a new flavor to indulge in.

“May likes to experiment with different spices and herbs,” states Yiu of his wife, who also serves as head chef.

“Bland” is something you won’t find here at Kit n Kitchen, a Eurasian eatery that pushes the boundaries on taste.

Kit n Kitchen
Varsity Center
1010 University Ave.

Chef Chai

The gods have answered my prayers with the opening of Chef Chai, a contemporary restaurant owned and operated by award-winning chef Chai Chaowasaree. The restaurant, located on the ground level of Pacifica Honolulu Building on Kapiolani Boulevard, features an avant-garde ambiance with fine Swarovski crystal pendants and glass bubbles, chandeliers and textured stone, and boasts a variety of island-fusion cuisine that is healthy.

“We use quality products. All ingredients are fresh and flavorful, and butter isn’t one of them,” says Chaowasaree, who also serves as executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines. “We have to use butter for our desserts, but you won’t find it in any other dish.”

When asked about incorporation of rosemary into his cooking, Chaowasaree points out the dish fitting for all rosemary enthusiasts — Rosemary Garlic Pork Tenderloin with Chinese Bau Buns, Hoisin and Scallions ($13).

This starter can be prepared without hoisin for gluten-free guests, and is delicious in all regards. I love the pork tenderloin, a lean meat marinated in rosemary and garlic. And to get the best deal, order these Chinese bau buns during happy hour from 9 to 11 p.m. for only $7.

“Rosemary is a great herb to work with,” Chaowasaree says, as he also reveals the benefits of rosemary, especially if you have a cold and can’t get rid of that pesky cough.

“The eucalyptus in this aromatic herb is proven to loosen chest congestion, making phlegm easier to expel,” he explains. “Rosemary also is rich in anti-inflammatory tannins, which soothe a sore throat.”

Chef Chai
1009 Kapiolani Blvd.

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best