Starters Defined By Decadence

Columns Pupu Picks

April 14, 2013

Story By: Steve Murray | Photos by: Leah Friel

The word to best describe the appetizers at Beachhouse at the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa is “decadent.” Sure, fresh, light and flavorful all work as an accurate commentary on the menu, but none more accurately describes the richness and special nature of the chosen items.

Beachhouse is a steakhouse with something extra. Set apart from its heavy wooded counterparts, Beachhouse is open and airy, and has a menu that embraces steakhouse tradition, but isn’t afraid to try something new.

“Since we are a steakhouse, the main entree portion of the menu is the classic ribeye, the New York and cuts like that,” says chef de cuisine William Chen. “Where we have leeway and where we have our fun is with the appetizers and desserts, where we branch out with things that are more eclectic.”

He’s succeeded.

Foie Gras Toast ($25) begins with seared foie gras topped with caramelized cippolini onions with thyme. The combination is stacked on a toasted baguette and accompanied with a fresh parsley salad, toasted almonds, blackberries, pickled shallots, and finished with a blackberry jam puree. If you haven’t had much foie gras, blackberry sauce may seem like a strange pairing, but it’s a classic French presentation, and one that provides a sweet and even slightly acidic flavor that balances the richness of the foie gras. The fact that the foie gras is seared and therefore slightly rare, also adds to the special nature of the dish.

Chen favors food that is simple in appearance, but maxes out in technique and the careful use of ingredients. Two fine examples of this are Hamachi Crudo ($15) and Roasted Bone Marrow ($14). Both dishes celebrate the quality of the ingredients.

The sashimi-grade hamachi is simple and clean. Chen highlights the fish with a house-made white ponzu sauce, yuzu and a garnish of wasabi kazami (chopped wasabi stem), which seasons the hamachi without the traditional heat associated with the root. Topped with fresh rice crackers and herbs, it’s how a sashimi dish should be — simple, fresh and with a subtle surprise.

Popular in gastropubs in the continental U.S. and Canada, bone marrow is just starting to make inroads into local restaurants. Rich and buttery in flavor and texture, the dish fits into Chef Chen’s food philosophy. It’s traditional, straightforward, rustic and, most importantly, tasty.

The five-inch beef shanks are baked, seasoned with French sea salt, topped with a gremolata and served with a toasted baguette. That’s it, simple and delicious. Chen even has a suggestion about what to do with the marrow containers when finished: bone luging. Bone luging is done by pouring liquor, such as whiskey or tequila, into the bone cavity then sipping it out. The alcohol mixes with the fat of the marrow to create an entirely new flavor and the warm bones help to aerate the liquid.

One final pupu to ponder is Lump Crab Cake ($19). This appetizer has Chef Chen written all over it. Maryland blue and Alaskan king crab are combined with panko, Japanese mayo and chopped herbs then seared. The whole thing is presented with a red pepper rouille, a salad of fresh frisee and heart of palm, and garnished with an Asian-style guacamole.

Chen says the goal was to match the East coast variety of crab cakes he grew up enjoying. Regarding the accuracy of the dish, I cannot say. But, if his goal was to make a naturally-flavored and moist crab cake free of unnecessary additives, he’s succeeded. Unlike so many others, you can actually identify the crab in Chef Chen’s crab cakes. The delicate meat isn’t beat up and smothered in some unflavorful binding agent, it’s handled gently and the care shows. Fabulous, like everything else here.

Beachhouse at the Moana

Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa
2365 Kalakaua Ave.
Open daily, 5:30-10 p.m.
Note: Free self parking at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. Free valet parking at Moana Surfrider.

Honolulu, HI 96815

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best