Come Fry With Me

Columns Ono, You Know

December 8, 2013

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Leah Friel

When comfort food cravings hit, I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of foodie who goes for savory snacks nine times out of 10. Yes, Spam musubis, pizza and guacamole are right up my alley. And during those instances when I’m dying for one of my favorite salty pleasures of all time, I’ll often roll up to the drive through window, my mouth watering with anticipation, and await those six magical words: Would you like fries with that?

That’s right, Ono readers, this week Dining Out is giving an indisputable, wholehearted “yes” to french fries! There’s just something about those warm, golden strands we’ve adored for as long as we can remember that never let us down.

Given their name, it’s only natural to assume french fries are originally, well … French. But many pommes frites fanatics believe the snack actually came from neighboring Belgium. Meanwhile, others say french fries got their name from the long, thin shape of each potato strip known as a “French cut.” These topics may be up for debate, but one thing’s certain: Diners across the globe absolutely love ’em.

As it turns out, Oahu is its own mecca of deep-fried potato madness. At the following Ono, You Know havens, burgers have taken a back seat, as spiced-up spuds steal the spotlight entirely.

Brasserie Du Vin

Inspired to get in the spirit of all things French about fries, I said bonjour to European cuisine at downtown’s Brasserie Du Vin. There, executive chef Marco Elder introduced me to Pommes Frites ($5, $2.50 happy hour), a popular appetizer.

In many ways, this dish is everything you could ask for in a set of fries. Each piece has a very dunkable and slender form, as well as a perfectly crisp exterior and warm, soft inner tater. And, of course, they’re fantastically seasoned.

“We take thyme, rosemary and sage and we blend that up with salt, so the salt actually gets that herby flavor to it, and that’s what we season the fries with,” says Elder of his French herb fleur de sel.

Pommes Frites is served with two dipping sauces: good ol’ ketchup and a roasted garlic aioli, which is made from scratch at Du Vin. When you mix the two and dip away, these spuds are out-of-control delicious.

Elder adds that the frites also are used to create another house specialty known as Moules Frites ($15 regular, $21 large). Unlike anything you’ve tried before, this European delight highlights mussels steamed in a white wine and garlic sauce, all topped with a happy heap of potato streamers.

“It’s kind of a classic Northern French, Belgian way of preparing mussels,” he says. We can all be grateful this unique and enticing approach to enjoying fries has made its way to the Islands.

Brasserie Du Vin
1115 Bethel St.

Restaurant Epic

Restaurant Epic's Crack Fries ($5)

Restaurant Epic’s Crack Fries ($5)

A trip to Restaurant Epic on Nuuanu Avenue is always exciting for food-lovers because they come away having expanded their palate horizons with an eclectic mix of contemporary fare.

In the wonderful world of fries, this translates to co-owner and head chef Brian Chan’s Crack Fries ($5), which are — you guessed it — super addicting. The hand-cut batons are prepared with Russet potatoes, an ideally starchy variety that’s perfect for making a crunchy yet remarkable fluffy fry.

Available during happy hour, Crack Fries hosts an exuberant blend of spices and seasonings that render the pupu 100 percent irresistible.

“The most fun part about Crack Fries is guessing what the 10 ingredients are inside,” says Chan, who presents patrons with this fun challenge whenever it is ordered.

With crucial help from Dining Out photographer Leah Friel, we guessed six of the 10 seasonings correctly, almost tying the customer record of seven.

Our taste buds detected cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, paprika and sugar — dehydrated brown sugar, to be exact, as Chan explained after I tasted a lovely touch of sweetness.

Just when I thought this incredible explosion of spices couldn’t get any better, I sampled Chan’s lemony roasted garlic and paprika aioli for a dining experience nothing short of epic.

If you’d like to know what the other four ingredients are in Crack Fries, you’ll have to take a stab at Chan’s exciting game for yourself!

Restaurant Epic
1131 Nuuanu Ave.

Sushi YuZu

Sushi YuZu's Organic Fried Potatoes ($7.50, $5 happy hour). Nathalie Walker photo

Sushi YuZu’s Organic Fried Potatoes ($7.50, $5 happy hour). Nathalie Walker photo

French fries come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each beautiful in its own way. When diners prefer more curvaceous taters — a la potato wedge, or British-style chip — they head to Sushi YuZu.

Open since May, the Ko Olina restaurant has quickly gained a following for its innovative Japanese-inspired fare, complete with an emphasis on local, organic ingredients.

Eager to taste Sushi YuZu’s take on full-figured fries, I devoured a plate of Organic Fried Potatoes ($7.50, $5 happy hour) in no time. To create the dish, kitchen manager Mary Julie Madarang steams red potatoes, then breaks them apart into chunky, rustic blocks that are fried to order.

“You get a big chunk of potato and it’s crispy and soft,” she says.

These free-form bites then serve as a wondrous base for a sprinkle of Hawaiian sea salt, gently accented with a hint of truffle oil.

“It’s just different,” describes Madarang. “When people look at (the dish), it’s not what they expect, but they end up enjoying it.”

While the ingredients list is short for Organic Fried Potatoes, its immense flavor speaks to the power of using such fresh and high-quality components (even the ketchup is organic).

There’s no denying that a fast-food bag of fries will always have a special place in my heart, but I’m more than ecstatic to have graduated to the fabulous flavors of these establishments’ snazzy fries.

Sushi YuZu
92-1047 Olani St. Ste. 1-101

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best