A Dining Explosion for Fathers

Cover Story Features

May 25, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio

The spaciously modern dining area at Chef Chai offers a contemporary look and feel. Light and glass accents of Swarovski crystal pendants, glass bubbles and chandeliers complement the casual elegance of this 4,100-square-foot establishment. Interior designer Sukamorn Chuen Yee also incorporated textured stones to play up the ambiance. The kitchen, run by master chef Chai Chaowasaree, turns out island fusion that’s as equally impressive as the ambiance — both invigorating to the senses.

At Chef Chai, on the ground level of Pacifica Honolulu on Kapiolani Boulevard, Chaowasaree’s cooking encompasses Asian influences and focuses more heavily on nutritional value than what he accomplished at Chai’s Island Bistro, which has closed. While the chef’s use of quality ingredients is limitless at Chef Chai, he’s noticeably missing one ingredient: butter. A reinvention of his culinary craft, Chaowasaree proves that fats and butter are not integral assets to tasty cuisine. Selective with his choices, Chef opts for coconut milk instead of heavy whipping cream, relies on the leanest cuts of meat and olive oil, and is generous with an eclectic variety of herbs and spices.

The private dining room sets the mood for an intimate dinner for two, as does the outside patio area. And the full bar is the perfect amenity to wine and dine with friends over cocktails during pau hana or a night out on the town.

Come Father’s Day, June 15, the marble bar will transform into a lavish buffet line for both brunch and dinner ($69 per person, half-off for children ages 12 and under). Brunch service runs from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with dinner beginning at 4:30 and wrapping up at 8 p.m.

“Our Mother’s Day brunch and dinner buffets were a huge success. In fact, on Mother’s Day, we went through 250 pounds of lobster meat as well as 250 pounds of crab legs,” says Chaowasaree, who notes that Grilled Lobster with drawn butter and Sambal lemon sauce, and Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs also will be available Father’s Day. “Guests are pleasantly surprised because we crack the shell for you, alleviating you from all the work.”

The all-you-can-eat buffet boasts appetizers, soup and salads for starters.

“Fresh Oysters on Ice with Spicy Garlic Mignonette is definitely worth a try,” says Chaowasaree. “Small Kumamoto oysters are the best of the best.”

Fresh Ahi Sashimi with Soy Wasabi, Gravlax Salmon with Lemon Dill Cream and Caper Berries, Roasted Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad, along with Roasted Butternut Squash and Lobster Bisque Soup are a mere glimpse of what’s to come.

Unlike your predictable buffet options, Chaowasaree likes to keep his patrons guessing. Not to be outshadowed by epic proportions of grilled lobster and king crab legs are Grilled Fresh Local Fish with Thai Red Curry Sauce and Fresh Basil, Mongolian Style Lamb Chops with Brandy Demiglace, Braised Boneless Beef Shortribs with Kabocha Pumpkin and crispy bacon, sausage and scrambled eggs (brunch only), as well as country-style potatoes and steamed rice.

The celebrity chef, who has logged time and experience in the culinary realm, admits to having no formal training, but says he was exposed to the restaurant industry at an early age: His parents operated a family-owned eatery in Thailand. Perhaps Chaowasaree’s ability to play up vibrant flavors, colors and textures with such expertise and precision is an innate God-given talent, so, it comes as no surprise that this award-winning restaurateur also serves as executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines.

Of course, it’s only fitting that Chef Chai’s Father’s Day buffet ends on a sweet note, complete with selections of famed Peanut Butter Almond Cake, Chocolate Decadence Mousse Cake, Green Tea Tiramisu, Chocolate Marble Cup with Cheesecake and Fresh Raspberry and Roasted Pineapple Macadamia Nut Tart.

“We only present a buffet spread twice a year. We take pride in the quality of our dishes. We give it our all,” says Chaowasaree.

Space is limited for Chef Chai’s Father’s Day feast, so call ahead to make reservations.

“We also want patrons to take advantage of our regularly offered happy hour from 9 to 11 nightly. All appetizers are half-priced, and there are lots of drink specials,” states Chaowasaree, mentioning that diners also should inquire about the restaurant’s Early Bird Special Four-Course Dinner, a meal for two ($40 per person) from 4 to 6 p.m.

Chef Chai

Pacifica Honolulu
1009 Kapiolani Blvd.
Open Nightly, 4-11 p.m.
Note: Reservations are recommended

Honolulu, HI 96814

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