Making Christmas Merry

Cover Story Features

December 7, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio

Every December, Chai Chaowasaree spends his workday making sure everything from the atmosphere to the food is perfect at his namesake restaurant Chef Chai, located on the ground level of Pacifica Honolulu on Kapiolani Boulevard. Enter the 4,100-square-foot establishment, and along with Swarovski crystal pendants, glass bubbles and chandeliers, you’ll be greeted by a giant Christmas tree, shimmering with lights and decked out in ornaments. The clean and contemporary look and feel of the restaurant exudes modern elegance, while Christmas accents provoke warmth and coziness.

“We’re always booked during the holidays. In fact, we’ve decided to open the restaurant earlier in the afternoon just to cater to private parties,” says celebrity chef and owner Chai Chaowasaree, as he points out the private room capable of seating up to 28 people. “Many companies and businesses already are hosting holiday parties, and we expect more to come as it gets closer to Christmas.” Come 4 p.m., Chef Chai opens its doors to the general public, and guests are treated to an avant-garde meal and the best of wine and cocktails from the full bar.

Originally from Thailand, Chaowasaree is an award-winning chef who brings a signature touch of Asian influence and refinement into his culinary repertoire, which is heavily focused on fresh ingredients and nutritional value. Chef’s holiday favorites include Beef Tenderloin Wellington ($45), a hearty composition of 9-ounce tender filet doused with merlot demi glace, topped with a mushroom foie gras truffle-filled puff pastry, and accompanied by mashed potatoes and baby vegetables.

“I also recommend Duck a L’Orange ($36), which debuts today, featuring French-style duck with crispy skin and cranberry kumquat demi,” says Chaowasaree, who adds that Waialua Chocolate Crunch Bar ($9) served with fresh berries is a marvelous dessert option.

Under the direction of Chaowasaree, Chef Chai naturally has succeeded in the restaurant industry. Recently, the restaurant was named “Honolulu’s Hottest Restaurant” by Zagat Survey. And like its predecessors Singha Thai Cuisine in Waikiki and the former Chai’s Island Bistro in Aloha Tower Marketplace, Chef Chai has a loyal fan base. Upon the closing of Chai’s Island Bistro, Chaowasaree reinvented himself with Chef Chai. Now, he’s at it again. This time, Singha Thai Cuisine has transformed into Chai’s Waikiki Market and Cafe. Located on the same premises, 1910 Ala Moana Blvd. in Waikiki, Chai’s Waikiki Market and Cafe presents a relaxing dining experience, offering patrons island favorites at an affordable price.

“Everything on the menu costs between $10 and $15. Visitors to the Islands watch what they spend, and most of all they want to try what kamaaina like to eat. Now they can have genuine local food, such as beef stew, chicken bahn mi, pork guisantes, saimin, oxtail soup and kalua pig,” explains Chaowasaree.

The restaurant is designed so that customers can choose to dine in or grab and go at their convenience. Supporting and strengthening his partnership with Hawaii’s local farmers and fishermen is top priority for Chaowasaree, so locally grown ingredients, including organic Big Island baby greens, are incorporated into each dish as much as possible.

The Islands’ best also is showcased within the restaurant’s marketplace, where Chaowasaree personally selects all items for sale, such as 100 percent raw, organic Manoa honey, Frankie’s Nursery local pineapple, Kahuku papaya, Nori’s chocolate mochi cake and cookies, Hauoli salted candied pecans, Hawaiian dried fruit medley and more. Chaowasaree’s own line of pineapple cake derived from his mother’s recipe also is for sale.

Each item is beautifully packaged in locally inspired bags and boxes.

“Chai’s Waikiki Market and Cafe was six months in the making, but it’s now open just in time for Christmas. Our specialty items make great gifts and they represent a piece of Hawaii,” says the chef.

“No matter how successful you are, you have to look at things from a broader perspective. If you need to, reinvent yourself and change with the times. We’re looking forward to a very special holiday season.”

Chef Chai

Pacifica Honolulu
1009 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu
Nightly, 4-11 p.m.
Happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m.
Note: Inquire within about gift certificates valued at $50 now available for $40.

Honolulu, HI 96814

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best