Coupe de foie gras

Columns What's Cooking?

March 1, 2015

Story By: Rachel Breit | Photos by: Rachel Breit

You’re off to a good start no matter which appetizer you choose at 3660 On the Rise, a restaurant renowned for its Pacific Rim cuisine. This week, the amiable chef de cuisine Lydell Leong filled me in on how the restaurant’s passion for combining Asian and European ingredients, and preparations translates into exquisite eats. Let’s dig right in.

Crispy Garlic Scallion Prawns ($13.75) began as a one-off for a special event, but the succulent, lightly floured and deep-fried prawns paired with crispy garlic proved too irresistible to leave off the regular menu.

Underlying the dish’s success is a bed of spinach, though not how you would expect it to be presented. When Leong was “tinkering” with the original plating of the dish, he asked executive chef Russell Siu for some suggestions.

“He might have even been busy, knee-deep in something else,” says Leong. “He didn’t stop, he just looked and said, ‘Fried spinach.’ And I said, ‘What? I don’t understand.’ He said, ‘Take some spinach, put it in the fryer.’ It worked. It blew my mind.” Who knew you could deep fry this leafy green? With such a delicate brittleness, it’s something I look forward to enjoying more of.

Crispy Five-Spice Kurobuta Pork Belly ($8.50) features the heritage pork breed, also known as Berkshire, that Leong attests is the “Kobe beef” of pork. It’s more richly marbled than typical commercial pork, which results in meat of unparalleled tenderness and juiciness even after long cooking times. To take advantage of these attributes, Leong oven braises the pork belly in sherry, stock, star anise, ginger and citrus for three hours. “I let that cool overnight because it’s so soft and almost falls apart. I have to let it firm up before I can cut it,” he says.

The belly receives a dusting of five-spice salt before it’s stuffed inside steamed bao buns with baby cilantro. Instead of saucing the buns with hoisin, Leong takes the beloved condiment and turns it into a vinaigrette for the accompanying Asian slaw. Also on the side, colorful shrimp chips fresh from the frier arrive at the table still crackling, and offer a big crunch before dissolving on the tongue.

Two revered foie gras preparations come together in A Sampling of Durham Ranch Foie Gras ($22.50). After hearing Leong’s detailed description of these two samples and tasting them for myself, I’ve come to think of them as sisters. They have the same parents, rich domestic foie gras and a fruit element, but the similarities end there.

The first of the two is the outgoing, girl-next-door type. Leong serves the foie gras as a torchon — prepared rolled up in a towel the classic French way — perched on house-made brioche toast, topped with a bright-tasting strawberry and Riesling gelee that’s finally drizzled with a tart strawberry balsamic reduction. It’s very approachable. The twin disks of ruby-colored gelee seem to wink coquettishly. The slice of fresh strawberry beckons. It’s homey-tasting like the best butter and jam on toast you’ve ever had, yet spiked with the complexity of the gelee’s wine and the torchon’s cognac infusion. Yes, there’s some mischief mixed in the demure.

The other is the sultry bespectacled introvert. While its taro bun base and summit of diced Maui pineapple softened in brown sugar caramel scream sweetness, matched with the salt-and-pepper-seasoned, pan-seared foie gras, it is savoriness that prevails.

The smokiness of the seared foie gras, the earthiness of Tahitian vanilla beans lacing the caramel, even the taro bun, derived from starchy underground corms, yield bass notes that result in decidedly darker, yet no less appealing, undertones.

Is your mouth watering yet? Listening to Leong’s commentary was certainly enough to whet my appetite. These appetizers are just the beginning of a memorable meal at 3660.

3660 On the Rise

3660 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
Tuesday-Sunday, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Happy hour: Tuesday-Friday, 5:15-6:30 p.m.
Note: 3660 has four private dining rooms that can accommodate groups up to 200 people.

Honolulu, HI 96816

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