Chef Chai Explores the Depths of Culinary Creativity

Digest On the Menu

April 12, 2015

Story By: Jaimie Kim Farinas | Photos by: Anthony Consillio

There’s a certain atmosphere at Chef Chai, which sets the tone for what’s ahead. The ambiance at Chef Chai, located at Pacifica Honolulu on Kapiolani Boulevard, is one that’s elegant yet comfortable and convivial.

And under owner and chef Chai Chaowasaree’s discerning eye, there is no detail that goes unnoticed. It’s Chaowasaree, for instance, who designs floral arrangements that adorn the restaurant’s entryway and dining room.

So it should come as no surprise than that Chef Chai’s cuisine also reflects great care and attention that goes into crafting each dish. Not to mention a flair for the unique.

Take the restaurant’s newest menu item, for example. Maui Nui Venison ($45) only debuted a couple of weeks ago, and chef de cuisine Montrice Shumpert is having fun experimenting with this locally sourced beef.

“You can get venison any kind of way, anywhere,” he says. “But I figure when you add a little creative touch to it and a little bit of artistry to it, it just makes it a little bit more delicate and tasteful.”

The venison itself is not gamey. Instead, it boasts a flavor that Shumpert likens to Wagyu beef. It’s a result, he explains, of the ideal conditions deer live in. And rather than mask those natural flavors, Shumpert strives to accentuate them.

So, by this time, Shumpert may have found another way to bring out venison’s flavors. One week it was served with macaroni and cheese. On this particular day, the venison was almondand herb-crusted, and accompanied by house-made chorizo, roasted pumpkin risotto, and black garlic and chive vinaigrette.

“Some things like that don’t really need any additives to them at all,” he says, “just something to make it a little bit different.”

The venison is Chaowasaree’s first use of local beef. He was, he says, impressed by Maui Nui Farm venison’s soft and subtle flavors.

“We like to use as many local ingredients as possible,” he adds.

For an equally exclusive and locally sourced dessert, sample Chef Chai’s Honey Cream Pineapple ($9). Rather than the usual acidity pineapple is known for, this is very sweet and creamy, like its name. It is served with a scoop of sorbet, usually mango or lemon, or, you can request just pineapple.

Take the time to sample this because Shumpert believes Chef Chai may be one of the few places that carry this unique brand of pineapple.

Chef Chai

4-11 P.M. DAILY

Honolulu, HI 96814

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