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Showing off flavors from brasa ovens

A La Carte Columns

June 25, 2017

Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: HARBOR RESTAURANT AT PIER 38

Togarashi Blackened Ahi Salad ($24)

As executive chef for one of Honolulu’s most exciting young restaurants, Rob McDaniel’s work-day at Harbor Restaurant averages 10-12 hours.

But the energetic chef says it isn’t a problem.

“I don’t mind the hours at all,” he says, as he surveys the gleaming kitchen at the Pier 38 eatery. “I come to work and I have all kinds of cool toys — giant steamers, slow-roast ovens … I love my job!”

Crab & Artichoke Dip Skillet ($16 for dinner, $14 for Huki Pau happy hour)

Those unusual ovens merit a few more words. With their origins in Spain, brasas — as they’re called — are oven-smoker-grill hybrids whose high temperatures perfectly seal flavor and juices. There are only two in Hawaii, and fewer than a dozen in the entire United States.

This week’s featured salad spotlights a delicious example of brasa cuisine. Available only at lunchtime, Togarashi Blackened Ahi Salad ($24) includes fresh romaine, grape tomatoes and crispy wonton strips tossed in creamy sesame dressing. The generous slab of ahi is prepared with Harbor’s version of Cajun seasoning, which contains just a little togarashi — a Japanese spice blend made with red chili pepper, citrus, sesame seeds, pepper, ginger and nori.

Reuben Burger ($18)

Also featured this week is Crab & Artichoke Dip Skillet ($16 for dinner, $14 for Huki Pau happy hour), a satisfying pupu delivered to table or copper-top bar in a sizzling little cast-iron pan. It’s made with Canadian snow crab, aioli, artichoke hearts, grated Parmesan and spinach, and accompanied by grilled pita.

Harbor’s heartiest feature this week might be Reuben Burger ($18), a steak patty topped with pastrami, Swiss cheese and traditional house-made sauerkraut — fragrant with bacon, onions, fennel seeds and caraway. The burger is served on a brioche bun with a side salad, cup of soup (vegetable chowder or du jour) or house-made lattice chips.

Harbor Restaurant At Pier 38

1129 N. Nimitz Hwy., Honolulu
Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Huki Pau
happy hour: daily, 2-6 p.m.

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