Kick Off 2018 With Island FlavorsOno, You Know
December 31, 2017
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
Happy New Year, Ono readers! I sincerely hope you all have an amazing 2018, filled with good health, happiness and, of course, tons of soul-satisfying food!
Here at home, fulfilling our hearts’ cravings means turning to the diverse world of island flavors to satiate our palates all year long. That can translate to going for a mixed plate whose flavor profile points to its plantation-era origins, or having a gourmet bite of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine legacy that continues to evolve to this day.
This week, I’m hitting up a few spots that have mastered the art of local fusion fare, but do so in very different ways. Both eateries have one thing in common, though: They’re fantastically tasty places to kick off the new year.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Little Village Noodle House is a haven for the bold, spicy flavors of Northern Chinese cuisine, but the eatery knows just how to add some American and local touches to make its cuisine stand out from any other Chinese restaurant in town.
The Chinatown mainstay has been rockin’ taste buds on Smith Street for more than 15 years now, but general manager David Chang always is looking for new inspiration for the menu. He found just that with the mouthwatering Sweet Sour Fresh Catch of the Day, one of many scrumptious eats on the restaurant’s 2017 Winter Menu ($368 for 10 guests, $168 for four).
This fish brings the wow factor in presentation and flavor. The seafood is deboned and the meat is cut into a fabulous flower blossom shape that not only looks incredible, but also holds the batter really well so that when the fish is deep fried, each piece is coated in a golden, crispy crust.
Chang and his team give the dish a local spin by using the best in island-sourced fish, which, lately, has been meaty chunks of freshly caught uhu (parrotfish). The sharable entree also features a special touch of sweet and sour sauce that is prepared Little Village-style with more spices than the classic version, and a nice sprinkling of pine nuts.
Don’t miss your opportunity to try this specialty, as the Winter Menu — which heats up with Barbecue Char Siu Short Ribs, Crispy Skin Roasted Duck and more — only is available through Jan. 3. Upon availability, you may also be able to order the Fresh Catch a la carte for $80 (inquire with Little Village).
SETTING THE STAGE
At Stage Restaurant, executive chef Ron de Guzman is known for pulling inspiration from the diverse cultures that make up Hawaii’s population to create an elevated, island-inspired dining experience.
As part of his approach to contemporary Asian-American fare, de Guzman has found intriguing ways to reinvent classic dishes, and his current menu is no exception with the addition of Pan Roasted Duck Breast ($36).
The entree is the chef’s play on Duck a l’Orange, a traditional French creation of duck with bigarade (orange reduction) and demi-glace. De Guzman trades the orange for some local tartness in the form of lilikoi reduction, which is balanced with a rich, meaty demi-glace. Sweetness from Big Island white honey enhances all of the flavors, including the savory qualities of the juicy and unbelievably tender Maple Leaf Farms duck breast.
The chef knows how to build extra layers of flavor into every meal he makes, and in this number, applewood smoked bacon and crispy Brussels sprouts do the trick, while taro puree provides a hearty foundation for all the accompanying ingredients.
Enjoy Pan Roasted Duck Breast and other upscale delights during Stage’s dinner service Tuesday through Saturday evenings.
(note: the restaurant is open today for New Year’s Eve). All this goodness is served up on the second floor of Honolulu Design Center, amid a stylish decor scheme filled with fun chandeliers and eye-catching art — the perfect setting for the eatery’s vibrant cuisine.
And be sure to save room for dessert, as the ever-talented pastry chef Cainan Sabey incorporates tons of fresh, local goodies into his high-quality desserts.