Strawberry ‘Feasts’ ForeverOno, You Know
May 20, 2018
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
Recently, I was fortunate enough to travel to Tokyo, Japan, and though it’s been weeks since my trip, I’m still swooning over the inspiring cuisine, neon lights and crazy fashions of that exhilarating city.
I’d need a novel’s worth of pages to describe all of the amazing food I devoured — shout out to the best ramen I’ve ever had in a hole-in-the-wall whose kanji-written name I can’t relay here — but one highlight was the simple, fresh joy of Japanese strawberries, which are absolutely the brightest and sweetest you’ll ever taste.
In honor of National Strawberry Month, I’m keeping the spirit of Japan alive by making my best Harajuku fashion statement and heading out to some of Oahu’s top eateries to pay homage to this very special fruit. You’re about to find out how these establishments make strawberry desserts simply irresistible.
Did You Know?
For any fan of the Beatles, it’s hard to bite into a strawberry without starting to hum Strawberry Fields Forever in your head. The song was released by the Beatles in 1967 as part of a double-A-side single, along with Penny Lane. John Lennon is said to have been inspired by the garden of a Salvation Army children’s home named Strawberry Field in his hometown of Liverpool, England, when writing the song.
HEATING THINGS UP
My new flame in the strawberry department can be found on the flambe dessert menu at Hy’s Steak House. The flambes are noteworthy not only because they’re delicious, but also because the beloved local restaurant is one of the only places to keep this tradition alive, firing up delectable desserts for guests to enjoy via a fabulous tableside showcase.
Perfect for patrons is Sinatra’s Strawberry Flambe ($17). Hy’s servers start by throwing a mix of butter, brown sugar and fresh strawberries into a copper-coated steel pan, which retains heat well enough to make some fiery magic happen.
“We like to call the strawberry flambe the underdog,” says event manager Joy Busano. “A lot of people go for the popular Bananas Foster or Chocolate Lovers, but this one also is one of the best flambes.”
As the strawberries cook, fresh mint adds aromatic freshness to the caramely sauce, while the real fun begins when splashes of orange Curacao and creme de banane liqueurs as well as dark rum join the party — let the flames begin! As the alcohol burns off, the base flavors are left to enrich the sauce. By this time, the strawberries are perfectly soft and sweet, and the whole mixture is ready to be poured over freshly scooped Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream.
Hy’s flambe presentations are just one way the steak house oozes tradition. The one-of-a-kind dining experience offers Prime-grade steaks cooked to smoky perfection by executive chef Justin Inagaki in the signature kiawe-wood broiler, all set within a stately dining room adorned with ornately framed artwork, dark mahogany paneling and carved wood moldings.
Experience Hy’s for yourself nightly for dinner, or during the upcoming Father’s Day buffet, which is sure to be a hit. Guests also are encouraged to stop by the bar and lounge area from 5 to 7 p.m. daily (except holidays) to try “The Bar” menu, home to craft cocktails and the chefs’ creative appetizers.
Here’s the Scoop
Have you ever noticed how each scoop of ice cream at Hy’s is soft to the spoon yet won’t melt when served with the flambe desserts? We owe that perfect presentation to busser Kirby Chun, who’s been with the restaurant for 35 years. Regulars love to see him at the steak house, and they know he’s got the timing down pat when pulling out the ice cream from the sub-zero freezer. It’s just right!
GET TO ‘NOE’ THIS DISH
The beautiful Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina is home to Noe restaurant, where executive pastry chef Helen Hong knows just how to give your dining experience a sweet ending.
Enter Creme Fraiche Semifreddo ($14), presented with a thrilling black pepper strawberry sauce and pistachio streusel. Similar to ice cream, semifreddo is a classic semi-frozen dessert that is transformed into a cool, creamy masterpiece in this dish. The semifreddo also serves as an ideal foundation for the playful flavors that make this creation vivifying.
“The strawberries complement the creme fraiche and add the perfect balance of sweet and tart to the dish,” explains executive pastry sous chef Audrey Wang.
The fruit is highlighted through candied fresh strawberries and house-made strawberry sauce infused with pink and black peppercorns — which provide a welcomed contrast of flavors.
Do save room for dessert at Noe, but don’t let that hold you back from indulging in all of the Italian cravings the restaurant has become known for. With flavors that can be described as “Capri-meets-Oahu,” according to Wang, Noe perfects the art of fresh, local seafood, quality meats and homemade pasta, just to name a few. Noe also boasts an impressive list of Italian wines — some that have never before been available in Hawaii, the restaurant says.
Last, but not least, Noe’s scenic al-fresco dining space overlooks the ocean and neighboring Lanikuhonua cultural estate, making it the perfect spot for a starlit date night.