Creating Waves of FlavorsInside Feature
December 10, 2018
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo
When Chef Garrick Mendoza arrives at work each day, the view often leaves him breathless.
“I walk into the dining room and there’s the ocean directly in front, and the kitchen less than 100 yards away,” he marvels. “I jumped at the opportunity to see Hawaii. It’s somewhere I’d never dreamed about going in my entire life.”
A graduate of the vaunted The Culinary Institute of America, Mendoza had worked at fine dining restaurants in New Mexico, and before that at Del Posto, the New York City eatery launched by famed restaurateurs Joe and Lidia Bastianich. Hawaii seemed worlds away until Mendoza found himself accepting a job as executive chef at Mina’s Fish House, which opened last December by chef Michael Mina in the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina.
With the magnificent Pacific as inspiration, Mendoza has created two elegant new appetizers for Mina’s Raw Bar. Dressed lightly with olive oil and lime, the sashimi-grade Ginger Lime Hamachi ($24) is dusted with togarashi (chili) powder and garnished with fresh cucumber and basil. It’s served with a splendid ginger-lime vinaigrette and as many pairs of chopsticks as the table might request.
“This dish and the kampachi are great items to share,” says Mendoza. Impeccably farm-raised in Kona, kampachi marinates in an earthy blend of carrot juice, orange juice and yuzu. Finished with pickled mango, it’s presented as Kona Kampachi Crudo ($23). Avocado mousse, bright with jalapeno, cilantro and lime, brings New Mexican flavors to the dish, as do delicate chips, made in-house with corn meal.
“We finish it with scallion, shaved radish and jalapeno,” says Mendoza. “It’s a nice combination with really bold flavors.”
Mendoza is also updating Mina’s Smoked Burrata Salad ($19). “We have great heirloom baby beets from Kahumana Farms right now, so we’re taking advantage of that,” he says. Crowned with local citrus, Marcona almonds, and Calabrian chilies from southern Italy, the salad is finished with saba, a centuries-old condiment made with unfermented grapes.
Though additions and refinements will be made to the menu over the next few months, Phyllo-Crusted Butterfish ($45) needs no enhancement. “It’s been on the Michael Mina menus for 20-some years,” Mendoza says of his boss’ whimsical take on fish and chips. In this crowd-pleasing dish, the fish is encrusted with dehydrated, crumbled phyllo before it’s fried in clarified butter. Served with haricots vert, lemon mascarpone, and mustard beurre blanc, the fish arrives in a cloud of “bran-dade” — buttery mashed potatoes studded with Alaskan king crab.
After a spectacular dinner at Mina’s, head upstairs to the Hokulea Bar. There you’ll find Ultimate Rum Cake ($22) hand-crafted by executive pastry chef Helen Hong. Infused with Koho Hawaiian Agricole Rum from Oahu’s Ko Hana Distillers, each cake is packaged in silver tins decorated with Four Seasons’ signature black ribbon and feeds 4-6 people. “We start with butter, flour, sugar, Tahitian vanilla and rum. It’s nutty and tasty, with intense flavor,” says Hong. Cakes are available, in limited quantities through the holidays.