Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Blue Note HawaiiRestaurant Insider
December 1, 2019
Story By: Dining Out Team | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
ANNE LEE speaks with founder TONY AVILLA, executive chef and kitchen manager and MARK CUNNINGHAM, sous chef and assistant kitchen manager
Music and food harmonize perfectly together at Blue Note Hawaii in the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort on Kalakaua Avenue.
It all started back in January 2016, with a grand opening featuring Kenny G. as the first act. This renowned venue features a year-round lineup of musical entertainment from international stars to talented local performers.
Guests of this successful enterprise also benefit from the culinary talents of executive chef and kitchen manager Tony Avilla, along with sous chef and assistant kitchen manager Mark Cunningham and the rest of the team.
Avilla shares that he likes the adrenaline rush and the controlled chaos that occurs when the dining room starts to get busy.
“As for cooking, it’s like art. It’s endless, whatever is in your mind you can create whatever you want,” he shares.
Avilla has been cooking for the past 38 years, honing his creative skills on the job.
“When I would go out to eat, if I liked a certain dish, I would like the idea and then I would think of how to incorporate my imagination into the dish and experiment,” he says.
Cunningham also began working in the food industry from a young age, including making his own sauces at an Italian restaurant as a teenager.
Avilla and Cunningham serve up “high notes” here about the exciting cuisine they offer at Blue Note Hawaii.
AL: What type of cuisine does the restaurant specialize in?
TA: Before the menu was very much all over the place, what I was able to do, was offer a little bit of Italian, a little bit of local, and a little bit of American influence into the menu. Short ribs was the best-selling dish but I wanted to add some local flair. What I did was enhance it a little bit. We added sashimi, poke, barbecue kalua pork pizza, kalua pork bao buns, and an andagi bread pudding for a dessert option (which is my specialty). This also is topped with my homemade haupia custard sauce.
AL: What does Blue Note Hawaii bring to the Hawaii food scene?
TA: Blue Note is voted the No. 1 venue here in Hawaii. My job is to match that with the food. We try to bring high-quality food in the atmosphere that we have, with the equipment that we have to work with. Our team is equipped to handle whatever comes through the door. The response from the guests have been so positive, we get many compliments on the menu we created.
AL: Does the restaurant have a specific motto or mission it runs by?
TA & MC: Always listen, be truthful, come from the heart — we’re very blessed to be here and want to share that with the guests that come to our venue.
AL: What are some of the most popular dishes?
TA & MC: The Andagi Bread Pudding ($11), is one of the favorites. This is Alii poi batter andagi, coconut haupia custard glaze, Kona chocolate sauce and vanilla bean gelato. This has the special haupia sauce that I created.
The Spicy Ahi Poke ($18), is my special recipe, a little bit of sweet and spicy.
Other popular items include Shrimp Ceviche ($19), Lobster Ravioli ($32), Braised Short Ribs served with natural jus, collard greens, roasted garlic mashed potatoes ($35). Truffle fries are one of the top sellers, too, and the Blue Note Burger is also a favorite.
AL: Anything else you’d like to share about the venue?
TA & MC: This venue is available for breakfast meetings, daytime conferences and luncheons. We are also available for evening events: private concerts, corporate or holiday parties, birthday parties etc. We have a full bar and restaurant on-site. Our AV and production manager is included with the rental of this facility.
For the food side, we have staple catering menus that we have in place, but most of the time when we have had events, we customize to fit the type of cuisine that the client wants, such as a Hawaiian Luau theme, or tasting stations, sushi or poke bar. All of this is possible.
What may be most unique, clients will have access to our entertainers, we will help them book a band, whether it’s mainland or local talent, we can take care of everything. Think of us as a mini convention center. Visit our web-site for more info: landpage.co/events-bluenote.