Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: The Kahala Hotel & Resort

Restaurant Insider

February 9, 2020

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

Chef de cuisine Eric Oto, left, executive chef Jonathan Mizukami, Anne Lee and executive sous chef Wayne Hirabayashi.

ANNE LEE speaks with executive chef JONATHAN MIZUKAMI, executive sous chef WAYNE HIRABAYASHI and Hoku’s chef de cuisine ERIC OTO

This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jonathan Mizukami, new executive chef of Kahala Resort. He recently joined the expert culinary team of chef Wayne Hirabayashi, executive sous chef of Kahala Resort, and Eric Oto, chef de cuisine at Hoku’s. I spoke with all three men about exciting changes at the resort.

Kahala Resort celebrated 55 years of operation in 2019, having been open since 1964. Danny Kaleikini’s luau show was held where Plumeria Beach House is now, and “Rick’s Bar” in the TV series Magnum P.I. was located downstairs. The bar is now The Kahala O Ke Kai, a beautiful oceanfront function room.

Chefs Mizukami, Hirabayashi and Oto unveil details about themselves and what’s new at the resort in the following interview.

Shellfish Ravioli ($36)

AL: How long have you been here at this resort and what got you into the hospitality industry?

JM: I recently joined the team at The Kahala, about three weeks ago. I have been in the industry for about 20 years. I got into the industry because I love to cook. I would watch my mom cook, and I was always in the kitchen with her. She would pick themes and cook Italian one week and Thai food on another, and so forth. I was able to get a lot of experience with that as she introduced me to many different cuisines. My uncle was also a farmer, he always had fresh vegetables — fresh kohlrabi, broccoli, a freezer full of beef — local steer. A lot of good ingredients and products were available to me growing up.

EO:  I started at the Halekulani. I am a graduate of the culinary program at Leeward Community College. What really initiated my interest into the restaurant industry was fishing at an early age of 4 1/2, I caught my first fish and was excited to catch my dinner. My dad said, “Now that you caught it, you will have to clean it and cook it.” My dad was a farmer, he had a nursery growing plants, but also a huge vegetable farm that gave us an array of fresh vegetables at our fingertips. Till this day, my dad still has his own aquaponics system at his home here in Oahu.

WH: I went to the culinary program at Kapiolani Community College, and have been with the Kahala Resort for 20 plus years. My first job was at Bobby McGee’s, where the Lotus Hotel is now in Diamond Head. I got into the restaurant industry because I love to eat.

AL: What new offerings are there?

JM: I incorporated the truffles here at Hoku’s. It’s a new menu item that will be available until the end of March. Why truffles? It’s in season right now, and Hoku’s is such a beautiful setting. In order to elevate the experience with an amazing view I wanted guests to be able to experience something special and unique that is in season in order to bring a different element into Hoku’s. I like to cook with the seasons, that is what inspires me — the season and what is available to me at that time. I want to be true to that. Whether it’s a fruit or fish that is in season, that is what I want our guests to experience. The items that are true to the season, nature tells you when it’s perfect and ready, and that is when you should enjoy that item.

WH: We have a casual pool bar area that is open to the public, Seaside Grill is also available in the evenings for private functions and special celebrations such as anniversary dinners. It’s open from 10:30 a.m. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 5:30 pm, with a limited menu offering available from 5:30 to 6:30. With a direct view of the Pacific Ocean, Seaside Grill is perfect for lunch after a relaxing morning at the pool, a swim with the dolphins, beach activities or a shopping excursion to Waikiki. Lunch is served at beachside tables, with views of the ocean and beach activity. Menus include fresh bounty from local waters, sandwiches and salads, hamburgers and delectable desserts, all served with refreshing drinks from the poolside bar, where guests can also enjoy refreshing smoothies, creative cocktails and the famous Kahala Royal Pine served in a fresh pineapple.

Fried Ahi Poke Musubi ($22)

AL: Can you tell me a little bit about the dishes we are going to try today?

WH: Fried Ahi Poke Musubi ($22), with crab namasu and Asian remoulade. This item is available on the Veranda menu as well as Hoku’s and is a very popular item — the musubi is everything a local person loves.

EO: Shellfish Ravioli ($36) with Small Kine Farm crimini mushroom, spinach, sake butter soy reduction, shiso. I love seafood and wanted to incorporate some of my favorite seafoods into one bite — lobster, shrimp, scallop. I wanted to give it a local/ Asian twist which is where the sake butter and soy reduction and shiso come in. The mushrooms are “keiki” — what Small Kine Farm call their crimini mushrooms — from Waiamanalo, Hawaii’s only certified organic mushroom farm.

JM: Carnaroli Truffle Risotto ($52), with parmigiano-reggiano and shaved black perigord winter truffles is a very light version of risotto, with a generous amount of truffles.

Experienced Mizukami appointed new executive chef

The Kahala Hotel & Resort welcomes Jonathan Mizukami as the new executive chef, responsible for overseeing the overall culinary direction of the resort’s signature Hoku’s Restaurant, Plumeria Beach House, The Veranda, Seaside Grill and catering operations.

Mizukami brings over 20 years of experience working in renowned restaurants across the U.S. and internationally, including a 10-year stint as sous chef at Thomas Keller’s highly acclaimed Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry.

He gained experience training at Spain’s 3-star Michelin restaurant, El Bulli; at Alinea in Chicago; Per Se in New York City; and in Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Fat Duck in England.

In 2014, the Maui born-and-raised Mizukami served as the executive chef of Vintage Cave and chef de cuisine at Chef Mavro’s in Honolulu before joining The Kahala.

“Jonathan brings a new level of culinary expertise to The Kahala with more than a decade developing his talents in Michelin-starred restaurants, learning from the most respected chefs of our generation,” says Joe Ibarra, general manager of The Kahala Hotel & Resort.

Carnaroli Truffle Risotto ($52)

The ‘Epitome’ of good taste

Guests of The Kahala Hotel & Resort can subscribe to its Epitome Membership Rewards Program to get the latest information regarding promotions for restaurants, spa, rooms and more. It’s free to join, with gift certificates available for your Valentine. The resort also boasts its recently renovated nail salon. The Epitome card entitles the cardholder to the following:

• Restaurants: 10 percent off all food at Hoku’s, The Veranda, Plumeria Beach House and Seaside Grill.

• Catering: 25 percent off catering site rentals.

• The Kahala Spa: 15 percent off massages or facials.

• CHI Fitness: 10 percent off CHI Fitness retail.

• Accommodations: kamaaina rate.

• Receive 10 percent off the following retail shops — Signature at the Kahala, Kahala Boutique and Kahala Surf & Sun. Also enjoy access to special events.

For more information, visit kahalaresort.com/ luxury-hotel/EpitomeMembership-Rewards

Honolulu, HI 96816

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best