Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Alan Wong’s HonoluluRestaurant Insider
July 26, 2020
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: MARK GALACGAC
ANNE LEE speaks with Lanakila Pacific marketing and communications manager LAURIE HARA and The Good Table co-chair CHEF ALAN WONG
I had the chance to talk with Laurie Hara, marketing and communications manager of Lanakila Pacific, and world-renowned chef Alan Wong. We sat down at his flagship restaurant that is celebrating 25 years to talk story and learn about The Good Table.
AL: Can you please tell me more about The Good Table and how it started?
LH: The Good Table originated 12 years ago as a way of raising funding for Lanakila Meals on Wheels, and it has grown over the years. We were inspired by a similar concept that a nonprofit in New York City did, but ours was different in the sense that we asked restaurants to create a special off-the-menu meal for one table, one night. COVID-19 has changed everything. So, we’ve re-conceptualized the event into a marketing campaign in support of restaurants. From now to Aug. 6, island chefs are crafting incredible dishes inspired by a senior of Lanakila Meals on Wheels. Dine-in or takeout, 100 percent The Good Table purchases helps participating restaurants get one meal closer to rebuilding their businesses. What we did was gathered stories of our kupuna, assigned one to each restaurant, and challenged the chefs to create a special dish in honor of that senior.
AL: This new concept is so different from past years. Why is Lanakila Meals on Wheels doing this?
LH: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lanakila Pacific has received an outpouring of generosity from the community. Many were concerned about our seniors and because of their support, we were able to provide more than 152,000 meals to kupuna in just four months. We are grateful to be able to do this and want to pay it forward. We’re turning the tables, sort of speak, and are showing restaurants our appreciation for being there for us all these years and to let them know that we are here for them when they need us.
AL: Chef Alan, you are the co-chair for this benefit. How did you become involved?
AW:It’s a continuation of what I started 25 years ago. We take care of the Moiliili senior center down the street. I used to go down there every month and bring stews, rice, salad, dessert. I started this because I read in the paper that senior citizens did not have enough money to pay for things like food. This one line that I read was an elderly woman saying she didn’t know when her next meal was going to come — and she lived in Moiliili. This article was not just about this neighborhood, but seniors in general struggling, and this was 25 years ago, way before COVID-19.
AL: Chef Alan, what inspired your entrée for The Good Table?
AW:When we had The Pineapple Room, there was a guest that dined with us, Mrs. Ai (Carol and Steven Ai of City Mill’s mother). She used to always order the poi cup — sometimes she would order two! As soon as Laurie paired me with Maxine, I learned about her history, and love of local culture and Hawaiian food. Her grandmother used to prepare everything from scratch, and she learned how to make dishes from her. I am offering Da Poi Cup ($10, the way Alan likes it) and Poi Stew ($15 each; $25 for two). Da Poi Cup is made with Hanalei poi, kalua pig and lomi tomatoes, and the Poi Stew (32 ounces, sold frozen) comes with Hanalei poi, beef and tomatoes.
AL: How do our readers get involved and help this organization?
LH: Anyone can participate by purchasing a The Good Table dish at any participating restaurant from now till Aug. 6. To see a full list of participating restaurants, their menus and stories of the amazing Lanakila Meals on Wheels seniors, visit thegoodtable.org.
AL: How can restaurants participate in the future?
LH: Any restaurant wanting to support the seniors of Lanakila Meals on Wheels through The GoodTable may contact me at email@example.com.
AL: What safety measures are in place for the safety of your guests and staff at Alan Wong’s Honolulu?
AW: Our dining room will be at 33 percent capacity allowing for 6 feet of social distancing between tables; the bar and chef’s counter will be closed; a maximum of 10 guests per reservation; and so much more.
AL: What other type of specials are you offering for takeout or dining in options?
AW: Please visit our website alanwongs.com for our dine-in Tasting Menu, “AW at Home” Take-out Menu and specialty menus for our full offerings. For dine-in, we’re currently serving a four-course prix fixe tasting menu, which offers a few selections to choose from per course. Whereas, our “AW at Home” Take-out Menu features entrees as complete meals (to include our Crispy Asian Slaw Salad and Okinawan Sweet Potato Cheesecake for dessert). DIY kits are offered for home cooks (Protein Kit, Stew Kit, Ramen Kit, Poke Kit). “Tomorrow’s Dinner” offers local comfort foods prepared frozen in 32-ounce containers for convenient reheating at home (i.e., Poi Stew, Pork Watercress Soup, Tomato Meatball Soup, etc.) for $15 each or two for $25. AW private label wines and spirits can be purchased with food. Support Our Farmers features a farmers basket and a la carte produce from our farmer connections. Takeout is available for curbside pickup or elite delivery service to immediate Honolulu ZIP codes. All of the aforementioned are sold at a great value (reduced prices).
AL: Anything else you want to share?
AW:I always talk about and try to teach the younger generation, no matter what happens in life, find the silver lining. The silver lining for me during this pandemic was that it put me back into the kitchen, and its like the old days. Being back in the kitchen reminds me of how I first started out 25 years ago.