Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: MW RestaurantRestaurant Insider
September 13, 2020
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: TONY GRILLO
ANNE LEE speaks with MW Restaurant chef WADE UEOKA and MW Restaurant pastry chef MICHELLE KARR-UEOKA
What makes the M and the W in MW Restaurant? Husband-and-wife team chef Wade Ueoka and pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka. Together, they bring nearly four decades of hard work and dedication to their culinary masterpieces, for which they’ve received multiple awards and accolades. Through the pandemic, they’re still making strides to bring comfort foods to customers, and support local farmers and the community. Their love for cooking also joined them together in marriage, led them to open a restaurant and encouraged them to adopt a four-legged fur child named Echigo.
AL: MW Restaurant specializes in Hawaii Regional Cuisine. What is your interpretation on that meaning?
WU: Hawaii Regional Cuisine is the food we grew up eating. We take what we learned and make it evolve, support local farmers and businesses, and build relationships with these local purveyors. You grow up going to potlucks or family gatherings, you have a wide array of different cuisines, a Filipino dish from your aunty, a Korean dish from your cousin, and then you have this whole spread. That’s how we made our Kim Chee Potato Salad. (You know that you’ve put these items together on your plate before!)
MKU: A lot of it is we wanted to tell the story of what makes Hawaii so special, to be able to showcase the different ingredients and cultures of Hawaii. That is what makes us so unique. We have every ethnicity — Japanese, Hawaiian, Chinese, Okinawan, Korean — all these tastes and flavors, and to be able to cook with it and share the stories with our guests is what is important. The legacy of what the people that started before us. We want to carry that tradition on.
AL: What are the top sellers at the restaurant?
MKU: This is actually a fun part of this COVID-19 situation for us. We meet with our team regularly and come up with different themes and ideas.
WU: My personal favorite was when we did the mom-and-pop feature in early June. We wanted to support these special, iconic businesses. We asked our management staff what their favorite dishes were from childhood growing up and re-created meals from Ethel’s Grill to Dew Drop Inn. A winner was picked from the orders placed to win a gift card to those various restaurants in the hopes that they would keep going back.
AL: What’s coming up next on the menu?
MKU: This is Wade’s favorite time of the year — football season. We will be launching a “For the Love of Game” menu (Fridays-Sun days, launching this weekend) inspired by Wade’s favorite bar food creations.
AL: Please tell me more about the four-legged menu that was curated for dogs like Echigo.
WU: We were doing a farm tour at Ho Farms with our staff before we first opened the restaurant. The owner of the farm had a litter of puppies, and we were gifted one of them.
MKU: She got her name after Wade’s favorite beer, Echigo. In the beginning, we fed her everything we ate — kalbi, kim chee, Zippy’s mixed plate, curry — but then she got sick. Wade started cooking for her and read up on what ingredients were not good for dogs.
We used all local vegetables and meat scraps and chicken stock. Pets are very much part of families, and we wanted to offer takeout options for your dog on the menu. The cost is $8 for a 32-ounce chilled item.
AL: What else do you want to add? WU: Every Tuesday-Thursday, we have our popular bake sale item for $6. Our staples will be the Banana Bread and MW Grandma’s Cookies.
Our mixed plate weekly offering ($25) will consist of miso honey glazed butterfish, kalbi, fried chicken with veggies and rice.
MKU: Keep us in mind when you want to send a loved one a gift. We can also create custom cakes or special dinners and deliver them to that special someone or celebration. Call us or inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our goal is to make people happy.We will do our best to accommodate requests because for us it’s about creating memories for people.