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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: The Kahala Hotel & Resort

Restaurant Insider

November 8, 2020

Story By: Anne Lee |

Anne Lee and Jonathan Mizukami, executive chef at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, sit down for a meal.

ANNE LEE speaks with The Kahala Hotel & Resort executive chef JONATHAN MIZUKAMI

Jonathan Mizukami has been at the helm of The Kahala Hotel & Resort’s culinary team as executive chef for about 10 months now, and in that time has helped the hotel and its restaurants weather the COVID-19 storm.

“When we were able to reopen for dining, I was able to roll out all new menus for all of our restaurants,” he shares. “I took that as opportunity to start fresh.”

Sweet White Hawaiian Canoe Potato Agnolotti (from the “Tasting of Vegetables” menu)

His accolades include two decades in the dining industry, including a 10-year stint as sous chef at Thomas Keller’s highly acclaimed Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry. Mizukami started his career working at the former Roy’s Nicolina on Maui and Alan Wong’s. And, fun fact, he staged for three of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Pertrus and The Fat Duck.

This week, he shares what’s new at The Kahala Hotel & Resort and its preeminent restaurants.

AL: Hoku’s has new tasting menus. Can you tell me how these came to fruition?

JM: The “Grand Tasting Menu” is eight courses. We try to use seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. We have Kona kampachi and Kona lobster from Big Island, Oprah’s farm in Kula (yes, Oprah Winfrey), and we utilize the trout farm out of Maui, as well as Mari’s Garden on Oahu. I try to create with the seasons and bring forth my experiences with French cuisine and my upbringing in Hawaii.

Soft Shell Crab (call for price)

The “Tasting of Vegetables” (a vegetarian menu) incorporates the same philosophy of utilizing locally sourced ingredients available with the seasons. Then we have “The 4 Course Tasting Menu” designed for our guests to be able to choose a different experience each time. There is an array of starters, appetizers, entrées and desserts to create your personal experience.

AL: Tell me more about Oprah’s farm.

JM: We did a dinner on Maui where I met the farmer Russell Greenleaf. He has the most beautiful vegetables that I have ever seen. It’s at 3,500-feet elevation. The Hawaiians used it for farmland. Now, Oprah Winfrey is the owner. What makes this farm special is the morning dew.

It promotes slow growth and that develops a rich flavor. They also have rich volcanic soil, and incorporate organic practices.

Whole Kona Lobster Thermador ($65)

AL: What’s happening at The Veranda?

JM: This is the place for guests to enjoy a la carte light fare and cocktails, and live music. Jazz pianist David Swanson, who has been playing at The Veranda for 15 years, is back. Check him out 6-8 p.m. Saturdays.

AL: What about Plumeria Beach House?

JM: We have classics that were served at Hoku’s such as our famous Ahi Musubi, The Whole Fish and Crispy Prawns, just to name a few. Plumeria Beach House has transitioned into an a la carte dining establishment from the traditional buffet offerings.

AL: And we can’t forget about Seaside Grill. What’s going on there?

JM: We added a few new items such as the Kahala Fish Sandwich ($20) and changed the hamburger options. On the weekends, we have a BBQ set up outside and grill hamburgers, hot dogs, fish, chicken sandwiches and even our Kalua Pork Cheese Quesadilla. You will receive four hours of complimentary parking if you spend $40 or more at Seaside Grill.

AL: What’s happening for Thanksgiving?

JM: For Plumeria Beach House, we are going to have a buffet-style Thanksgiving brunch and dinner with the Kahala Safe Promise (we will walk with the guest and serve the food for them).

For Hoku’s, we have a tasting menu featuring whole roast duck, pumpkin sorbet with toasted marshmallow, foie gras torchon with persimmons from Maui, Portuguese sweet bread and more.

AL: What dishes do you want to highlight?

JM: The Buckwheat Waffle ($10) off The Veranda menu is a light crispy yeast waffle. Ikura is brined in dill, and then there is cucumber for freshness, crème fraiche adds a rich creaminess with some tartness, and the herb salad brings it all together.

From Plumeria Beach House, we are featuring our Whole Kona Lobster Thermador ($65) with mushrooms and lobster bound with gruyere cheese, croutons and a side tomato ogo relish.

From Hoku’s, the “Tasting of Vegetables” menu features items from Oprah’s farm, Sweet White Hawaiian Canoe Potato Agnolotti, with its leaves and black truffles.

From Hoku’s “4 Course Menu,” we are featuring the soft-shell crab appetizer, with fried green tomatoes from Kamuela, Kahuku corn, corn pudding, pickled green tomatoes and celery salad.

The dessert is also from Hoku’s “4 Course Menu.” It’s a deconstructed banana crème pie, called Gateau “Banana Cream Pie.”

AL: Anything else you’d like to share?

JM:Our Hawaii Food & Wine Festival event will be held Nov. 20, and it sold out in record time. I am going to be teaming up with my former colleague, guest chef Philip Tessier, previous executive sous chef at The French Laundry.

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