Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: GOEN Dining + BarRestaurant Insider
April 11, 2021
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with GOEN Dining + Bar executive chef RUSSELL CHU
Five years ago, GOEN Dining + Bar opened on the Windward side, and its debut date had great significance for its executive chef Russell Chu.
“It actually opened on my birthday, Nov. 20!” shares Chu, who’s spent 16 years in the restaurant industry.
He got his start as a dishwasher/food runner at Osake, where his interest for making sushi started.
“My passion for making sushi let me to work at Tokoname in Kailua, and that is where I honed my craft,” he adds. “This also led me to my career path with Roy Yamaguchi at Roy’s Hawaii Kai, which started in 2009. This journey working with Roy and his team really turned me into who I am now. Personally, as a chef, this is one of the best companies to work for. Roy gives the foundation for each of his restaurants and encourages each of his executive chefs to be creative — creative control and curating the menu, honoring the concept that he created.”
This week, Chu is excited to share with Dining Out readers more about GOEN’s menu and concept, and its founder’s mission to support local.
AL: What does GOEN mean?
RC: Roy’s explanation in a nutshell: “Goen is a 5 yen Japanese coin. It refers to good luck, fate and relationships. I used to wear them around my neck from time to time as a kid. The three graphic elements represent agriculture and fisheries, and the hole in the middle represents industry. I thought the name would be perfect for a restaurant that’s guided by the principles of helping Hawaii become more sustainable by working with local farmers, fishermen and ranchers. We commissioned Solomon Enos to create the art on the wall that has the fish and the coin with vibrant colors. It also relates to a gathering place, so when you put it all together, it’s about a place to gather with friends and loved ones — to make more friends, support local agriculture and sustainability, and much more.”
AL: What are the items we are featuring?
RC: Burrata ($16) is served with Waimanalo herb pesto and Hauula tomatoes. I personally feel that these tomatoes make this dish. It’s drizzled with a bit of lavender honey and served with Ohia Bakery rosemary focaccia. We also have Pork & Shrimp Dumplings ($11) served with Li family sauce.
For sushi, there’s the Avocado King Roll ($19) comprising king salmon, cucumber, crab mix, ume aioli and smashed avocado. On the main menu, Lobster Bucatini ($40), featuring Onda bucatini, uni lobster cream, Maine lobster tail and kale. Lastly, we have a Maple Leaf Duck Breast & Ravioli ($28) that comes with a ricotta and lemon filling, and cranberry and white balsamic chutney.
AL: Do you have vegan/vegetarian options?
RC: We have our vegan Blistered Shishito Peppers ($7) with furikake and spiced chickpeas; vegetarian Burrata ($16); vegetarian Crisp Brussel Sprouts & Cauliflower ($8) with a Dijon vinaigrette, toasted cashews and Zataar yogurt; vegetarian Fry Basket ($12.50) that comes with portobello mushroom fries and herb cream cheese; vegetarian Hauula Butter Lettuce ($10) with shaved onions, radish, breadcrumbs, Parmesan and creamy herb dressing; and vegan Goen Greens ($11) featuring a tomato vinaigrette.
We are happy to create a custom entrée using fresh and seasonal produce to accommodate any preference.
AL: What do you see for the future for the restaurant community?
RC: Perseverance and versatility. This will be an era of seasoned culinary veterans who fought through one of the most disastrous events ever to fall upon the industry.
They have adapted, evolved and thrived despite every possible unfortunate circumstance. These hard times are creating a new breed in the industry, those who can modify their entire concept or strategy to survive any demographic or level of business.
Our community of restaurants has banded together like no other profession to keep everyone afloat. I’ve seen amazing restaurant concepts and tasted delicious meals during 2020, and I can’t wait to see what everyone is really capable of when we are able to operate under normal circumstances.
AL: Anything else you’d like to share about the restaurant?
RC: Supporting local farmers is very important to our owner. Local produce and products may cost more, but going back to the goen Japanese coin, community is one of our driving principles.
He will take a product from a local farmer, and that will influence what is created on the menu. With that being said, I met three young farmers in Waimanalo — Haley Miyaoka, and brother-sister Matthew and Christy McKinnon of Ahiki Acres — through the guidance of GoFarm Hawaii’s AgPro program. This is a new generation of young farmers, and they really want to sustain Hawaii.
Whatever crops they are harvesting and selling is what we incorporate as a special on our menu. It varies depending on what they have to offer. They literally harvest crops the morning of or day before — it’s that fresh.