Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: FEAST by Jon Matsubara

Restaurant Insider

May 23, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

ANNE LEE speaks with FEAST by Jon Matsubara chef/owner JON MATSUBARA

FEAST by Jon Matsubara is tucked away in quaint Manoa, and is different than his other eateries, bringing fast-casual dining to fruition in the most delicious way. This week, he shares the concept and what’s good to eat.

AL: What does fast-casual translate to and how did this come to be? JM: Convenience. You can have high-end dine-in dishes in a takeout format at a reasonable price. The pandemic helped us realize our capabilities. We embraced technology and used that to our advantage. Our restaurant is small; opening for dine-in would not make sense. Using the online ordering system helped us sustain consistent food orders and maintained a sustainable model for our restaurant.

Chicken Shawarma Plate ($15.50)

AL: Your culinary journey has been pretty spectacular. What are some takeaways from each restaurant you worked at?

JM: I like to think of each place as a stool, each had different legs. Every restaurant has its strength and weaknesses, but each contributed something to my character as a chef. The first places I worked at were Alan Wong’s and Roy’s Hawaii Kai as a dishwasher. At Alan Wong’s, I learned to cook — that guy could cook — and be a teacher. Alan is a great mentor. At Roy’s Hawaii Kai, I honed in on my creativity and business sense. Roy is the master at efficiency and consistency. Tabla in New York exposed me to the world of spices. Jean-Georges and Bouley taught me to have an open mind; for example, using fruit with meats, prepared French style.

For Canoe House at Maunalani, Alan encouraged me to take this position. Stage taught me creativity. I was given carte blanche to create menus, uniforms and design the kitchen, and learned how to run a business. At Azure, I learned how to make more out of less. I created a tasting menu where guests could try smaller plates of items (at the same price point as an entrée).

Lobster Roll and Fries ($23)

At Japengo, my arsenal of what I could create grew. I had access to a sushi chef and Chinese chef. I absorbed their knowledge; one in particular is the lechon that I have on my menu today. At Forty Carrots at Bloomingdale’s, I learned the fundamentals to operate a small restaurant. This blueprint helped me launch Feast. Merriman’s taught me about volume. They had an incredible system on how to execute so many covers at once.

AL: What are the most popular dishes at FEAST, and what is the inspiration for the menu?

JM: It’s a collaboration of all the places that I have worked. I made these dishes with my family in mind. The Jon Lechon ($17.50) is our signature pork belly. It’s cooked for 24 hours and topped with Chinese roast pork spiced roulade. It’s Filipino-style lechon but with Chinese roast pork flavor. The keto version is made with cauliflower mac salad.

Charcuterie for 2 ($20

Our FEAST Bento ($30) is our bestseller. We have this on the menu until it runs out. It features Kunoa butter-poached filet mignon, petite lobster roll, umami mushroom rice and Kula mixed green salad.

The famous Lobster Roll ($23; spicy, $24), featured on Where Hawaii Eats, is a big portion of lobster mixed with umami mayo, lemon and served on a buttered Hawaiian sweet roll with fries. You can also order FEAST DIY Lobster Roll Kit (small, three rolls, $23; medium, six rolls, $46) to make at home.

The Chicken Shawarma Plate ($15.50) special features marinated chicken in a homemade shawarma spice sauce. It’s grilled, served with hummus, kula greens, tomato and cucumbers, turmeric rice and naan.

Keto Chicharrones ($17.50)

Our grab-and-go Feast Charcuterie for 2 ($20) has prosciutto, dry salami, cornichon, olives, and a selection of soft, medium and hard cheeses.

AL: Where are your favorite places to eat?

JM: I love Izakaya Torae Torae. The quality and price are great. I also tried the barbecue at Sunset Smokehouse in Wahiawa.

When I am eating something, it stimulates me to figure out how it’s made: seasoning, texture, what spices, etc. I don’t have a specific type of cuisine that is my favorite. I like variety and eat whatever I am in the mood for.

AL: What was the most memorable event during your career as a chef?

JM: Each one of my daughters were born when I was opening up a new restaurant: Canoe House (first daughter), Stage Restaurant (second daughter) and Azure (third daughter). We thought when we opened up FEAST that we would be having a fourth! AL: Anything else you want to share?

JM: I want to work with local vendors and collaborate. We will be launching one-of-a-kind popsicles with Pop Culture Artisan Pops in the next week or so. We will be getting our liquor license soon, and we can start pairing our dishes with alcohol. We have a beer connoisseur that has his own microbrews. Our front-of-the-house has sommelier and fine-dining experience. In the future, if people want to pick up something on the way home, we can create a pairing that they can enjoy. You will start to see us at farmers markets. We are appreciative of the support of the community. We want to give back.

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