Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Mina’s Fish HouseRestaurant Insider
September 4, 2022
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANNE LEE
ANNE LEE speaks with Mina’s Fish House fish sommeliers SAUI MATAGIESE and RYAN HOUSER
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina is known for its world-renowned dining options. One of them is Mina’s Fish House, a restaurant created by Michael Mina that showcases his love for the islands and desire to offer a truly unique experience by offering the expertise of “fish sommeliers” Ryan Houser and Saui Matagiese.
I first met with these two back in 2019, when they were the first and only fish sommeliers in the world. Today, the trend is growing with Mina’s restaurants.
Recently, I sat down with them to share hand-picked dishes and drinks, as I learned more about what you can expect from a fish sommelier.
AL: Can you explain your interpretation of a fish sommelier?
RH: Someone that can help you choose the type of fish you want to eat; what type of texture, firm or soft; flavor profiles. My main goal is to help guests choose the fish that they want to eat, enjoy it and enhance their overall dining experience.
SM: Adding on to what Ryan said, making sure the local fisherman’s story is heard, as all our fish is caught from local fishermen. It’s very hard to get quality fish to your table. Sometimes these fishermen are in the water for up to 10 hours and come back with only one fish, and they still have to pay for their cost of living, etc. Both Ryan and I are avid fisherman. We know the water, where the fish are and caught; we are very passionate about our craft.
AL: What is the most-asked question you get, and can you walk me through a typical day?
RH: What type of fish is this? We have an extensive list of seafood items. Some of our guests are not familiar with the Hawaiian names, so I describe the fish and what it may taste similar to. Ono I would compare to swordfish, which is more commonly known. Ono in Hawaii is much leaner and has a tendency to be a bit on the drier side. To me, this would be more texture-based than taste. Sometimes we do work with chef on the fish and suggest different preparation that would work best with that particular variety.
SM: From your hostess to server, when they speak about our menu, they explain that we have in-house fish sommeliers to assist if you have questions. That usually piques their curiosity. I’ll talk about the fish of the day, ask them what types of fish interest them, what textures they like, etc. Oftentimes, I will get the comment: “I do want fish, but not too fishy,” which makes a lot of sense. This is where I would recommend a milder fish, such as snapper or mahi mahi.
AL: What items did you select for us to showcase?
RH & SM: Two of our featured entrées are Ginger & Scallion-Broiled Monchong (market price) that comes with garlic fried rice, Chinese black beans and broccolini, and Seared Yellowfin & Foie Gras ($66) that’s served with a chive potato cake, spinach and a pinot noir reduction.
From our raw bar, we have Kona Kampachi Crudo ($28). This really showcases the beauty of the fish itself, and is served with avocado, golden satsuma and fennel.
Three of our fun cocktails include: If Can, Can ($19) with your choice of spirit, orange curacao, lime pineapple and orgeat; Puuloa’s Keeper ($18) with matcha-infused vodka, coconut, thai basil pandan and lime; and Electric Beach ($17) with gin, lemon, lilikoi, housemade orgeat and falernum. All are served over crushed ice.
AL: Before the pandemic, there was an opportunity to take guests on an actual fishing experience. Can you tell me more about this?
RH & SM: It’s on pause right now but its something we are working on to bring back. I’ll share a fun experience that we had with a journalist out fishing in Makaha. We were on a sandy patch and about 180 feet of water and luckily were able to catch nabeta (peacock razor wrasse). This fish is unique. You only have to remove the inside; don’t have to scale anything. Fry it whole and the scales turn into chips and the bones get crispy, so you can eat the whole fish. The beautiful part of this experience was that we were able to catch fish and bring it back to the restaurant. The other part of the experience was to have a gyotaku artist take a print of the fish and re-create the fish that he caught.We sent the finished gyotaku print to his home — we were able to provide more than eating the fish he caught for dinner, an actual memory of his experience of that fishing trip.