Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Tangö Contemporary Café

Restaurant Insider

October 23, 2022

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

(From left) Tangö Contemporary Café owner/executive chef Lawrence Nakamoto, Anne Lee and previous co-owner Tami Orozco show off the eatery’s dishes and drinks.

ANNE LEE speaks with Tangö Contemporary Café owner/ executive chef LAWRENCE NAKAMOTO

Upon retirement, Tangö Contemporary Café owner Tami Orozco was recognized by the state Senate with a certificate for 15 years of culinary service, and now has passed the torch to executive chef Lawrence Nakamoto.

Duck Confit Salad ($19)

AL: How long have you been in the industry?

LN: Sixteen years. I was always interested in cooking. I was surrounded by great food and grew up with potlucks. I attribute a lot to my father, Stanford, and my uncle. They both worked cutting fish at Tamashiro Market during law school.

Crab Cake Burger ($22)

AL: Tell me about your career and some of your favorite moments.

LN: In high school, I wanted to be an architect but realized that I couldn’t be sitting down in front of a computer every day. My first cooking job was at Elua with chef Donato and chef Padovani. Seeing both passionate chefs in action helped me take that leap of faith to culinary school. I learned so much from both chefs: one chef singing opera, one looking at the refrigerator and making the house special based on one item — how awesome is that? I also worked at Aaron’s atop of Ala Moana, opened Il Lupino with chef Nick Sayada, then went to Mariposa, and now I am the owner of Tangö.

Smoked Pork Tenderloin ($30)

AL: Tangö has been a very popular restaurant for many years. Why did you want to take on the role of ownership?

LN: Tami and chef Goran Streng were looking at retiring, and having the conversation with Tami, knowing I wanted to open my own place one day, made this happen. There were many people that could have taken on this legacy but I am familiar with this restaurant, understand the intention of the food and expectation, and want to make sure we keep the legacy of chef Goran and Tami. I have worked here through the years in the front and back of the house, and am grateful that they are able to give me this opportunity.

Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb ($38)

AL: Tell me about the new dishes that you have created.

LN: Duck Confit Salad ($19) for lunch features greens, cranberry, haricot vert and asparagus. For daily lunch specials, we are bringing back the Crab Cake Burger ($22). With the pandemic, we didn’t have a chance to get some items back on the menu, but now we are able to bring back favorites, such as chef’s signature gravlax sandwich and the select yogurt ($22). The Smoked Pork Tenderloin (I like to smoke things) with an ume pork reduction is $30 and the Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb on the dinner menu is $38.

AL: What changes will you be implementing?

LN:We have brought back breakfast during the week (open at 7 a.m.), and brunch Saturdays-Sundays (8 a.m.-2 p.m.). It’s the same favorite items, with an Asian tweak.

AL: Anything else you want to share?

LN: Having my own restaurant was my end goal. Tami and chef Goran are still present — it’s still Tangö. What they built for the 15 years, we want to protect that legacy. You may see them both popping in time and again.

1288 Ala Moana Blvd ste 120, Honolulu, HI 96814

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Hawaii's Best