Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Highgate HawaiiRestaurant Insider
June 11, 2023
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: Where Hawaii Eats and Anne Lee
ANNE LEE speaks with area food and beverage director for Highgate Hawaii CHASE HEU
What is a pop-up restaurant? We see them from time to time and I wanted to get perspective from my friend Chase Heu, who is the area food and beverage director for Highgate Hawaii. He has been in this industry for more than 28 years and has worked at famous resorts in Las Vegas and alongside Iron Chef star Masaharu Morimoto.
Luna’s Tequila Bar was a concept suggested by his friend and assistant food and beverage director Edward Daniels, who he brought out of retirement.
We tried the homemade tortilla chips with freshly made salsa and guacamole as well as the delicious tacos prepared by executive chef Alex Pepard, as I learned more about the agave plant. There is some truth to the saying, “Tequila is like duct tape — it fixes almost everything.”
AL: This resort already has an array of dining establishments. Why did you come up with a pop-up concept?
CH: Our visitor industry and local community has changed dramatically since the pandemic. We still see a lot of travelers, but it’s not the same as it was. Everything is at a higher cost. We wanted to do something unique that’s trendsetting that Oahu — or Hawaii in general — hasn’t really opened up yet. We wanted to be able to offer something different, like an educational experience for guests that want to taste different special types of tequila in an intimate setting.
AL: Tequila is a trend that surpasses any other type of spirit. Why do you think that is?
CH: It’s a spirit that’s always been there, but now people are gravitating to it. Everyone’s palate has changed. They want to find a spirit now that is clean and doesn’t make you feel not so good the next day. From my understanding, tequila that is 100% agave is a distilled spirit made from the agave plant in a town called Tequila, located in Jalisco, Mexico. Similar to how champagne can only be from the region of Champagne, France, there will be a “Made in Mexico” label that reads: “100% agave.” It’s different than the mixto tequila that you may remember from back in the day that is mixed with “filler” ingredients that caused some bad hangovers.
Like they say, if you can see through it, that’s as pure as you get.
AL: There is a flight of tequila that we are going to try. Which ones did you select?
CH: The first one is the Clase Azul Tequila Reposado ($45 per shot). This is a very popular tequila; you see it all over social media. It’s made with slow cooked 100% Blue Weber agave, aged for eight months in whiskey casks. Each ceramic bottle is hand crafted and painted by Mexican artisans. The last person that buys the last shot in the bottle gets to keep the bottle, like back in the day when the last shot would get you the worm.
The next one is my personal favorite: Don Julio 1942 ($45 per shot). Personally, I think it’s really smooth. It’s produced in small batches and aged for two and a half years.
The next one is like a whiskey/ bourbon, the 1800 Añejo Top Tier ($30 per shot). You could put this one in a snifter glass and warm it up and sip it like a cognac. It’s Jose Cuervo’s best one. It’s aged for a long time; that’s how you get that nice caramel color, extra agave. You don’t see this a lot in restaurants.
Last but not least is the gluten-free Komo’s Extra Anejo ($60 per shot). It has extra añejo, is super pure and extra good — the only tequila that scored 100 points from a tasting panel.
We have a selection of tequilas that you cannot find anywhere else.
AL: What did chef Alex prepare for us to try?
CH: We have the Traditional Molcajete Guacamole ($9 small, $17 large), which features avocado, onion and green chiles. It’s made fresh table-side.
We also have the Trio Tacos ($12 or $5 for one taco), which are made with yellow corn tortillas.
The different types of tacos we have include:
• Mole Jidori Chicken Tacos (braised whole chicken in mole sauce, cotija cheese and pickled onion)
• Barbacoa Tacos (slow braised short ribs, white onion, cilantro and salsa verde)
• Tofu Tacos (roasted tofu, paprika, avocado, pico de gallo and salsa roja)
• Cochinita Pibil (traditional Mexican braised pork with achiote paste and juices and Maui pineapple salsa)
AL: Anything else you want to share?
CH: We have Celebrity Tequila Tasting Flights (three for $18), where you can try tequila brands including Kendall Jenner’s 818, George Strait’s Condigo 1530, Mark Cuban’s Avion, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Teremana, Eva Longoria’s Casa Del Sol and Santana’s Casa Noble.