Something new: Pies and plate lunches at Cafe Waiola

Cafe WaiolaSweet Revenge and Simply Ono, two of the city’s sought-after food trucks, recently started serving their homemade pies and plate lunches at Cafe Waiola, the Kaka‘ako eatery at University of Hawaii’s John Burns School of Medicine.

After The Curb and Breadshop baker Christopher Sy quietly exited the space, we wondered who would move into the spacious kitchen, conveniently located near Kakaako Waterfront Park. Then early last week, Kathy Masunaga of Sweet Revenge and Harris Sukita and Cora Stevens of Simply Ono began cooking out of the same kitchen at the cafe.

Sweet Revenge has become a draw both at Eat the Street and local farmers’ markets with its freshly baked sweet and savory pies made from local ingredients. The day I went to check out Cafe Waiola, Masunaga had chicken, Pavlova (peach, pineapple, lilikoi), Milky Way, quiche and vegeterian (called the Darkside) pies available for purchase along with scones, croissants, cookies and Pacifikool ginger drinks. New to the menu are pitaya (dragonfruit) and acai bowls ($9.50) and smoothies ($6.50), fresh fruit and yogurt. Pies are $8 apiece; for $10, you get a pie, drink and salad.

Masunaga knows parking can be tight and said there’s a loading zone next to the building, and customers can place a phone order (808-282-0234), then run inside to grab their pies.

IMG_8019Simply Ono (808-728-0441), meanwhile, is dishing out what it does best — local-style plate lunches and comfort food such as Okinawan shoyu pork, furikake-crusted salmon and homemade lasagna ($7-$8 mini plates; $8-$9 regular). But Sukita and Stevens also are expanding into grab-and-go salads, like the loaded chef’s salad ($8) and ahi poke salads ($8.50).

Here’s a look first at Sweet Revenge at Cafe Waiola:

Something new: Sweet Revenge

Kathy Masunaga (second from right) and her team, which includes her two sons. She endearingly refers to them as minions and elves.

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Simply Ono

Something new: Simply Ono

The Okinawan shoyu pork is a crowd favorite ($8.50 regular/$7.75 mini) with tender pieces of sliced pork topped with a hearty shoyu sauce.

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Cafe Waiola at UH’s John Burns School of Medicine
651 Ilalo St.
Hours: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays


Something new: Mr. Tea

IMG_7705Mr. Tea is the latest shop to seize on the city’s tea craze, gearing up for Friday’s opening in the Ward Area, across the street from Blaisdell Center.

Owner George Huang gave me a sneak preview of his shop, which specializes in high quality milk teas. The 25-year-old University of Hawaii grad, whose family is from Taiwan and has long dreamed of opening his own cafe, hopes Mr. Tea becomes the “Starbucks of milk tea.” His criticism of current milk tea businesses is that they aren’t consistent, so for his shop, he plans to brew four types of tea in large, controlled batches to produce a more consistent product. Mr. Tea will offer black tea, a floral jasmine tea, a nutty roasted oolong tea and a slightly tart rosalind tea.

IMG_7699He also will use high-quality ingredients, such as fresh boba, chia seeds and rolled tea leaves (instead of powders) to produce a smoother and more reliable flavor.

I had a chance to see the large batch brewing and to taste Mr. Tea’s milk teas and smoothies to get a feel for the different flavors and ingredients.

Here’s a look at the teas and the shop:

Mr. Tea

Owner George Huang is only 25 years old and this is his first business venture, but he has big plans for his new business, which focuses on quality and consistency. Previously, Huang worked in luxury retail for Hermes, DFS and Tiffany's.

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Mr. Tea
909 Kapiolani Boulevard
Opens Friday, July 18 at 10 a.m. (Customers who come in Friday will get a special milk tea discount)
Regular hours: 10 a.m.-midnight on weekdays; 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends
Parking at 909 Kapiolani building

5 questions with Marcel Vigneron

Marcel's Quantum KitchenAs an official media partner of this year’s Hawai‘i Food and Wine Festival, we’ll be interviewing several of the noteworthy chefs who be attending this year’s event, which runs Aug. 27 through Sept. 7.

Chef Marcel Vigneron is a three-year veteran of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival and will be cooking at the Aloha ‘Aina, Aloha Kai on Friday, Aug. 29 at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa on the island of Hawaii.

Vigneron’s a familiar face on television, having appeared on the second season of “Top Chef,” where he finished second, and on “Top Chef Masters,” “Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen” and “The Next Iron Chef.” He has worked for some of the world’s most celebrated chefs, including Joel Robuchon, Michael Mina and Jose Andres. Vigneron currently runs Modern Global Tasting out of Los Angeles, California.

Marcel Vigneron 3This is your fourth festival. What is it about Hawaii that keeps bringing you back?

The Hawaiian Food and Wine Festival keeps me coming back because it’s my favorite gastronomic food adventure of the year. Everything from the people, the food, the weather, the surf, the raw products, the environment; it’s all just so incredible! It is truly a magical place, and I like it so much I have thought of moving there on several occasions.

Do you have any guilty food pleasures while you’re here in Hawaii?

I definitely eat a lot more tropical fruit than normal, so my sugar intake is a little bit higher than normal. I also love the local loco moco and Spam musubi that you can get pretty much anywhere. I’m not sure if those are technically “guilty pleasures,” but definitely some of my favorites while in Hawaii.

Marcel Vigneron, Cuisine Unlimited, Sundance Film Festical, foodWhere are your favorite places to eat in the islands?

I thoroughly enjoyed Alan Wong’s in Waikiki two years ago, Roy’s on both Oahu an the Big Island are fantastic, and Capische on Maui is outstanding.

What’s your best memory from a past time in Hawaii?

I feel like I always answer that question with having a traditional luau in Waipio Valley, but I’m going to change it up this time and say that I had an extremely epic adventure on the road to Hana last year in Maui. We stopped off at so many magical places and it was such a wonderful adventure that I will remember for eternity.

What foods here intrigue you the most?
Hmmm, that’s a tough one! Honestly, I would really like to say all of them. I just love how every time I come back I still get introduced to new things, whether it be some sort of wild tropical fruit or an unusual species of fish that I’ve never encountered before. Either way I am extremely intrigued and very inspired every time I go to Hawaii.

HFWF14-Love-Land-Sea-hires_0Aloha ‘Aina, Aloha Kai – Love of the Land, Love of the Sea: Friday, August 29, 2014, Naupaka Ballroom at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, VIP $500 | General $250, Buy tickets

The 2014 Festival launches on Hawaiʻi Island with Aloha ʻAina, Aloha Kai – Love of the Land, Love of the Sea at the Waikoloa Beach Resort with the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Hilton Waikoloa Village. Hawaiʻi Island, the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago is abundant with fertile agricultural lands that produce local beef, seafood and produce. Join us for an exclusive six course gala on the volcanic grounds of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort featuring products grown on Hawaiʻi Island.

Q&As with other Hawaii Food and Wine Festival chefs
5 questions with Ming Tsai

BreadShop at Snackbox pop-up this Saturday

Photo by @UMUHawaii

Photo by @UMUHawaii

Mark your calendars. Snackbox in Kaka’ako is hosting a bake shop collaboration with BreadShop this Saturday. According to Snackbox chef Mark “Gooch” Noguchi, this will be BreadShop’s last #BreadShopSaturday event for a while, since baker Christopher Sy is leaving his space at the John A. Burns School of Medicine cafeteria.

The bake sale starts at 9 a.m. and will feature Sy, known for his artisan loaves and pastries, and Kimberly Oi of Snackbox and LunchBox, known for her crazy scones and toasts. They’ll make 150 pieces for this pop-up, and customers will be limited to six pieces per person.

Photo by @kcp8

Photo by @kcp8

Sy’s offerings will include croissants — think spinach taegu, ham and cheese, almond, chocolate, sesame and plain — as well as cardamom buns, focaccia bread and a dozen of his signature city loaves. Oi will start serving two kinds of toast from 10 a.m., the first topped with housemade ricotta, Kona sea salt, honey and farm fresh fruits and the second with fresh tomato, avocado, olive oil and salt.

Snackbox’s drinks will round out the menu. Arrive early and plan for take-out. Seating will be very tight. See you Saturday!

BreadShop at Snackbox: A Bake Sale
Saturday, June 14
9 a.m. until 2 p.m. or sold out
Inside PAD
691 Auahi St.

Big plans for chef Chris Kajioka

ckpromoExciting new projects and collaborations lie ahead for Chris Kajioka, who will be departing Vintage Cave after about a year and a half as executive chef at the exclusive Ala Moana restaurant. I had a chance to chat with Kajioka about his departure, and more importantly, what’s ahead.

The big question on everyone’s mind is, what was the catalyst indicating that it’s time for something new?

The catalyst was my son, for sure. This is what time I get here (8:30 a.m.). It’s been like that for the past year and a half. I don’t get home until 12:30 a.m.

Tell me about your dream restaurant.

There are two things I’ll be working on. I’m working with Mourad (Mourad Lahlou is chef at San Francisco’s highly touted Aziza), and we’re going to open a restaurant here. It’s not going to be the Cave; it’s not going to be a tasting menu; it’s going to be Moroccan food. It’s food that I really believe in, and it’s stuff I really want to eat. It’ll be takeout, really approachable, good price, a lot of flavor, fresh.

That’s one thing, but I also want to live my dream. Definitely something with high technique, good ingredients, just like we do here, but more fun, more approachable.

I’ve always wanted to do a counter similar to Atelier Robuchon. I love seeing cooks work, just like a sushi place, the best place is at the counter. You can see right away if they’re good or not by the way they move. I definitely want a place with windows. You take it for granted, but the past year and a half, I’ve been in a cave.

Vintage CaveSo the goal is two restaurants?

Yeah, and I’ll be heavily involved in San Francisco as well with Mourad. The first restaurant, I’d love to be really simple; the second, I will be really patient with.

I have been looking at a ton of spaces here in Hawaii. They’re either too big or not the right location. I think with Hawaii, people we need parking. It’s a big thing, it’s a driving city. I don’t want to change the concept of the restaurant for the space.

I’ve been talking to chef Wade Ueoka (MW Restaurant), and he mentioned you were going to do some things over there?

Wade was really gracious to offer the space. Starting in July, we will be doing Tuesday dinners at MW Restaurant. What we’re going to do is change the theme of the dinner every time.

One dinner will be Moroccan food; one dinner will be tasting menu food; one dinner could be all vegetables. Either way it will be affordable. The first one will be family style.

Did you like the idea of having collaborations?

Usually people do them maybe twice a year, we did it once a month. It first started as I worked with a lot of great people. They’re young, and now they’re starting their own restaurants.

It was selfishly for me and my staff because not many of them have worked on the Mainland. It’s good exposure to see how these guys work, how they tick, how they organize themselves.

The most ambitious one is going to be in two weeks, Yosuke Suga. I’ve idolized this guy since I was coming up in San Francisco. He was the rising star at Robuchon in New York, his protege. I used to watch him when I was at Per Se. Just the way this guy moves, man, I’m jealous. You want to emulate how he works.

I prepared a meal for him and it took a long time, I was so nervous. He loved it; he was blown away. He asked to do a dinner together. That means the world to me. What he’s going to order is crazy, so whoever is coming, they’re extremely lucky.

What are your immediate plans after Vintage Cave?

In August I’m going to travel a bit. I’m going to stage in LA with Jeremy Fox. In my opinion, he’s one of the best chefs in the country, bar-none. Talent-wise, he’s a genius. I always wanted to work with him.

Then I’m going to New York for a bit and have been talking to Yosuke. He’s opening his restaurant later in the year, and he’s expressed interest in me.

Farewell to executive chef Chris Kajioka

Group shot

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