It seems like a lot of chefs around town are trying to spread their creative wings so they’re not stuck cooking the same old, same old at their same old jobs. Although diners like to go back to restaurants for their favorites, it’s nice to see special little menu items pop up from time to time, so we can take a taste of these chefs’ talents.
Morimoto Waikiki and The Study, both in The Modern Honolulu, recently introduced new bites and drinks to freshen up their regular offerings. Here’s a look at what we tried.
The R&D menu at Morimoto has actually been around for a couple of months — I went to a tasting via Kristin Jackson before they printed the menus, back in April — and I was planning to post these anyway when I got a call from Kira Chong Tim, who was doing a sample tasting at The Study. So now you can see everything available at The Modern! And on a side note, I had just chipped a back tooth on the day I went to The Study, and I can attest that everything we ate was safe for people who need soft foods.
There’s a long lineup of new cocktails at The Study, all $13, but we only tried two since it was a workday. And as it turned out, these were two of the more popular ones! Kira is holding a West Thai Story, which is like a pina colada: Bacardi Superior rum, coconut syrup, pineapple juice, and mint. Yumi is holding a Champagne Haze, which has Bombay Sapphire, fresh pressed lemon juice, locally harvested honey and fresh strawberries, topped with prosecco.
One of our favorites was the quail egg ravioli: silky pasta pillows with quail eggs, lemon and shiso ricotta (I think this is what really makes it), smoked bacon vinaigrette, and sorrel. It’s different from anything that anyone else is serving, with outstanding flavors.
The short rib gnocchi is super tender, almost melty, which is something I’d favor even if I didn’t have a chipped tooth. I loved that the dish is full of mushrooms, too, which makes the meat richer and meatier.
The tuna tartare is a fresh mound of fish accessorized with caviar, chervil, horseradish aioli, olives, and pickled red onions. These are served with delicate crisps like the ones on the MCO, below.
The meat-cheese-olive plate features Guiness cheese (which is like port cheese, but with beer), fontina and brie with an assortment of meats and thin crisps that are sturdy enough to hold the cheese, but delicate enough to not hurt anyone’s cracked teeth. Just saying.
You can’t go wrong with what’s basically a three-mushroom pizza.
Most people are surprised to see the grapes on the GOAT pizza, which is also topped with zucchini, goat cheese, mozzarella and romesco. But this combination does work! It’s a lot like eating fruits and cheese on an appetizer platter; these are just melted. The sweet, tart, rich and savory combination is a nice surprise.
Okay, I actually didn’t eat this one, since it looked a little risky for my chipped tooth. But Yumi said it was good, so I’ll take her word for it.
Up at Morimoto’s, the R&D menu seems to be a little less expensive, which I didn’t expect.
Instead of a Moscow Mule, Morimoto has created the Waikiki Mule, which has barenjager, cucumber vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer. I thought it was lighter and fruitier than the original, which is a good thing (for me).
We liked the “can I have another?” cocktail, comprised of Jose Cuervo, vanilla banana, and pineapple. This was way too easy to drink! It was just a mellow blend of flavors and very light. If it was strong, we couldn’t tell.
One of our favorite little dishes on the R&D menu was the hamachi tacos. Poke tacos are always popular, but these are an even better idea, with the rich, fatty hamachi sashimi filling the shells with other refreshing flavors and a hint of spice.
Shishito peppers and edamame are on this new R&D menu, but they’re not new to Hawaii. There’s no unique preparation for these, either, but are both good filler for everyone to munch on.
I love ribs, so the sticky ribs were one of my favorite new items. They’re tender, sweet and slightly savory, with a subtle, spicy kick.
The green tea soba noodles are a neat idea, pairing cold with hot, soft with crunchy. The dashi is not so strong that it overwhelms the dish, but is still salty enough to complement the noodles and dip the shrimp.
I tend to not prefer green tea, but one of my favorite new desserts was the coconut green tea sorbet on a mango parfait with coconut cake. This is tropical, light, and refreshing, just the way I like to end dinner.
One of my favorite desserts was the chilled shuffle cheesecake, which is a lot like Japanese cheesecake. I love the orange cream, guava sorbet and blood orange foam with it, too; the citrusy flavors with the creamy cheesecake is, of course, like a delicate creamsicle.
This milk chocolate-key lime pie is a deconstructed, reconstructed dessert with a crunchy chocolate tart topped with wasabi-raspberry sorbet on a plate dotted with key lime meringue. It sounds like an absolutely weird combination, but it actually works well. It’s still not for everyone, but it’s good and interesting on the palate since none of the flavors overwhelm each other.
The fiery chocolate tart ($22) provides a dramatic presentation. A pretty chocolate globe comes to the table, then — as you see in the video below — they pour flaming dark rum over it to reveal and melt the marshmallow inside. The graham crackers and dark chocolate sorbet on the side make it a very grown-up s’more.
Have fun! To see all photos and the menus, click here.
Morimoto Waikiki & The Study
1775 Ala Moana Blvd.