Something new: Artizen by MW at HiSAM

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We were first in line when the brand-new Artizen Restaurant by MW debuted in the Hawaii State Art Museum today. Aside from knowing that MW is a James Beard-nominated restaurant, two years old already in its spot across Nordstrom on Kapiolani, we had to know more.

How would the food be different? What’s the new setup like? What exactly is Artizen bringing to the downtown lunch scene?

No table service here: You order and pick up at the counter, then find a table.

No table service here: You order and pick up at the counter, then find a table.

The dining room looks the same as it did under Downtown and Grand Cafe & Bakery, a calm space looking out on the HiSAM courtyard. It’s a great spot for a lunch meeting or a quick midday break.

Bentos to go ($7-$10). Today's choices were a housemade Spam and kim chee fried rice bento, a kalbi bento and a Portuguese sausage, housemade Spam, lemongrass chicken and kalbi bento. Bentos will change daily.

Bentos to go ($7-$10). Today’s choices were a housemade Spam and kim chee fried rice bento, a kalbi bento and a Portuguese sausage, housemade Spam, lemongrass chicken and kalbi bento. Bentos will change daily.

There are two lines to order: one if you’re looking for a fresh, made-to-order lunch, and another for grab-and-go bentos, sandwiches and salads.

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The opening day menu featured a large selection of sandwiches, bowls and bentos. Our favorites were the ahi basil pesto sandwich ($12) and the mixed plate sandwich ($13 for kalbi, fried chicken, spicy Korean pork and taegu watercress salad on a potato roll) for lunch. And for dessert, the chocolate cake ($4) and strawberry shortcake ($5).

The ahi and basil pesto sandwich highlights the bright acidity of the tomato tapenade and herbaceous basil pesto. Lightly toasted Hawaiian cacao bread and crispy ahi katsu add just the right amount of texture.

The ahi and basil pesto sandwich highlights the bright acidity of the tomato tapenade and herbaceous basil pesto. Lightly toasted Hawaiian cacao bread and crispy ahi katsu add just the right amount of texture.

Don't know what to order? Try the Artizen burger ($11): local ground beef, bacon, smoked gouda cheese.

Don’t know what to order? Try the Artizen burger ($11): local ground beef, bacon, smoked gouda cheese.

Day one desserts: chocolate cake, chocolate eclair, strawberry shortcake, Hawaiian rocky road brownie, miso apple tarte tatin and lemon meringue.

Day one desserts: chocolate cake, chocolate eclair, strawberry shortcake, Hawaiian rocky road brownie, miso apple tarte tatin and lemon meringue.

 Pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka was nominated for a James Beard award.

Pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka was nominated for a James Beard award.

Right outside the dining space is this beautiful courtyard. If you're looking for al fresco dining, take a seat on the walls and enjoy your lunch.

Right outside the dining space is this beautiful courtyard. If you’re looking for al fresco dining, take a seat on the walls and enjoy your lunch.

Artizen by MW
Hawaii State Art Museum
250 South Hotel St.
Monday to Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.