By Grant Shindo and Thomas Obungen
A couple of months ago we peeked into a vacant corner space at Hotel and Nuuanu and noticed renovations going on. It turns out a new restaurant called Fete was taking shape.
Chuggy popped his head in one day and met owners Robynne Maii and Chuck Bussler. The couple moved back home to be closer to Maii’s family after more than a decade working restaurants, teaching and catering in New York City. They shared a sneak peek of their new American menu, with dishes like crispy fried chicken over cheesy grits and a mouthwatering foie gras gyoza.
Fete, their first restaurant, opened on March 23 with an approachable menu that uses local, seasonal ingredients as often as possible. You’ll see things like produce from Waipio, Kula and Ho Farms, poha berry jam from Maui and cheeses from Naked Cow Dairy.
The 40-seat restaurant features a full bar and chef’s counter. Also worth noting is the basement, a rarity in this city, used for storage. Although limited, you’ll find street parking out front on Nuuanu as well as in two nearby municipal lots.
We dined at Fete on Saturday with the aim of trying as much of the menu as possible. When we arrived at 5:45, it was already packed with an impressive opening week crowd.
Scanning the menu, we noted typical downtown dinner prices for its genre, with appetizers starting at $8 and main courses at $16.
Dishes tasted like the products of hours upon hours spent tinkering in the kitchen. Even so, one item stood out head and shoulders above the rest: the fried chicken. The twice-fried chicken is sectioned into breast and whole leg pieces, so you’re basically getting half a bird. I have no idea how they manage to retain so much moisture in the meat while achieving a skin that crackles audibly when you bite in. We found ourselves tearing off pieces to mop up remnants of cheesy Charleston grits.
Even the frites are spectacular. When we complimented the owners on the crisp exterior and fluffy innards, Bussler let us in on a little secret: They use cottonseed oil for frying. Now that’s dedication.
Overall, Fete makes a great first impression with a lively NYC-esque vibe, a solid seasonal menu featuring local farmers and producers and a full bar. We’ll definitely be back soon (and often) to tackle the rest of the dishes. Lunch service, by the way, starts this week.
Here’s a bit more of our dinners:
2 N. Hotel St.
Mon-Thurs 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Fri 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sat 5 p.m.-11 p.m.