MW’s secret menu

Everyone likes to be in the know, and it’s fun to be able to order stuff that’s not listed on the menu, right? How many times have you gone to Starbucks to order a Captain Crunch, or proudly told the In-N-Out Burger counter you want “double double animal style?”

I’ve done a couple of secret menu blogs so you can get unique dishes and impress your friends. One was at Ginza Bairin, another at Kaiwa Waikiki. The latest in my secret menu adventures was at MW Restaurant, which my foodie friend Sean Morris coordinated. The items you see below are available with 48 hours notice. I don’t have prices, but I can tell you that the entire dinner cost us about $70 each (not including tax and tip).

Lobster canapes.

Lobster canapes.

To start, we had hand-passed canapés. Some of these are currently on the menu, but that often changes, so be sure to check before you make your reservation and secret menu orders.

Ahi tartare with shaved truffles and bubu arare. Photo by Grant Shindo.

Ahi tartare with shaved truffles and bubu arare. Photo by Grant Shindo.

The ahi tartare with shaved truffles was a huge hit. This is on the current menu, but not always.’

What our dinners usually look like: Asians taking pictures of their food.

What our dinners usually look like: Asians taking pictures of their food.

The lineup of canapés. The burger sliders with truffles and yuba were great, moist, meaty bites; the arancini balls with truffles were also a big hit.

Michelle and Wade Ueoka reveal the secret ingredient.

Michelle and Wade Ueoka reveal the secret ingredient.

Before each course, Michelle and Wade Ueoka — the MW behind MW Restaurant — spoke to the crowd and revealed their secret ingredient.

Kabayaki unagi on foie gras fried rice. Photo by Grant Shindo.

Kabayaki unagi on foie gras fried rice. Photo by Grant Shindo.

The first dish was a kabayaki unagi on foie gras fried rice. This was fabulous! The dots on the side are foie gras sauce, which you add to each bite. This was just the right size for a rich dish, I think. Recommended pairing: 2012 Champalou Vouvray Sec – Loire Valley.

Kona lobster canneloni.

Kona lobster canneloni.

The favorite of the night was the Kona lobster cannelloni with tomato ragout. The lobster is poached in butter, and man, you can taste that buttery goodness as it fills your mouth! There’s more butter in the cannelloni, and the ragout was slightly spicy, which rounded out the richness of flavors. Recommended pairing: 2008 Olivier Leflaive “Les Setilles” Bourgogne Blanc.

The plate of kurobuta pork loin before serving to guests.

The plate of kurobuta pork loin before serving to guests.

The kurobuta pork loin was another big hit, and probably something I’d eat as an entree on a different night. By the end of dinner, we were too full to really appreciate this, even though we wanted to keep eating it. It’s served on a bed of kalua pig and cabbage, so there’s an added contrast of pork flavor. This is a hearty dish, for sure. Recommended pairing: 2012 Migration Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley.

Truffled mashed potato beignets.

Truffled mashed potato beignets.

The pork was accompanied by light, airy truffled mashed potato beignets. I could just eat the whole bowl.

Waialua "coffee and cream."

Waialua “coffee and cream.”

For dessert, Michelle outdid herself yet again! This is Waialua “coffee and cream,” a bowl of Hawaiian vanilla panna cotta, coffee gelato, aerated coffee, and shaved coffee granita. I love these icy desserts because they’re so light and refreshing. Recommended pairing: Ramos Pinto – 10 year Tawny Port.

Baked chocolate mousse.

Baked chocolate mousse.

She also made Waialua chocolate mousse “two ways.” The first was this baked chocolate mousse, covered with a chocolate tuille. Not pictured is the Hawaiian vanilla creme anglaise, which you can pour over yourself to your liking. Definitely a chocolate lover’s dream.

Dehydrated chocolate mousse.

Dehydrated chocolate mousse.

The second chocolate mousse was actually dehydrated, like astronaut ice cream. Except astronaut ice cream was never this delicious! It’s dangerously light and probably something you could eat endlessly while, say, writing your blog.

I can’t wait to show you the next round of secret menus at a Honolulu restaurant. What about you? Do you have any favorite secret dishes or menus at restaurants around town? Let me know, and let’s eat!

MW Restaurant
1538 Kapiolani Blvd.
Be sure to give the restaurant 48 hours notice if you want any of these secret menu items.


Que Syrah Syrah at Chef Mavro

When chef George “Mavro” Mavrothalassitis and his wife, Donna Jung invited me to review their special “Que Syrah Syrah” menu — a lamb dish paired with a flight of Syrah wines — I was immediately intimidated. I drink wine, but I can’t confidently critique or review it. So they got sommelier Doug Johnson, who presents the wines every night at Chef Mavro, to give me a quick lesson.

Provence roasted Niman Ranch lamb loin at Chef Mavro.

Provence roasted Niman Ranch lamb loin at Chef Mavro.

The “Que Syrah Syrah” menu is offered from now until February 8, a three-course menu featuring Provence roasted Niman Ranch lamb loin, basil ratatouille, and a socca cake (a riff on the chickpea crepe served in Nice). The special trio of Syrah is served with this entree so you can optimally enjoy Doug’s thoughtful selection. If you order this menu, it’s $128; if you get the full wine pairing (wine with appetizer and dessert in addition to the three Syrah), it’s $158.


The wines featured, from left, are:

  • Domaine Faury, 2012 St. Joseph Vielles Vignes (old vines) from the Rhone Valley in France.
  • E. Guigal, 2010 Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde from the Rhone Valley.
  • Radio-Coteau, 2012 Syrah Les Colinas from Sonoma.

In the first round of tasting, as you’ll see in the video below, the wines each had their own distinct qualities, from cassis and minerals to citrus to even hints of bacon. Then we tried them with bites of the lamb and ratatouille, and the characteristics all changed in our mouths. That’s the magic of such perfect pairing: the wine enhances the food, and the food enhances the wine in a complete experience.

When I was packing up to leave, Doug said, “Hey, you have a great palate!” — which was a big compliment for me, coming from such an accomplished sommelier. I’m still taking baby steps but I was so glad he showed me how to enjoy the flavors of Syrah.

Que Syrah Syrah is available at Chef Mavro from now until February 8, 2015. For more information, visit or call 808-944-4714.


Something new: Whatchafillin’

I can’t believe it’s already been two years since Whatchafillin’ — the truck selling Japanese waffle cakes stuffed with original fillings — first hit the scene. Their version of the Japanese obanyaki/dorayaki (or the Taiwanese chēlún bǐng) was a monthly hit at Eat the Street and a daily hit on the street, all over Honolulu. They later settled at the Kapahulu food truck lot before taking a hiatus.

Anna and Christie Fejeran at their new spot in WZ Entertainment.

Anna and Christie Fejeran at their new spot in WZ Entertainment.

Well, the fresh-griddled waffle sandwiches are back, and in a more permanent spot. Christie Fejeran, who originally owned the truck, has passed the business to her sister Anna (but will still be involved). Since Anna manages the WZ Entertainment game center on Waialae Avenue and they’ve been trying to beef up their cafe menu offerings, it was a natural for her to bring in the beloved Whatchafillin’. They’re starting with four waffle items and the new rice cake.

Whatchafillin's French Kiss.

Whatchafillin’s French Kiss.

If you have never eaten at Whatchafillin’, start with the most popular French Kiss, which is filled with ham, Guyere cheese, caramelized onions and mayonnaise. This is like a meal in itself, with a nice mellow blend of sweet and savory.

Whatchafillin's Hot Stuff.

Whatchafillin’s Hot Stuff.

I wasn’t sure I would like the Hot Stuff when I saw it, because it sounded too rich and too spicy. I was wrong! The cream cheese, cheddar cheese and dried jalapeños are a nice combination, and it’s mixed in the right amounts so you get a little of each.

Whatchafillin' Baby Cake.

Whatchafillin’ Baby Cake.

The Fejeran sisters are holding the desserts, above, and shown here is the Baby Cake, filled with New York-style cheesecake and lilikoi sauce. Yum, that’s a classic combo! Dessert on the go is always a good idea. The other dessert (not shown close up since it’s self-explanatory) is the popular Nuts About You, filled with Nutella, peanut butter and sliced bananas.

Cooking the Whatchafillin' rice cake.

Cooking the Whatchafillin’ rice cake.

One of the new offerings here will be the mochi rice cake, filled with salmon belly and a choice of ginger miso sauce or chili oil sauce.

Whatchafillin' rice cake.

Whatchafillin’ rice cake.

When it’s done, they brush it with shoyu and sprinkle furikake. The outside rice is nice and crunchy, while the inside is soft and chewy. You can easily eat this with your hands, but since I’m a delicate blossom, I used a fork.

WZ Entertainment owner Tiana Haraguchi getting a bite of her first Whatchafillin' in her arcade.

WZ Entertainment owner Tiana Haraguchi getting a bite of her first Whatchafillin’ in her arcade.

Whatchafillin’ opens tomorrow, January 27, inside WZ Entertainment on Waialae Avenue. They’ll be open daily from 6 to 10 p.m., which Anna says are their peak hours, but will extend hours as the customer base builds. Parking is on the street or upstairs.

3457 Waialae Avenue

Dom Perignon dinner: Learning about champagne

As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, Sten Lilja of Moet Hennessy was in town and, through two private dinners with Yasuo Ogawa and Dr. Jeff Yeoh, gave attendees quick lessons in enjoying premium libations. The first was Hennessy cognac; the second, which I’m blogging about now, was for Dom Perignon — the premium champagne.

If I’ve learned nothing else from the Food Network, I’ve learned that unlike red or white wine, champagne is like a little black dress — it goes with everything. And even better, it is supposed to be great with salty foods, which I like. But Yasuo got Neale Asato (formerly of Vintage Cave and now with Livestock Tavern) to create a menu for this dinner to pair perfectly with the vintages featured.


From left: Dom Perignon P2 Vintage 1998, Dom Perignon Vintage 2004, and Dom Perignon Rose Vintage 2003.

Here are the bottles we got to try: We started with the Vintage 2004, the most versatile of the three, which retails for about $160. This went with the various passed appetizers, as well as the scallop and king crab dish you’ll see later. The P2 Vintage, which retails for about $375, went with the salmon dish. And the Rose Vintage 2003, which retails for about $350, was for the pork belly and the dessert tofu.


To start: Oysters with caviar, and uni/ikura toasts, all perfect for the Vintage 2004. They also passed around bacon jam biscuits, but I stuffed one into my mouth and forgot to take a photo.


Neale’s first course was a plate of sliced diver scallops with grapefruit, beets and charred citrus vinaigrette. The fresh, vibrant flavors were great against the fruity, almost floral Vintage 2004.


We were impressed with the king crab, served with a lime-avocado puree, Marcona almonds, charred leeks and brown butter. We were instructed to get a little bit of each in every bite, and by doing that we got a great blend of flavors and textures. This was also paired with the Vintage 2004, and gave a nice, contrasting example of another dish that brought out the floral notes.


The dish that had everyone yelling was the king salmon, which Neal smoked himself. He topped it with fried seaweed, crispy salmon skin, cucumbers and bacon dashi. The fish was amazing and melty, and of course you can’t go wrong with bacon anything, right? I think this would have gone with any of the champagnes offered, but he paired it with the P2 Vintage 1998, and that was fabulous.

Note that we used wine glasses instead of the champagne flutes you're familiar with to get the best aroma and flavor.

Note that we used wine glasses instead of the champagne flutes you’re familiar with to get the best aroma and flavor.

Just a quick note on the P2 Vintage 1998: It scored 98 in Wine Spectator Magazine and is a result of more than 12 years’ maturation on the lees. As you can see above, the color is a little more golden than other champagnes. It’s almost creamy on the palate, fills your mouth with an almost smoky flavor, then has a zesty finish. A woman sitting across me was overwhelmed on her first sip, saying it made her feel like she was back in 1998. The couple next to me bought a bottle, since their son was born in 1998 — not to share with him, but to toast to themselves once he’s graduated from high school!


Another outstanding dish was Neale’s crispy pork belly with grilled cabbage, sour cherry gel, onion puree and pork jus. The dish itself was great, but the cherry gel really pulled everything together and was perfect with the Rose Vintage 2003. The onion puree, in fact, was so good that Yasuo ran to the kitchen, grabbed the pot and doled out large portions for everyone.

A quick note on the Rose Vintage 2003: This vintage is greatly valued for its flavor as well as the conditions that produced it. The vineyard was first touched by severe spring frosts, then an unparalleled heat wave, producing a perfectly ripe and healthy but small harvest. While you can taste fruits like fig and strawberry, the primary flavor for many of us was guava and vanilla. Maybe it’s because we live in Hawaii? In any case, this had the most complexity for me.


The final dish was the handmade tofu, a firm disk that was almost like cheesecake. Neal topped it with berry foam, honey, torn berries and bee pollen for added pops of flavor and texture.

What a great way to round out a decadent weekend! I did end up buying a bottle of Vintage 2004, to use as an incentive for myself for the next very momentous occasion. Mahalo to Sten Lilja, Yasuo Ogawa and Dr. Jeff Yeoh for a great event, and to Neale Asato for outstanding food.

For more photos from this dinner, click here. 

Hennessy Prestige dinner: Learning about cognac

It’s not every day you get to drink a spirit that costs $4,000 a bottle, so I’m going to blog about the unique experience  — not just to share it but to keep it in my memory. I’m pretty sure I won’t get to experience this again!

From left: Yasuo Ogawa, Sten Lilja, Dr. Jeff Yeoh.

From left: Yasuo Ogawa, Sten Lilja, Dr. Jeff Yeoh.

My friend Yasuo Ogawa invited me to a special dinner at Morton’s Steak House last night, where we got to meet Sten Lilja of Moet Hennessy, who explained some of the history and science behind the art of creating their cognacs.

Hennessy Privilege raspberry sidecar and Privilege smash.

Hennessy Privilege raspberry sidecar and Privilege smash.

To start, we were offered two cocktails made with Hennessy: the Privilege raspberry sidecar, which was sweeter and feminine; and the Privilege Smash, which was supposed to be more of a manly cocktail. I actually liked the smash cocktail better, as it was very smooth and the cognac flavor was a little more prominent. But it was neat to see that you could make cocktails with Hennessy.


Here’s the main display of cognacs, so you can see what the bottles look like. The original Hennessy XO retails for about $219 per bottle; the Hennessy Paradis Imperial is about $3,000 (regular Paradis is just $899); and the Richard Hennessy, at the top of the line, is about $4,250 per bottle. Each carafe of Richard Hennessy is numbered and made of pure hand-blown crystal.

From left: Richard Hennessy, Hennessy Paradis Imperial, and the original Hennessy XO.

From left: Richard Hennessy, Hennessy Paradis Imperial, and the original Hennessy XO.

And then the tasting! We went from right to left:

  • The original Hennessy XO was created by Maurice Hennessy in 1870 for his group of friends, and is blended using 100 eaux-de-vie aged up to 30 years. Did you know that XO stands for eXtra Old? Due to the long aging, you end up with a cognac that is very bold and rich. Sten put an ice cube in everyone’s glass, which made it softer on the palate, but you could still taste the fruits and caramel.
  • Hennessy Paradis Imperial was created at the request of the Imperial Court of Russia in 1818 by the Empress as a birthday gift to her son, Tsar Alexander I. Seventh generation Hennessy Master Blender Yann Filloux paid tribute by mixing this special blend, made from the most exclusive eaux-de-vie from the 19th and 20th centuries, aged up to 130 years and matured in old casks. This was, of course, even more complex, with notes of vanilla, flowers and smoke. Sten mentioned lavender, which I didn’t get, but I did smell orange blossoms. This needs to be served in a tulip-shaped glass for optimal experience.
  • Richard Hennessy was created as a tribute to the founder of Hennessy, using more than 100 of the most exceptional eaux-de-vie, aged up to 200 years. The oldest of these are extremely rare, and some date from the early 19th century.  Sten had us take a very small sip at first and hold it in our mouths (almost chewing on it). This one was the boldest of the three, with spices, vanilla, flowers, fruit and oak (I sensed a little leather, too). The flavor lingers in your mouth for a long time, so you can sip and talk, sip and talk, making that $400 glass last the night.

I’m sure I could have appreciated these exceptional cognacs on their own, but having Sten walk us through the history of each while telling us what to look for in smell and taste really helped me to gain extra respect for the painstaking — and long — process of making it.

Lobster bisque, Bibb lettuce salad, prime ribeye steak and a dessert trio.

Lobster bisque, Bibb lettuce salad, prime ribeye steak and a dessert trio.

Although the Hennessy was really the focal point, we had it with a four-course dinner at Morton’s to see how it went with food instead of wine. And it was great! I’m not just saying that. Instead of worrying about the perfect wine pairing with each course, the cognacs added elegance, but didn’t clash with anything. That was one of the big takeaways for me — you can enjoy a bold spirit with dinner and it still enhances the food.


As an added party favor, Yasuo and Jeff gave all of us a miniature bottle of Hennessy XO. Now I have to decide on a special occasion to sip this! Mahalo to Sten, Yasuo and Jeff for an amazing tasting event!