There’s no club, no yachts, and this isn’t anywhere near the water. But I was dying to try a pop-up restaurant called Liholiho Yacht Club by a local boy while in San Francisco, especially after I saw the menu. Kim chee quail? Hot malasadas in cold San Francisco? I’m there.
A tweet from Liholiho Yacht Club (@Liholihoclub) spurred @TheDapperDiner to grab the last remaining table for May 21 so we could try the work of chef Ravi Kapur, a Hawaiian-Chinese Kailua boy who graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 1999. Ravi was most recently Executive Chef at Prospect — which is often called the “little sister” restaurant to Boulevard, where he was Chef de Cuisine for eight years — but left to spend time with his infant son, Makoa.
He started a pop-up out of the restaurant Citizen’s Band in Februrary, which runs only on Mondays, with most of his information coming out of his Facebook page. The cuisine is inspired by Hawaii’s plate lunches, but with an innovative twist. It’s kind of a cool way to get sophisticated mainland diners exposed to humble local favorites like tako poke, lomi salmon, char siu ribs and butter mochi, but these are definitely riding on a whole new wave. Everything is served family style and eaten with proper utensils (no mo’ wooden chopsticks from Marukai here!), and tables are close enough that you can talk story with people near you if you want.
Although Ravi loves to see Hawaii people in his restaurant, it gets so busy that there’s not much time to talk story. So to describe how our dinner went, I’ll defer to the Two Beer Queers‘ famous rating system, and I hope it translates for you mainland readers. (Uncle Ron, email me if you need help. LOL.)
Dinner at the Liholiho Yacht Club
Outside, Citizen's Band restaurant is pretty nondescript. So why Liholiho Yacht Club? The name came from Ravi's uncle, who used to throw parties on Maui with live music and beer to support his catamaran sailing. He named the gatherings Liholiho Yacht Club, after the street they were on. Ravi picked up the name with the same idea: to do what you can to keep doing what you love. His signature hash tag, #getjag, means "Cutting loose with or without the use of a substance. Something you do when talking story."
Another thing that stood out for me was the fact that I was eating with a bunch of foodies. Not just foodies, but people who didn’t need to prove they were foodies. Yes, we like to talk about food and all the geeky little factoids about it. But when you’re not a food snob, you can enjoy your food and still feel free to talk about other things … like how to steal toilet paper from the office.
But, I digress. What’s next for Ravi? He’s currently looking for a space in the Mission to open a stand-alone restaurant — no word on what the cuisine will be, for sure. In the meantime, he tweeted, “A pop-up in Hawaii just might be possible…”