If ordering takeout from MW Restaurant is part of your pandemic life, or if you've missed dining at Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka's posh eatery, take note: The popular restaurant is closing at the end of the year and reopening in the Symphony Honolulu building in early 2021.
The one-month closure aside, the move looks like a win. MW’s new home will be in the glass-fronted Viaggio spot on the second floor of Symphony, roughly four blocks down Kapiolani Boulevard from its current home. Downstairs, the couple plan to resurrect Artizen, the casual downtown café they closed in late summer. There was some urgency here: The lease for MW, which opened seven years ago in the former KGMB-TV building, is expiring. And paying a fixed rent when the fine-dining eatery had switched to an all-takeout pandemic menu was always daunting.
They were already looking for options when one of Karr-Ueoka’s Punahou classmates, Brad Nicolai of JN Group, whose luxury car showroom is in the Symphony building, offered the new space. “Of all the places we were looking at,” Karr-Ueoka starts to say, and then, “You know how you have that intuition that this is the place? The only other time I had that feeling was when I saw MW.”
Plans call for Artizen to resume a version of MW’s current takeout menu — with breakfast, lunch and dinner — at the end of January. By Valentine’s Day, MW hopes to reopen upstairs for lunch and dinner. Aside from limited private events, this will mark the first time since March it will open for dine-in service.
The new menu will largely resemble the old, with some tweaks. “We’ve been geared toward trying to survive COVID,” Ueoka says, but “this is a chance to rejuvenate ourselves. We’re keeping a lot of the flavors and updating them and putting refined touches, giving a fresh feel.” That means his mochi-crusted fish, an MW menu favorite that he started developing toward the end of his 17 years at Alan Wong’s, will get a revamp with kampachi and upscale bento side dishes replacing the current Korean-style banchan. And MW’s happy hour Spam musubi will get a refresh: Karr-Ueoka’s mochi dango will be the new rice element, topped with a new wagyu-based house-made Spam under a dab of glossy, ocean-y tsukudani nori.
Last day of service at the current MW is Dec. 31, 2020.