Chefs see a lot of great food. No matter where we are, we're always on the lookout for memorable dishes that inspire us to see flavors, ingredients and techniques in different ways.
Here are the dishes that stood out for five Hawaii chefs.
D.O.M. by way of Leahi Concept Kitchen: Amazon honey
Ed Morita — The Modern Honolulu
The most memorable thing I tasted in 2017 is by far honey harvested from stingless bees in the Amazon. Alex Atala of Brazil's D.O.M., widely considered the best restaurant in South America, brought the honey with him for his pop-up dinner at Leahi Concept Kitchen in August.
Because of its antibacterial properties, honey does not spoil. Yet this was slightly fermented, which gave it almost a bubbly feeling in my mouth. The taste was like no honey I have ever had before or likely will ever have again unless I visit the Amazon or D.O.M. It was citrusy and had fruit notes that I could not begin to comprehend. Even Atala had no idea the kinds of plants that the bees visited, nor could he explain how the honey ferments within the hive. Whatever the answers, the result is delicious.
Kiosk at Mercato Centrale: Panini con lampredotto
Roy Yamaguchi — Roy's Restaurants, Eating House 1849, Roy's Beach House, Humble Market Kitchin
While visiting Florence, Italy in April, Roy Yamaguchi found a little kiosk outside the Mercato Centrale that served this deceptively simple-looking lampredotto sandwich. The filling is made from the fourth and final stomach of the cow.
"The mouthfeel of the lampredotto, combined with the stewed juices and the spicy chili sauce that soaks into the steaming hot bun, make this sandwich a winner," says Yamaguchi. "It's amazing."
Sushi Sho: Ankimo nigiri
Chris Kajioka — Senia
Chris Kajioka of Senia Restaurant has much respect for Keiji Nakazawa and his Sushi Sho restaurants in Tokyo and Waikiki.
"I have had the pleasure of eating at his original Sushi Sho in Yotsuya, Japan and a few times at his Hawaii location. I idolize him. He is a Japanese treasure that focuses on the true Edomae style," Kajioka says. "One of the best bites of my life is his ankimo (steamed monkfish liver, which Nakazawa serves with pickled baby watermelon on red-vinegar rice).
"There is just nothing like it. Over the years we have become friends doing many private dinners together, and I admire that he challenges himself with Hawaii fish. One day I would love to train with him and be his apprentice."
EN Japanese Brasserie: Maitake mushroom kamameshi
Lee Anne Wong — Koko Head Cafe
On a September trip back to her old stomping grounds in New York City, Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe had dinner one of her favorite restaurants, EN Japanese Brasserie.
"We had a maitake mushroom kamameshi SMOTHERED in freshly shaved black truffle," says Wong. "When I say smothered, I mean two whole black truffles. I've eaten a lot of luxurious things in my life, but this sorta takes the cake. The aroma and flavor were sublime — heady and intoxicating, not to mention the perfect texture of the rice and mushrooms."
Chef Mavro: Peterson Farm egg osmose with Perigord truffles
George Mavrothalassitis — Chef Mavro
When George Mavrothalassitis without hesitation names one of his own dishes as the most memorable of the year, that's saying a lot — especially after he points out that he's enjoyed several three-star Michelin meals on the Mainland and in Paris this year.
He credits Peterson Farm in Wahiawa with giving him delicious eggs to start with, and whatever magic produces the Perigord truffles he procures during the short season every year. The egg osmose is curently on the winter menu at Chef Mavro Restaurant.