There have been a lot of new food and drink venues opening at Salt Kakaako in the last few months, with more coming soon — we almost can't keep up with them! One of the newest is Vein at Kakaako, located just off the central courtyard across Butterfly Ice Cream.
Just two months old, Vein recently added lunch service and already plans to change up the dinner menu for winter. Many of the favorite items will remain, but since lunch is new and will be around a while, I thought this might be a good start in which to introduce you to the restaurant. Not to mention, the lunch prices are a lot friendlier!
Vein is the brainchild of Yoshikazu Saito, who already owns restaurants in Japan. For his first Hawaii venture, he tapped into his buddies from Neiman Marcus: Todd Katahira, Vein's general manager; and Dell Valdez, executive chef. The food is Mediterranean-inspired, so you'll find a fusion of familiar dishes with different spices or presentations — distinctly different from anything else in Salt Kakaako. The space is also unique, with a very modern design that feels like something you'd find on the mainland, but with indoor-outdoor seating that reflects Hawaii's lifestyle.
No matter what you order, get the fries. I don't know what they do, but these fries are consistent, crisp, and seasoned so well that you don't need to dredge them in the parsley aioli (although that's good, too).
Fellow blogger Kelli Shiroma LOVED the beef flatbread. (I liked it; she loved it.) The beef is the same as the one used in the lunch sandwich, so it's shredded, braised short ribs with notes of star anise. The salad of watercress and herbs with yuzu aioli and Parmesiano Reggiano is a nice mix of flavors, too. Note, this is one of four "naan bread salads," but it's actually a Mediterranean flatbread. Fold each piece like a taco to eat.
Another colorful flatbread salad is comprised of Scottish salmon, pickled onion, baby frisee and cucumber, gigantic caper berries "herbed" creme fraiche and smoked trout roe.
The prosciutto and rocket (arugula) flatbread is a fancy take on ham and eggs, with an egg yolk "confit" atop the salad. My dining partners found the pesto to be bitter, but I had a lot of egg yolk on the pieces I ate, so I think if you have all the elements together in one bite, it works. Actually, that's true for all the flatbreads — be sure to get all ingredients in the same bite.
The braised short rib burger is topped with thin slices of lotus root, which is a nice touch. I like soft bread, so I appreciated that the ciabatta was soft, as well as the meat. The lotus adds a little crunch to each bite.
The portobello sandwich is a hearty vegetarian option, and the fried onion strings add crunchiness and a different flavor.
I thought the scallion arrabiatta would be more onion-y, but it's actually more tomatoes and herbs.
And for a healthy lunch, the pan-seared ahi salad is a good choice. The mesclun is tossed with endive, pine nuts, cucumber, radish sprouts, and a lemon-thyme vinaigrette.
Vein is open for lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 5 to 9 p.m. Parking in the Salt Kakaako lot is validated.
Vein at Kakaako
685 Auahi St., Bldg. 2, Suite 121