Something new: Ed Kenney’s Mud Hen Water

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Ed Kenney’s Mud Hen Water opened this week, the locavore chef’s third restaurant in Kaimuki. It’s next to Kaimuki Superette, his casual lunch spot where orders are served on cafeteria-style trays, and across the street from Town restaurant. “The name comes from the translation of Waialae, the watering hole where the mudhen gathers. We want Mud Hen Water to be the gathering place in Kaimuki,” says Joel Seger, one of the bartenders.

Steamed clams ($13) with kalua pig, cabbage and charred chives. Easily one of our favorites, the pork's smokiness adding another layer of flavor to the briny clams.

Steamed clams ($13) with kalua pig, cabbage and charred chives. Easily one of our favorites, the pork’s smokiness adding another layer of flavor to the briny clams.

Like Kenney’s other restaurants, the vibe at this one is casual. And like many watering holes, it’s open evenings only. Knowing that Kenney had been describing local and Asian touches on the menu, in contrast to the contemporary and traditional American and Mediterranean-inspired dishes at his other places, I put together a small group of friends and headed over.

Scanning the menu, we found things like smoke meat carbonara, cold ginger rabbit, a riff on the Chinese favorite, and lup cheong madeleines with miso-whipped lard.

Cold ginger rabbit ($15) with the traditional ginger and green onions, crunchy puffed rice and mountain apple mostarda. A bold, tasty dish.

Cold ginger rabbit ($15) with the traditional ginger and green onions, crunchy puffed rice and mountain apple mostarda. A bold, tasty dish.

Because of Kenney’s commitment to supporting local, the menu changes daily and features ingredients that are in season. So don’t get too attached to your favorite dishes.

I still remember the tender octopus roll I had at Kaimuki Superette the week they opened. The octopus here is the grilled he'e and luau ($16) lives up to that: ultra tender and full of flavor, it melts in your mouth.

I still remember the tender octopus roll I had at Kaimuki Superette the week they opened. The octopus here in the grilled he’e and luau ($16) lives up to that: ultra tender and full of flavor, it melts in your mouth.

The restaurant has a throwback feel with stone masonry propping up the bar and lining the open kitchen. And the dishes remind you of long-ago times, like the Okinawan soba with braised spare ribs, and are often both nostalgic and progressive, like the beets with avocado and ogo.

The Okinawan soba with braised spare ribs ($16) reminds me of eating a simple but delicious saimin as a kid with my dad. All the flavor is there and the simplicity of the dish is appealing.

The Okinawan soba with braised spare ribs ($16) reminds me of eating a simple but delicious saimin as a kid with my dad. All the flavor is there and the simplicity of the dish is appealing.

The menu is crafted for parties to share, tapas style. The drink menu has eight cocktails, eight beers including Maui Brewing Co. and Kona Brewing Co. labels, and almost a dozen wines.

I love any dish with ogo and the beets ($10) with macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, avocado and ogo are delicious. At first glance you wouldn't think the salty crunch from ogo would pair well with the earthiness of the beets but it works in every way. Photo by Thomas Obungen

I love any dish with ogo and the beets ($10) with macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, avocado and ogo are delicious. At first glance you wouldn’t think the salty crunch from ogo would pair well with the earthiness of the beets but it works in every way. Photo by Thomas Obungen

The half chicken ($28) is pricey but worth it. The pieces are juicy and tender and go well with the tamarind mustard, Szechuan salt and shrimp chips.

The half chicken ($28) is pricey but worth it. The pieces are juicy and tender and go well with the tamarind mustard, Szechuan salt and shrimp chips.

Overall Mud Hen Water is a relaxed local restaurant that’s perfect for a casual dinner with a few friends. Be sure to order the he’e, half chicken and beets as they are all well-seasoned and the perfect size for sharing. If you’re looking for something more nostalgic, the Okinawan soba really hits the spot.

Mud Hen Water
3452 Waialae Ave.
737-6000
Parking: Eight stalls behind restaurant; otherwise street or nearby public parking
mudhenwater.com

Video credit: John Kim