ALAN WONG’S in HAWAII TRIUMPHS AND WE NAME IT AS ONE OF THE UNITED STATES’, and indeed the South Pacifc’s, BEST RESTAURANTS .
By Anna Wilding
WAIKIKI (Herald de Paris) — I love Hawaii. I love it ‘s luxurious and gentle blend of the best of local island culture and the greater South Pacific combined with the best of East meets West. It is in Hawaii that cultures naturally merge, in the present day at least , in seeming symbiosis, to naturally showcase the best the South Pacific /Pacific region has to offer. This high end cultural merging of both Hawaiian and outlying regions and nations is exemplified no more finely than in Alan Wongâ€™s Honolulu Restaurant aptly called Alan Wong’s. It is here in Alan Wong’s , from the warm design of the restaurant to the creation, cooking and artistic plating of food that Hawaiiâ€™s true essence is showcased in a tangible edible form that is an irresistible experience for both locals and visitors.
Alan Wong is known as one of 12 co founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine. It’s artful blend leaves a stamp on many of the State’s restaurants resulting in Hawaii being on of the best food destinations in the USA. Anyone would be hard pressed not to find a great restaurant in any part of the Hawaiian islands whether it is hiding unheralded in an inexpensive local area or displayed in prominent view in an upscale tourist area.
The actual physical location of Alan Wong’s is a little of both areas, and it was this choice that left many in the food industry wondering if locally born and raised Alan Wong could indeed pull it off. An upscale restaurant in a not so upscale neighborhood and lying just off the beaten track,out of walking distance of Waikiki ‘s tourist paths? Could it be done? I wondered the same thing when embarking on my relatively short taxi ride. A taxi ride that turned out to be well worth it.
I arrived at Alan Wong’s and was whisked upstairs by the valet. I was soon to enter another world-a world where one feels comfortably at home instantly. Muted green and beigeâ€™s delivered in a sophisticated manner underscored subtly and cleanly the fact we were in a tropical locale and a luxurious one at that . The clever use of lightly stained wood reminded one of the nature and light that stunned around us, from the tropical mountains out the window to the sea a few miles away . It was soothing, and balmy just like the gentle breeze that plays on the island shores.
Dinner was to be served in this relaxing setting and I was about to be astounded by presentations that left me wanting to either reach for my paintbrush or take photos and exhibit immediately. Starting with the tomato soup and cheese toast.
I find the best things in life , come from ones heart and ones experiences, and this is true of this dish. When Alan Wong was working as a Chef in NYC ,in the cold of winter, what kept him going was tomato soup and grilled cheese on toast. Alan Wong has taken that simple premise and turned its on its head. Sometimes in life only a picture will do and I present for you tomato soup and grilled cheese. Words such as outstanding, incredible use of color combination,just the right amount of grilled cheese , do little to convey what one actually experiences when tasting this dish. It was like the first time I tasted Chef Thomas Keller cooking at French Laundry in Napa. Just completely out of the ordinary in every possible way. It doesn’t try too hard, it appears effortless, the flavors work, the presentations work, it is not too heavy or too light, it just is- a culinary masterpiece. Artistry, in any field,cannot be taught.It can be honed, techniques can be made better, but the fact is, a true artist is just that,a true artist.
Following this I was treated to Pan Steamed Opakapaka- short tailed pink snapper,with Truffle Nage,Gingered Vegetables and Tapioca Pearls. A light fish in a silky smooth weighted broth. It was texturally and taste wise one of the smoothest eating experiences I have ever had. The richness of the broth held up the fish in a way that is truly memorably and yet, oddly it seemed as though there were no heavy species or seasonings. Yet, it was, perfect.
Alan Wong’s is an excellent experience and should definitely be on anyone’s world list of â€śmust goâ€ť fine dining restaurants.
I was unable to fit in desert,and was left with the unique knowledge that one entree here would go a lot further to warm your belly and heart, than three dishes elsewhere.
Hawaiianâ€™s take their food seriously and with the bounty of the Pacific,which must be farmed sustainability, we can be thankful of the craft and art put into food preparation, and therefore in turn preserving the culture of this region. Enjoy and be thankful of the world we have, protect it and nurture it. It’s worth it.