From day one, Town‘s Ed Kenney and David Caldiero have been talking of locavorism, house-curing meats, house-made pasta, and other seductive culinary promises. From the first lunch they prepared for me in spring 2005 (before they served their first customer!) to dinner last night, this pono pair has delivered. And not just to so-called foodies, but to the community, as unflagging participants in fundraisers, as the commercial partner of MA‘O Farms and as an affordable spot for the people (check $12 Souper Tuesdays—organic greens and washtub-size bowl of house-made soup).
Four years on every time I go to the restaurant there’s something new and intriguing to try on the daily-changing, local-farmer-supporting menu. Last night it was pig head.
Kenney is always trying to get you out of the boring-meat box, offering luscious sweetbreads in the early-days fritto misto basket, and more recently wild boar prosciutto. As described by bartender Dave Power, the process of producing the pig head torchon is as gross as you might imagine: Peel the face off a pig’s head and pick out all the meat bits revealed, roll them up (probably in cheese cloth—that’s the “torchon” part), cook it, slice it. Then the slices are breaded and fried. Face meat is fabulous—Mario Batali made his name on a ravioli filled with beef cheek (it’s been on the Babbo menu for over a decade), locally Hiroshi Fukui serves luscious red wine-steamed veal cheeks. And Town’s pig head lives up to expectations—inside the disk’s breadcrumbed skin is a goo of tender pork chunks and little fatty spurts. To put the dish in local terms, it’s kind of like grade-A, real imu kalua pig croquette.
But that was just the start. Risotto has always been one of the menu’s high points—the deconstructed-oxtail-soup risotto is one of my all-time Town favorites. The latest permutation with venison-sausage pellets and sauteed mushrooms on top had me disengage from the group conversation for a spell. As the weather quickly warms up, this dish will lose a little of its comforting magic, but I can’t wait to have it again come winter.
And ono gets a new treatment at the moment. Last week it was a simple filet with its simple lemon-butter puddle (perfectly good, but a snooze to me already). Last night, it was a filet-mignon-like cut of fish, crowned with an Asian-ish sautée of herbs and shoyu, and sitting on a throne of quinoa. Instant winnah!
And to top it all off, last night was the opening party for the latest art on view—Vignettes by Maika‘i Tubbs and Red Ants by Otto. The art program is curated by Natalie Aczon, fellow food blogger and Honolulu Academy of Arts colleague. She’s been mining the talent on staff at the museum to create excellent rotations of art that complement the space and offer great exposure for artists. Maika‘i sold every piece but two last night. Otto’s installation of small-scale pieces included four mini cheesecakes that I thought were sculptures—that just happened to look good enough to eat. When I found out they actually were edible, I quickly bought one. Otto makes the best cheesecake on the island. I can’t wait until he opens his in-the-works (third) bakery. Stay tuned.