Mourad Lahlou loves Kaua‘i shrimp (and Chris Kajioka)

Pretend it’s Sept. 28, 2011. Please? Cause that’s when I did this interview with island-grown chef Chris Kajioka and Mourad Lahlou, chef-owner of vaunted, Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant Aziza. OK, the time travel starts…now. SINCE CHRIS KAJIOKA joined Mourad Lahlou’s San Francisco resaurant Aziza in January 2011, the contemporary Moroccan spot has become a sort of pilgrimage stop for Hawai‘i eaters and cooks. And Kajioka … Continue reading Mourad Lahlou loves Kaua‘i shrimp (and Chris Kajioka)

The boy has left town: Chris Kajioka lands at SF’s Aziza

Last summer Honolulu Magazine ran a great food story—Martha Cheng’s “The Boys Are Back in Town,” about island-born chefs returning to Hawai‘i. One of them was Chris Kajioka, who until December was the chef de cuisine at Roy’s Waikiki, and who at one time was chef de partie at Thomas Keller’s fabled Per Se in New York. The article talked about him returning to Hawai‘i from the mainland because he was excited “about what was brewing in the food scene in Honolulu.” Seven months later, Kajioka left on a jet plane—to be sous chef at Aziza in San Francisco. After two years in Honolulu, he realized the city just wasn’t ready for what he what he wants to do.

In November, I had the good luck to sample Kajioka’s talent at an off-the-menu dinner at Roy’s Waikiki, arranged by Hank’s Haute Dogs impresario Henry Adaniya and the savvy food blogger behind Ono Kine Grindz. Then on Dec. 27, Kajioka went to San Francisco where he had a slew of interviews set up, including with Dominique Crenn for her new spot Atelier Crenn. He was offered more than one job. He made his pick and was gone in a couple of weeks. Kajioka’s departure is a loss.

I caught up with him by phone in December and at a going-away pau hana at Izakaya Sushi Shinn shortly before he left. Continue reading “The boy has left town: Chris Kajioka lands at SF’s Aziza”

Belated e-toast to Santi Santamaría

Last June, my brother, James Griffith, had the honor of working with Santi Santamaría. Jim, who is assistant vice president for Emirates Flight Catering, is very sanguine about his accomplishments and brushes with fame. In May 2010, he sent me a one-sentence e-mail: “I am going to be working with this guy during June to do our Madrid flight menus.” Accompanying it was a thumbnail … Continue reading Belated e-toast to Santi Santamaría

Hawai‘i talent abroad: KCC alum earns two stars from New York Mag

Yuhi Fujinaga, who is a graduate of KCC’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific, helms the new Bar Basque in New York City, which just garnered two stars (very good) from New York Magazine‘s Adam Platt. Writes the pithy reviewer (he’s one of my favorites): “the menu at Bar Basque is tightly focused and surprisingly well executed by a young Hawaiian chef named Yuhi Fujinaga.” (Sigh, … Continue reading Hawai‘i talent abroad: KCC alum earns two stars from New York Mag

Nobu’s Ma’o-ized omakase menu

You’d think word that Nobu Matsuhisa was in town and that he’d be cooking at his Waikiki outpost for a week would fill up the restaurant’s reservation book. But it was easy to get a same-day table for two on his last night on the island. And I was thankful. The restaurant’s special “Ma‘O Farms Locally Inspired Menu” on Thursday was worth the celeb-chef-in-town hype. The first dish (pictured above) had nothing to do with the Wai‘anae farm/leadership training station, but included the best treatment of the Big Island-farmed baby abalone every restaurant in town feels obligated to use. Continue reading “Nobu’s Ma’o-ized omakase menu”

Will Kaua‘i Grill make the Garden Isle Hawaii’s dining destination?

What you see from Kaua'i Grill

In France, there is a tradition of the restaurant-inn. Michelin-starred chefs are sprinkled throughout the boonies, where the food grows, and include accommodations, so people can make a pilgrimage, eat and sleep off the food coma. Like the five-star Georges Blanc complex in Vonnas or the three-star Le Relais Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu (which thrives despite Loiseau’s 2003 suicide, under the chef’s protégé Patrick Bertron). As you can see from the links, modest inns have been replaced by luxe spa-sporting mini EuroDisneys.

With the opening of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Kaua‘i Grill on Nov. 19 at the reborn St Regis Princeville Resort on Kaua‘i—with Vongerichten in attendance—Hawai‘i may be getting its own version of this dine-and-doze experience. Continue reading “Will Kaua‘i Grill make the Garden Isle Hawaii’s dining destination?”

In other news

Another special $59 dinner from Chef Mavro: The Julie & Julia dinner was such a hit that the restaurant will do similar special menus periodically. Next up: Beaujolais Nouveau menu, Nov 19-Dec 5, 2009, 6-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Call 944-4714. Chef George Mavrothalassitis and Chef de Cuisine Kevin Chong came up with a three-course menu to go with the 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau, which is being hailed as one of the best harvests in 50 years. Continue reading “In other news”