Hawaiian food is having a serious resurgence in San Francisco — just look at Liholiho Yacht Club, Aina, and the poke proliferation for proof — and the exchange between the islands and our bay city has never been higher. Michael Mina and B. Patisserie’s Belinda Leong both just opened outposts in Honolulu, and SF chefs are sourcing ingredients grown in the lush setting.
So when the fifth annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival started recruiting SF chefs, it didn’t have much problem signing five up: Ravi Kapur (Liholiho Yacht Club), Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions), Charles Phan (Slanted Door), and Jason Fox (Commonwealth), with a special appearance from sommelier Rajat Parr (formerly of Michael Mina).
With a group like that, obviously Eater SF had to tag along. Here’s what went down.
This festival was a true homecoming for Kapur, who called it “really emotional and special.” Kapur can be credited for bringing the cuisine of his home state to recent popularity in San Francisco at Liholiho Yacht Club, which pulls from various cuisine influences, including the island fare.
Kapur grew up in Oahu, where the festival took place, and in fact his specific event took place in the same neighborhood as the computer business his father ran when he was growing up. “I spent my childhood eating food [in that neighborhood] and am realizing now what an impact that made on me,” he said. “Before I knew I wanted to do any of this, I grew up around food and people that have been passionate about food. People in Hawaii are pretty food obsessed in general, and being back there — at that specific location — my mind was just blown. This could not be a more appropriate event for me.”
Kapur made a modern take on lomi lomi salmon and poi, which traditionally are a fresh tomato and massaged salmon salad and mashed cooked taro, respectively. His version used local striped marlin, since it was in season, done in a poke style and marinated with grated local tomatoes, sesame oil, ginger, jalapeño, and scallions. It was then topped with red shiso, thai basil, and julienne Japanese cucumber, and served alongside a poi puff. “My pastry assistant really executed this idea I had based off a shrimp chip, but using taro. We made poi by steaming the taro and blending it into a paste. Then we fermented it and blended it with tapioca starch,” he explained. “Next we rolled it, steamed it, chilled, it, sliced it, and dehydrated it. Finally, on Oahu I fried them. It was a really crispy element to accompany the lomi.”
Kapur’s event was on the first night, and he spent the rest of the festival visiting family and schmoozing with fellow chefs.
“Participating in that was a big deal for me,” he said, “and something I was totally honored to be a part of.”
Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski
State Bird Provisions and The Progress have been sourcing heart of palm from Wailea Agricultural Group on the Big Island of Hawaii for years, and Krasinski and Brioza were even married on the farm.
For their dish, they sourced everything from the farm — it was a cake made from roasted breadfruit and fresh goat cheese with a brown butter dashi sauce infused with Meyer lemon, Tahitian lime, Thai basil, and fresh-grated nutmeg, then topped with finger lime and daikon sprouts. Specifically, the breadfruit, Meyer lemon, Tahitian lime, finger lime, and nutmeg were from Wailea Agricultural Group, and the farm owners joined the couple at the event.
“We love any chance to get to cook in Hawaii, especially working with local Hawaiian ingredients,” Brioza said. “I was reminded how many of the locals travel to SF, as we had quite a few familiar interactions with folks that have dined at our restaurants.”
Charles Phan & Jason Fox
It was Fox’s second time at the festival, and he made venison tartare (from Maui venison) with cured egg yolk, smoked bone marrow pesto made with wakame, elderflower capers, lemon juice, garlic, and watercress and served with puffed wild rice and local red and green ogo seaweed.
Phan made braised Big Island abalone with pork belly and rice wine.
Finally, Parr, who for years was Michael Mina’s lead sommelier and now makes his own wine, was there pouring Domaine de la Cote to very thirsty festival-goers.
There’s already more collaboration to come between SF and Hawaii; Mourad- and Per Se-trained chef Chris Kajioka is soon opening Senia in Honolulu, a part tasting menu and part shared plates restaurant.