Posts Tagged ‘Hawaii’

IMG_2027Inside the Vintage Cave dining room which was built with more than 170,000 bricks from Pennsylvania and features original artwork by Picasso and many other artists worth millions.

I have to say 2012 was a hell of year filled with great eating! From Hawaii to Memphis and New York City, those who follow me on Foodspotting, Twitter, and Instagram know very well there was an abundance of deliciousness enjoyed at restaurants off all varieties. I’m sure the last 12 months were equally palate pleasing for you.


But for me, there was one meal that stood out from the rest and that was a 19 course gastronomic experience at the Vintage Cave Honolulu. Let me briefly explain why.


I first met Vintage Cave Executive Chef Chris Kajioka (pictured above with Pastry Chef Rachel Murai) a little more than two years ago when he was cooking at Roy’s Waikiki. Many friends spoke highly of his culinary talents and passion for his craft having worked at many fine restaurants across the U.S., including the three-star Michelin Per Se in New York City and one-star Michelin Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. I never had a chance to taste Kajioka’s food before he left Roy’s to return to San Francisco to cook at Aziza, but did have the opportunity to get to know the chef better on a trip to Chicago in 2010 to promote Hawaii. It was on that trip we dined at one of the best restaurants in the world, Alinea, and from there stayed in touch.

In future trips to the Bay Area, we made Aziza a regular stop to see how Kajioka was doing enjoying many great meals there. About a year later, I learned that he was returning to the Ritz-Carlton to team up once again with Ron Siegel at Parallel 37. After a short stint there, Kajioka made the decision to return home after getting married with no firm job in place.

That got many Hawaii foodies excited with anticipation at what Kajioka might have in store. In the end, he landed the Executive Chef position at The Vintage Cave and has assembled a team that’s doing some amazing things in the kitchen and using some of the best ingredients from Hawaii and around the world.

The result, in my opinion, is a dining experience that rivals any Michelin-starred restaurant in the country in terms of culinary creativity, service, and ambiance. Those who ask me what eating there is like, I can only describe it as “theater on a plate” featuring skillful, modern cooking techniques and delicious flavors honoring Asia, Europe, and beyond. It’s the kind of place where it’s quality over quantity, but after 19 courses that range from one to three bites, you leave satisfied and transformed at how delicious food can be.

That seems like enough of my raving in this post. Let me let the pictures speak for themselves. I was fortunate to be hosted to two tastings prior to the restaurant’s opening in December. The following photos (and this video by Mari Taketa of Nonstop Honolulu) are of a special media dinner served on November 30 featuring a total of 30 delicious bites.

IMG_2362For $295/person (exclusive of tax, gratuity, and wine pairings), the tasting menu is a creative and dazzling feast for the senses.

IMG_2035OYSTER hibiscus shiso ginger

IMG_2042sweet smoked PAIN AU LAIT

IMG_2036fish skin CRACKER black bean clam lime

IMG_2039MERINGUE tomato basil

IMG_2356vanilla bean macaroon CAVIAR

IMG_2358cold smoked TORO red onion jicama
KONA KAMPACHI lemon radish shiso
UNI ham film black truffle
AMA EBI fennel
AJI smoked onion pear


IMG_2361HAKUREI TURNIP asian pear yogurt sumac

IMG_2046golden osetra CAVIAR smoked tuna gel

IMG_2053HOKKAIDO IKURA potato green apple cress

IMG_2055charred CABBAGE leaves miso konbu dill anchovy
(One of my favorite dishes.)

IMG_2059jidori EGG YOLK celery root truffle ham parmesan
(Another of my favorite dishes.)

IMG_2061FOIE GRAS maple syrup corn blueberries celery

IMG_2058japan AMADAI kabocha pickled garlic escabeche

IMG_2366PORK BELLY & NECK berbere jus kale chips

IMG_2367bread from CHRIS SY white soy wakame
(We’ve become big fans of Chris’ Breadshop artisan breads.)

IMG_2064HIRABARA FARMS pineapple vinegar

IMG_2069BEEF from sylvia prizant spinach sunchoke charred scallion sancho pepper
(Quite possibly the best beef I’ve ever tasted!)

IMG_2369onion rice PORRIDGE samoan crab white truffle
(This dish reminded me of grandma’s jook on steroids. Delicious!)

IMG_2072SHIO KOJI ice cream
(This was my first time having a savory ice cream. Oishi!)

IMG_2371blackberry sorbet PEPPERED BEET AIR mascapone sponge
(As one who loves beets, this was an amazing dessert!)

IMG_2077CHOCOLATE GANACHE charred pineapple aged balsamic sesame

IMG_2078CANELE rum glace
(I’m told the only place in Hawaii doing canales.)

IMG_2374BLACK TRUFFLE macaroons

IMG_2373My apologies for forgetting what this one was called, but delicious!

IMG_2375RASPBERRY meringue

IMG_2376GRAPE and finger lime
(An explosion of deliciousness in your mouth!)

Having eaten at the Cave three times now, the question everyones asks me is “Is it worth the money?” My quick answer is “It depends.” While pricey at $295/person, if you’re they type that will travel to the world for a great meal, this is certainly a must experience. And think about it, you don’t have to factor in the air, hotel and ground transportation into the equation. It’s definitely a meal worth saving up for that special occasion.

If you’re idea of a great meal is quantity versus quality and you’re not into art and theater on the plate, I’d take you’re money elsewhere. Buy that iPad instead or go enjoy your favorite restaurant a bunch of times. Just being honest here as you’ll probably think it’s overpriced and not worth the experience.

If Kajioka and his team continue to do what they are doing, I can see this restaurant becoming a destination for many across the globe. Will it become one of the best restaurants in the country never to earn a Michelin star (since Hawaii doesn’t get rated)? Only time will tell. But knowing Kajioka, he’s going to continue pushing himself (only 29 years old) and his young team and that’s a good thing for Hawaii.

In the culinary world of highly coveted Michelin stars, “Three stars reward exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients. Worth a special journey.” Vintage Cave certainly has the philosophy and the resources to continue striving for this kind of distinction. It has definitely been a treat eating there and I hope I have the chance to do so again in 2013.

Happy New Year to you all and here’s to many more delicious meals with family and friends.


Vintage Cave Honolulu
1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, #2250
Honolulu, HI 96814
(located in the basement of Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center)
Phone: 808-441-1744
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 5:30-11 p.m.; Closed Sundays
Note: Vintage Cave gives priority seating in its bar lounge and dining room to members before the general public. Reservations are required and limited.


Favorite Gangnam Style Videos

Posted: September 11, 2012 by Nathan Kam in Random Raves & Rants
Tags: , ,

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few weeks, you know that Korean rapper PSY and his “Gangnam Style” has been sweeping the nation globe. It’s also swept into the Kam family household with a relentless grip that just won’t let go. Ensen and Avery love it. I can’t get enough of it. Why? I really don’t know and I have no idea what the guy is rapping about. But being half Korean myself, the catchy beat, ridiculous horse dance (which we’re trying to perfect) and humorous video all likely have something to do with it. And based on the more than 140 million views of the original video on YouTube below, I’m obviously not the only one.

The only one in the family that hasn’t been bitten by the bug is Kelly. But I’m intent on changing that. How? By finding more and more crazy and creative remixes of the song on YouTube. Here’s a few of our favorites at the moment. Bet you can’t watch just one! 😉 Please share yours in the comments below.

Pretty entertaining Hawaii parody…

And another Hawaii version…

A more “girly” version which Avery likes…

One for all the Oregon Ducks fans out there…

For the headbanger in me…and you…

Okay, this one is hilarious…”English language” version…and don’t be alarmed by the name of the video…it’s quite innocent…

And finally, a baby gangnam style…

Hope you enjoyed these as much as we do. Now don’t forget to comment with your favorite videos and links.



Honestly, I’m not counting on anyone ever buying a print out of my gallery, but hey, you never know who might desire pictures of Hawaii, delicious food, average gardening, and fat cats adorning their walls. I must say though that I love the idea of being able to turn Instagram photos into pieces of art with the click of a button. And there are some incredible galleries out there with killer images by Zak Noyle, Tino Valdez, and many others. BTW, if you happen to come across a great Metallica gallery, please do let me know. \m/

Photo courtesy of PRIMA Hawaii

A part of my job in travel public relations I enjoy is the ability to bring the excitement of Hawaii to cities across North America. This month, my client the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau is supporting one of Oahu’s hottest and newest restaurants, PRIMA, which is “popping up” at Iorio restaurant on Monday, August 20 at 6:30 p.m.. It’s a great opportunity to bring a new taste of Hawaii to Portland and share the story of the exciting culinary evolution taking place in the Hawaiian Islands.

Rising star chefs and co-owners Lindsey Ozawa and Alejandro “Aker” Briceno, along with chef de cuisine Kevin Lee, of PRIMA will offer an eight-course modern American menu honoring Hawaii’s ethic diversity, while featuring handmade pasta and creative preparations using the freshest fish, beef, and produce from the Aloha State and Portland area. This is the first time Iorio owners Chris Thompson and Hilary Benson are opening up their establishment for such an event. The menu (subject to change) looks like this:

Smoked Fish
Avocado Puree, Heart of Palm, Purslane, Olive Oil

Coppa di Testa “Adobo”
Green Mango, Peanut, Radish, Patis, and “Fried Rice”

Oregon Mushroom, Snow Peas, Hijiki, Bamboo Shoot, Hijiki, foie gras butter

“Panang” Curry Clams and Dungeness Crab
Dried Shrimp, Potato, Lime, Chili, Ikan Bilis

Venison Sausage
Celery root puree, Mango Mostarda, Brussel Sprouts

Ricotta Mousse, Almond Cake Powder, Lime Butter, Financier Chip, Apricot Sorbet


Petit Fours

Chefs Alejandro “Aker” Briceno (far left) and Lindsey Ozawa (far right) of PRIMA celebrate the opening of The Whole Ox Butcher and Deli chef/owner Robert McGee in Kakaako.

The chefs will be joined by Dave Power, owner of The Feral Pig on Kauai and one of Hawaii’s most respected bartenders, who will offer a selection of craft cocktails that will pair nicely with the menu. Power’s “from scratch” approach to cocktails using the freshest local ingredients, homemade bitters, and other creative influences has put him among the elite of Hawaii’s bartending scene.

Dave Power (right) and me exploring Menehune Ditch and Makaweli Poi Factory earlier this year. BTW, this dude’s cocktails are pretty amazing.

Since opening in September 2011, PRIMA quickly asserted itself as one of Oahu’s top restaurants with its casual ambiance, commitment to sourcing the best quality ingredients from Hawaii and around the world, and approachable food that is familiar to the average diner, yet innovative in flavor combinations, technical preparation, and artistic plating that real “foodies” can appreciate. Ozawa and Briceno have cooked in some of the top kitchens across the country, including the award-winning Nobu Waikiki. They are also co-owners of V Lounge, a destination for some of the best kiawe-fired pizzas in Hawaii, and previously operated Melt, a popular food truck serving gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches that closed last year. Lee left his position as sous chef at New York’s Dovetail restaurant to join the PRIMA kitchen last year. There’s definitely firepower and talent here.

There will be one-seating only, so space is limited. Cost is $65 per person, plus gratuity. Cocktails and beverages are additional. For reservations, call Iorio at 503-445-4716.

This promises to be a great evening of delicious food and inspiring stories that will have diners leaving with a fresh, new perspective on Hawaii cuisine. I hope to see you there!

PRIMA Hawaii “Pop Up” at Iorio
Monday, August 20, 2012 | 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $65/person, plus gratuity. Cocktails and beverages extra.
912 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, OR 97214
Phone: 503-445-4716

Now Growing: Broccoli

Posted: August 1, 2012 by Nathan Kam in Home Garden
Tags: , , ,


It took forever to grow from seed, but there is finally some things that resemble broccoli appearing in our garden.

This is our first attempt at growing the kids favorite vegetable, so I hope to continue seeing more buds show up and getting it to the dinner table.

I’ll keep you posted.

So what the heck does a guy who enjoys pork belly, a good steak, chocolate, and a cold beer know about good health? That’s a legitimate question and one I asked myself as I was invited to join the HONOLULU Family team of bloggers a couple weeks ago. What could I really bring to the table? What could I share that other families would care about? Afterall, I’m not a gym rat, not as athletic as I once was in high school and college, and not nearly as active outdoors as one who lives in Hawaii should be.

But all of that aside, and after consulting Kelly and some friends, I decided to accept the challenge of writing the weekly Good Health blog for the magazine’s website. Why? After really thinking about it, good health has many different meanings. It not only has to do with eating smart and physical activity, but also mental and emotional well-being. All things that we as a young family are dealing with and striving to get better at on a daily basis.

Going back to the original question, “what the heck do I know about good health?” Well, you’ll have to read along each week to find out. I’ll be sharing personal stories and experiences about our home garden, eating sensibly, keeping the kids (and ourselves) active and mentally stimulated, and practicing good hygiene to name a few things. I’ll also be reaching out to family and friends and interviewing them about their tips and best practices for all things related to good health.

Needless to say, I’m excited and humbled to have this opportunity. But even more excited for the chance to learn from others along the way on this journey. I appreciate your honest feedback offline, comments online, and support!

Here we go!

“Dad, my favorite tonight was the spaghetti…it was so delicious!,” exclaimed Ensen, my 5-year-old son, following our family dinner at PRIMA in Kailua this past Friday. This statement came after he devoured two slices of heavenly prosciutto rucola pizza which I thought for sure was going to be his choice of the night. But I should have anticipated this answer since he ate close to half the bowl himself. And after having this twice now at PRIMA, I don’t blame him. It’s one of my favorite dishes on the menu.

Why? For one, porky guanciale never hurts to be included in any dish as far as I’m concerned. But the perfectly cooked pasta tossed in a rich and flavorful tomato sauce with a little red onions and guanciale (did I already mention this?) is the kind of dish that wraps its arms…err…noodles around you and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s “broke da mout,” elevated Italian comfort food with a local twist that one can enjoy in a casual setting while wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and slippers. A great neighborhood spot for a quality meal where you can bring the kids (our 2-year-old Avery enjoyed as well) and have a great experience.

Built by chefs/owners Alejandro “Aker” Briceno and Lindsey Ozawa, PRIMA has been getting a lot of well deserved attention since it opened last September. Yes, they source most of their ingredients locally. Yes, they take pride in working with local farmers and ranchers. But the main priority of the team, including Chef de Cuisine Kevin Lee, is putting delicious, creative, and well-executed food on the table for customers to enjoy. And they do that exceptionally well with handmade pastas and ravioli, arguably the best kiawed fire pizzas on on the island, via their treatment of vegetables like Brussels spouts and broccoli, and what I consider “mad-scientist” approach to their flavors of sorbetto and gelato. Here’s a few other dishes from our meal that night.

Tandoori Pear – yogurt, grapefruit, cilantro, mint

Spicy Poke Bowl Soup – congee, spicy ahi and tako

Monchong – local vegetables

Roasted Brocolli – prosciutto, bordelaise

So, the next time you’re in Kailua town, consider stopping at PRIMA Kailua for dinner. They’re located in the strip mall off Hekili Street that’s also home to Big City Diner, Foodland, and Baskin-Robbins. As their website suggests, it is quite “A Dining Experience!”

108 Hekili Street, #108 (next to Baskin-Robbins)
Kailua, HI 96734
Phone: 808-888-8933
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 5-10 p.m.
Follow them on Twitter and Facebook
Make reservations on OpenTable