Joining us again today is guest blogger Tony Kawaguchi, a Honolulu resident who normally blogs about Hawaii Real Estate at www.AlohaTony.com.
Some food you just eat. Some food you remember. You may have driven by “Town” in Kaimuki without ever noticing it, but if you taste their locally focused fare just once, you’ll never forget it. Their menu boasts, “’Local first, organic whenever possible, with Aloha always.” The local farm bent blends sort of unexpectedly with the stainless steel tables and concrete floors, which give the smallish restaurant a contemporary feel.
One look at the menu and you can tell this is a serious foodie haven, as they list every major ingredient in every dish. It reads almost like a recipe list, and the server even told us that their avocados were from a tree in Palolo, and the oranges from one in Kaimuki. Now that’s local.
We began with drinks, a nice red wine, Rojo ‘granjoro’ garnacha ‘07 from Spain, and two Ciao bellas – Nardini grappa. Nardini amaro. Lime juice. Bitters. I’m not sure what “bitters” actually were used, but yes, they were bitter, with an almost whisky like taste.
Each table receives a complementary plate of Focaccia Bread, butter, and olives, drizzled in sweet olive oil. Crispy outer bread with fluffy centers. A great start for any meal, and our expectations were now very high.
Our first appetizer was a grilled lamb sausage with farro tabouleh, and cucumber raita for $8. The four small lamb cuts were spicy, while the raita cooled it off just right. It had a very Mediterranean feel, even though they were calling it Raita, which of course is Indian. My friend gave it a very high 9 of 10, and having lived in Greece for a few years, he really loved this dish.
We ordered two salads, beginning with this baby arugula from Ma’o with grilled beets. Kaimuki Orange, pecans, ricotta salata for $8.50. It was not over-dressed as many salads are, and we loved how fresh the local greens were. It had a slightly more peppery taste than store-bought arugula.
Our other salad was a combination of organic lettuces from Ma’o, Palolo Avocado, sweet onion, radish, and buttermilk dressing for $8.50. Probably the crispiest lettuce I have ever eaten; like a potato chip made of lettuce. Superb.
This ahi tartare starters for $14 was fabulous and so clever. Ahi on a risotto cake? Inventive was the word we came up with. The presentation was attractive, yet simple… maybe too simple? The flavors really worked together without dominating the fish too much. The only downside is we thought the 3-medallion serving was a little too small in size for the price.
After our starters and salads the server reset our table as all great restaurants do. Then our first main course was this colorful fried Menpachi. It had meyer lemon ponzu and a side of rice that had been baked I think. $8.50. The fish was soft – almost too flakey, falling apart before it could be eaten, with beautiful presentation. Maybe slightly overdone. Too soft? Pretty good with a nice balanced sauce. 8 of 10.
Then we tried the softest gnocchi any of us had ever tasted, made with local pumpkin, sage, and brown butter for $16. To say it was very soft doesn’t do it justice. It was melt-in-your-mouth soft like a slice of warm chocolate, but with a fabulous light tasting butter sauce. I usually think of gnocchi as kind of firm, almost gummy, but this was softer than any in comparison we could come up with. Excellent.
The pan-roasted chicken came next, with torn bread, tatsoi, grapes, and pancetta for $23.50. The grapes were the highlight of this dish, as they added a great, almost spicy kick to the taste of the chicken, which was good but not as great as some of the other things we ordered.
We ordered the polenta side with our meal; it was buttery but light with some flavor but only a little bit of spices. A perfect alternative to plain rice, but with more taste. Creamy, almost like very thoroughly mashed potatoes, but not as heavy.
Another side: mixed Hamakua mushrooms, tender with a drizzle of oil and butter.
Town is not cheap. The four of us tallied up a $150 bill, including only 3 drinks. But it’s also not just regular food that you eat and forget. It’s the kind of meal in which you learn things about food, cooking, and combining flavors with textures you don’t expect.
The service was excellent, and we enjoyed our friendly server’s explanation of each dish and the source of the ingredients. Somehow it was more enjoyable eating food that we knew had been grown just a few miles away.
Town is a great special occasion meal, and you can probably eat there on a regular basis for a lot less money than we did, as we were trying as many different plates as possible. It’s a great foodie place that I’ll remember for a long time, one I look forward to enjoying again.
5 SPAM Musubi. Broke Da’ Mout’!
3435 Wai’alae Ave.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816
The Tasty Island guest blogger rating:
(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)