What the Heck?
COURTESY IMAGE BY MARCO GARCIA / HOTELS AND RESORTS OF HALEKULANI
In this photo provided by Hotels and Resorts of Halekulani, actor and restaurant co-owner Robert De Niro, left, greets sushi chef Yoshio Ono on Friday at De Niro's newest restaurant, Nobu Waikiki, at the Waikiki Parc Hotel. Nobu Waikiki opened in May as the 18th Nobu restaurant worldwide.
De Niro lights up new restaurant
On his 64th birthday last Friday, wearing an untucked blue dress shirt and khakis, Robert De Niro walked through the lobby of the Waikiki Parc Hotel, reducing the other guests to stunned silence.
His destination: Nobu Waikiki. De Niro is a partner in the Nobu empire, having induced Nobu Matsuhisa to open a New York eatery in 1994.
But he was filming in Massachusetts when the Waikiki restaurant opened. "I was anxious to see it," he says. "Now I have. It looks great."
Having missed the opening, De Niro is subjecting himself to a media interview, despite having just stepped off a 12-hour flight from Melbourne, Australia. That's where the 19th Nobu, the one after Honolulu, opened two nights before.
The ground rules for the interview are strict, only three reporters, only 15 minutes, no questions about the really interesting stuff -- his family, his film career.
He will talk about Matsuhisa: "He treats the restaurants with such care. The staff -- he treats them like they are his extended family."
He confirms his favorite dish is the black cod saikyo miso (that's miso butterfish to you) and that he loves Japanese food. "On top of everything else, Japanese food is healthier for you. You don't see many overweight Japanese."
He stares across the table at Associated Press reporter Jaymes Song, who's obviously enjoyed a meal or two in his time. "Don't look at me," Song says. "I'm Korean."
Time's almost up. How does De Niro like Hawaii? Turns out this is his first trip in years and he's not staying long. "I wish I could get around more. But I have to get back to the States." He stops, immediately corrects himself. "The mainland."
Stagecraft: The revival of Joe Moore's "Prophecy and Honor" was a sell-out smash at the Hawaii Theatre. For the 19 local actors who'd been rehearsing for a month, it was a play.
But for the imported star power -- Richard Dreyfuss and George Segal -- it was a dramatic reading. Both carried scripts throughout the performance. Dreyfuss is so good that, even with script in hand, he made his character come alive.
The local cast rose to the occasion. Moore was his usual hero -- straight, steadfast and true. Greg Howell turned in a great cameo as cocky air ace Eddie Rickenbacker. Terence Knapp made a late appearance on stage -- and blew everyone away.
However, only one actor got a round of applause as he entered: Frank De Lima. De Lima struggled with his lines, but his physical presence carried the day. "For a local audience," said one cast member, "Frank can do no wrong."
Herb Kane's painting of ancient Punaluu.
Living legend Herb Kawainui Kane is best known for his paintings of ancient Hawaii.
He'd done a 24-foot mural of ancient Punaluu for a history center near Punaluu's famous black sand beach. The center was trashed by a 1975 tsunami, but the mural, miraculously unharmed, stayed on in the abandoned building. Until about a year ago, when thieves sawed the wall into five pieces and carted it away.
"I knew what to do," says Kane. He recently finished a new version of the painting, this time with more detail and refinement. "That leaves the thieves with what is now little more than a preliminary sketch," he says. "Vengeance is mine."
Downsizing: Many here have multiple jobs. Otto Cake takes it to extremes. He dresses windows for Fendi, Gucci and Christian Dior. Waits tables at the Pavilion Café. Bakes cheesecakes called, naturally enough, Otto Cakes. And plays with two punk rock bands. "I have a divergent life," he says.
Divergent, indeed. Weekends until Sept. 1, you can catch Otto and his band 86 List at the Doris Duke Theatre, performing "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
In case you're not up on your gender-bending cult classics, "Hedwig" has been both an off-Broadway musical revue and a surprisingly popular film. The Hedwig character is the victim of a botched sex-change operation, which may give you a hint why it's only an angry inch.
Gotta Grind: City Councilmember Donovan Dela Cruz and his Leilehua classmate Jodi Endo Chai have just published an expanded version of "The Puka Guide," their guide to local-style, hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
To do the book, Dela Cruz and Chai sampled more than 100 places. "The book's about local culture, about saving small local businesses," Dela Cruz insists, then admits, "I guess it's also about eating."
"These restaurants are like your aunties," he says. "Each one brings the dish they do best to the party." The book tells where to order a hot dog musubi (Mitsuba Deli on School Street) and where you gotta grind the chicken skin chips (Kitchen Delight in Wahiawa). Next up for Dela Cruz: a book on lunch wagons.
Wong Way: Alan Wong is on the Easter Seal board -- which is why last weekend's Easter Seals fundraiser brought out the culinary A-Team: Wong, Mavro, Hiroshi Fukui, Dean Okimoto, Roy Yamaguchi, plus a phalanx of Wong's and Roy's top chefs.
The chef who drew the toughest assignment was Shanghai Bistro's Chih Chieh Chang, who ended up feeding the rest of the chefs in a postevent party. Chang, who speaks primarily Chinese, was far from intimidated. "I was very, very enjoy," he said.
The only star chef who missed Chang's 20 Chinese dishes was Art Smith, who beat it out of the event at 8 p.m. He had to be back the next day to cater a party for his employer, Oprah Winfrey. Is it tough to cook for Oprah? I asked him. "I've lasted 10 years," is all he said.