Well, one of his losses is Chez Michel's gain. The restaurant - not to be confused with Michel's, which reopens today - has snatched its new executive chef, Ronald J. Nasuti, straight from Roy's in Hawaii Kai. Chez Michel has also been advertising the introduction of a Pacific Rim menu, which would more likely draw a yawn than a cheer due to a profusion of strictly third-tier Pacific Rim introductions in recent years. On top of that, Chez Michel has been a dying name in recent years, reduced to packaging meals for Japanese tour groups.
Working quietly and cautiously, Chez Michel is back. The good news is that French fare hasn't disappeared. Half the menu is devoted to updated dishes prepared with traditional methods, while the other half is devoted to the new local-style cuisine. It's a winning combination, and Nasuti knows it, saying, "If they (management) can bring people through the door, I can bring them back."
Next, we had to try the Crab Piperade, which at $25 is pricey for an appetizer, but could serve as a meal for someone also having soup, salad and bread. (About the bread: simply a generic dinner roll. The menu is so good, why scrimp here?)For $25, you get a whole Dungeness crab in a divine Bayonne nage, or sauce, of smoked salmon and red peppers, accented with strands of green bell peppers. This was heartily devoured and it can get messy.
It would probably be overkill to order both the crab and Shrimp and Lobster Bisque, but the latter is not to be missed. It's strictly Old World, and you can taste the two hours of labor in its full-flavored richness.
Choices on the Pacific Rim side of the menu change weekly. Examples include meaty Char-Siu Babyback Ribs ($7.50), Crab Cakes with Lobster Miso Sauce ($10) and a Smoked Salmon Sushi Roll ($8), enveloped in nori and lightly fried in tempura batter.
Entrees on the French side of the menu include Grilled Rack of Lamb cooked to a perfect medium-rare as requested, complemented by a mild Minted-Orange Demi-Glaze. Duck fared less well, clad in a heavy, sweet sake sauce with the consistency of molasses.
On the Pacific Rim side, there was Grilled Shrimp Penne ($19.50) with a Chardonnay Garlic Herb Sauce and superb Aioli Baked Salmon ($22) topped with sesame seeds and Sake Mustard Sauce that was surprisingly light.
My only regret was that we had not been forewarned about the availability of Grand Marnier or Chocolate souffles ($8), and the pastry chef had left the building by dessert time.
Some may have opted for a tableside flambe. We took solace in Apple Puffed Pastry a la Mode. It may have been second choice, but we left quite content.
Where: Eaton Square, 444 Hobron Lane in Waikiki
Hours: 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily, with lunch hours anticipated
Prices: About $70 to $90 for two for dinner without drinks
- excellent;To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
- very good, exceeds expectations;
- below average.