IN journalism classes, I was always amazed that 20 people in the same room, interviewing the same person, hearing the same things, could come up with 20 different stories. Scary, eh?
Chefs fare is familiar,
So it shouldn't have surprised me to read a quote in one of the food industry trade magazines here from a passer-by outside Chef's Table: "Oh my God, he serves regular food!" when my own reaction was, "Oh my God, something different." It isn't every day a restaurant opens with an Austrian menu.
The passer-by was not wrong. By day, the restaurant does serve "regular" fare such as a $6.75 club sandwich, $5.50 spinach salad and $8.50 spaghetti primavera, with a few European specials. But the dinner menu is what separates The Chef's Table from other new restaurants.
Entrees such as beef goulash ($15), stewed in an onion paprika sauce, or wienerschnitzel ($19), the classic breaded veal cutlet, are throwbacks to pre-Hawaii Regional Cuisine times. The menu has a hipness factor of about 0.5 and chef-owner Andreas Knapp knows that.
Originally from Innsbruck, Knapp spent 27 years working in the hotel industry, from Chicago to China, with stops at the Kahala Hilton from 1981-'85 and the Grand Wailea on Maui. He said, "If I cooked this food in a hotel I would have been fired a long time ago. It's not creative enough for hotels.
"I wanted something, where, if you come to my house, this is what I really eat. Basic, basic, basic -- simple brown sauces, good tomato soup."
I like that recipe. I haven't had a chance to try the chef's lunch fare, but at night, this is the place for comfort, European-style.
START with a dozen-plus clams ($8.50) steamed in a white wine, garlic and butter sauce with a sharp twist of lemon. There's not much need for other extras because entrees come with a small house salad and soup of the day. If you want to stray from this plan, options include onion soup ($3.50), in this case a heavy brew with a beer base, or a gypsy-style gulyas soup ($3.75), as thick as beef stew, painted red with paprika.
There is seafood on the menu, such as a salmon steak ($17) served with lemon tarragon butter, and shrimp skewers ($19), but it's the meat dishes one doesn't see every day.
Jaegerschnitzel (sauteed pork steak, $16.50), a bit tougher than a hotel might allow, is accompanied by a rustic mushroom sauce and spaetzle, or dumplings of flour, milk and eggs.
Tender roast duck ($19) is dusted with rosemary and other herbs and served with a rich wine sauce. This is accompanied by braised red cabbage, sweetened and spiced to taste like chutney.
For dessert, you must try the bread pudding, baked with bananas, pecans and raisins.
The Chef's Table also features a $14.75 Sunday brunch, with a diverse menu combining the best of American and European grinds.
It wasn't Knapp's intention to do this much. "Originally I thought we'd open for dinner, a two-person operation," he said. "I thought no matter how hard it gets, I can cook, she can serve."
Well, business is a little better than he expected, so they've got a lot of company.
The Chef's Table: Hawaii Kai Town Center, 333 Keahole St.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sundays
Prices: For two, $15 to $20 for lunch, $35 to $45 for dinner
Call: 394-CHEF (2433)
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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:
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-- below average.
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