Dining for dollars


POSTED: Wednesday, November 04, 2009

If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? If there are no losers, can there be winners? While such ponderings usually fall to those of the meditative persuasion, those philosophical folk will feel their workload lighten as organizers of Restaurant Week Hawaii hustle to prove that karma-free, win-win situations do exist.

Now in its second year, the weeklong culinary event benefits the creation of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head. More than 50 eateries have signed on to participate in the Nov. 16-22 event, during which fast-food restaurants and the isles' finest venues will offer special menus and prices.

Conrad Nonaka, chairman of Restaurant Week and director of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College, says the event benefits everyone involved: students, customers and even restaurants, which can bask in the spotlight of additional advertising.

He adds that one of the finest aspects of the event is the camaraderie: Everyone down the line pitches in to help.





» Participating restaurants: See below.


» Menus: For a list of Restaurant Week specials by eatery, visit www.restaurantweekhawaii.com




“;The vendors, farmers and distributors are finding that Restaurant Week is a way they can help their customers, the restaurants, who have been so loyal in purchasing their products. They offer discounts to help offset costs. It's a way to say 'thank you,'”; he says.

The Diamond Head institute will be a world-class facility meant to expand Hawaii's culinary education to include a four-year Applied Bachelor of Science degree. (Currently, students can work toward a two-year degree.)

“;The goal is to educate talent in Hawaii and keep them here,”; says Nonaka. “;Right now, students who want advanced degrees have to go to the mainland ... and it's very expensive, upward of $30,000. The majority of them aren't able to afford it.”;

A partnership between KCC and UH-West Oahu, the institute is planned for the old Cannon Club site. Its 43,000 square-foot building will be LEED certified and comprise classrooms, an Asian culinary lab, a competition amphitheater, a signature restaurant, an imu pit and garden plots.

In addition to offering an advanced degree, it will provide certification in Asian, Pacific and Hawaiian cuisine and short-term continuing education courses for professionals to sharpen their culinary and business skills.

Since last year, planning, designing and permitting processes have been in the works. If all goes according to plan, groundbreaking will take place in 2012 with completion 18 to 24 months later.

The cost: a hefty $38 million. Nonaka says that while the UH Foundation is busy courting major national and international donors to finance a large chunk of the bill, the goal is to raise $16 million through Restaurant Week and other sources.

“;Our advisory committee said we needed to create a project to excite the industry and the community. Restaurant Week exists throughout the nation in every major city. Usually, they're held simply to draw new customers during the slow time of the year. Ours is in the same line, to promote restaurants AND the institute project.”;

RYAN LOO, executive chef of Twist at Hanohano at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, is a product of KCC's culinary program. He apprenticed at the prestigious Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, then cooked at both Cabanas and Hoku's at the Kahala Hotel.

“;I think it's important to (invest) in the culinarians coming up,”; he says. “;I'm fortunate to be where I am, and if I can, I'd like to help someone else achieve their goals.”;

Loo will offer a three-course New American meal for $40 that consists of choice of roasted cauliflower and Kona lobster bisque or a Haleiwa baby Bibb lettuce Caesar with prosciutto and garlic emulsion, “;panzanella”; croutons and white anchovy; choice of Tahitian vanilla poached onaga with Kahuku corn and blue crab potato cake, coconut kaffir and lime nage, or seven-spiced duck breast with gingered cranberries, honey pumpkin puree and Nalo Farms arugula; and for dessert, choice of coconut tapioca with Thai basil caramel, Maui white pineapple sorbet and candied macadamia nuts, or Kona coffee and strawberry tiramisu with dark chocolate and marscapone.

“;It's a good deal. This is usually a $65 meal,”; says Loo. “;These dishes are some of the more popular items on the menu. They're simple; good doesn't have to be complicated.”;

The chef says he's trying to re-instill the idea that Waikiki hotels offer great meals with innovative ideas.

“;There doesn't have to be a special occasion to come out to Waikiki anymore. You can come simply to have a nice meal.”;

WHILE RESTAURANT WEEK offers many opportunities to try the fare of Honolulu's upscale venues, the event also includes eateries that are familiar favorites.

At Wailana Coffee House, the event special is the Jamboree Breakfast, priced at $5.75. That includes all-you-can-eat pancakes, two eggs and two pieces of bacon.

“;It's our most popular special,”; says owner Kenton Tom. “;We average 250 a day.”;

The pancakes are quite a draw. Customers can have them in different flavors: banana, blueberry, macadamia nut or coconut.

Tom says Wailana participated last year with the same breakfast and easily sold the full amount of plates they committed to.

“;This makes everyone feel good,”; he says. “;It's not like it's a competition; we're all working together for a good cause.”;

That spirit of giving, coupled with the food-centric culture of the islands, makes Restaurant Week especially suited for Hawaii, Loo says.

Nonaka agrees, saying the event supports endeavors to sustain our international culinary standing.

“;Fifteen years ago the development of Hawaii Regional Cuisine gave us the bragging rights to say we can match up to any major city,”; he says. “;We've got weather, we've got surf and we've got food. We can perpetuate that by providing the best resources.

“;This is a win-win opportunity. It makes a good circle because in the end it benefits education, which provides a work force for the future that is better qualified.”;



Visit www.restaurantweekhawaii.com and click on “;Participating Restaurants”; to see the special menu of the restaurant of your choice.

» 12th Ave Grill, dinner $30
» 3660 on the Rise, dinner $40
» Aloha Salads, lunch $10
» Assaggio Restaurants, lunch $20, dinner $30
» Azure Restaurant @ the Royal Hawaiian, dinner $40
» Big City Diner Restaurants, lunch $10, dinner $20
» BluWater Grill, lunch $20, dinner $30
» Chai's Island Bistro, lunch $30, dinner $40
» Chibo, special menu
» d.k Steak House, dinner $30
» Diamond Head Market and Grill, lunch $10
» Doraku Sushi, dinner $20
» EAT Catering & Cafe, lunch $10
» Ezogiku, special menu
» Farrell's Hawaii, special menu
» Formaggio Grill, lunch $20, dinner $30
» Good to Grill, special menu
» Gyotaku Japanese Restaurants, dinner $30
» Hank's Haute Dogs, lunch $10
» Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, dinner $30
» House Without a Key at Halekulani, lunch $20, dinner $30
» Hula Grill Hawaii, dinner $30
» Hy's Steak House, dinner $40
» J.J. Dolan's, special menu
» Jimmy Buffett's at the Beachcomber, special menu
» JJ French Pastry & Bistro, special menu
» Ka Ikena Restaurant, Kapiolani Community College, lunch $20, dinner $30
» Kai Market @ the Sheraton Waikiki, special menu
» Kenny's Hawaiian Barbecue, special menu
» Kua Aina Sandwich, special menu
» L&L Hawaiian Barbecue / L&L Drive-Inn, special menu
» Le Bistro, dinner $40
» Le Guignol, dinner $40
» Marians Catering, special menu
» Maui Taco, special menu
» Nobu Waikiki, special menu
» OLA at Turtle Bay Resort, lunch $20, dinner $30
» Ono Cheese Steak, special menu
» Orchids at Halekulani, lunch $30, dinner $40
» Paina Cafe, lunch $10
» PF Chang's, special menu
» Pikake Terrace @ the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, special menu
» Plumeria Beach House / the Kahala Resort & Hotel, lunch $30, dinner $40
» Popeyes Hawaii, lunch $10, dinner $20
» Prince Court Restaurant—Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, special menu
» Restaurant Suntory, special menu
» Romano's Macaroni Grill, lunch $20, dinner $30
» Roy's, dinner $40
» Ruth's Chris Steak House Hawaii, dinner $40
» Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Waikiki, special menu
» Senor Frog's Honolulu, special menu
» Sizzler Restaurants / GoKo Restaurants Enterprises, lunch $10, dinner $20
» Stage Restaurant, lunch $30, dinner $40
» The Alley Restaurant @ Aiea Bowl, lunch $10, dinner $20
» The Beachhouse @ the Moana Surfrider by Westin, dinner $40
» The Pearl, Leeward Community College, lunch $20
» The Pineapple Room, dinner $40
» Tiki's Grill & Bar, dinner $30
» Twist at Hanohano @ the Sheraton Waikiki, dinner $40
» Vino Italian Tapas and Wine Bar, dinner $30
» Wailana Coffee House, LLC, special menu
» Wolfgang's Steakhouse, special menu
» Yanagi Sushi, special menu