The Weekly Eater
THE last thing anyone needs during the holidays is a stressful change. Yet, David Paul Johnson is out at Diamond Head Grill, replaced by another David, last name Reardon, formerly executive chef at the Orchid at Mauna Lani.
beat David at
Merry Christmas. That sort of thing happens when new management steps in. The question now is, can David top David? They have very different styles. The former served what I've described as no-nonsense, though upscale "comfort food." The new David offers dishes well-schooled in demeanor with a wild streak when it comes to flavors such as balsamic vinegars that can be puckeringly ascerbic. I couldn't say one is better than the other. It depends on what you're in the mood for.
Reardon has made the transition without skipping a beat. The waiters, however, seem to be having trouble keeping up. One said the Hawaiian Seafood Platter appetizer ($12 per person for a minimum of two) did not have oysters when there were. They would have been the most logical choice with the accompanying sauces: a spicy, vinegary Hot Lava Mignonette, Sake Lime Sauce and Cocktail Sauce with a light touch of wasabi. (None particularly memorable.) Also on the platter were clams, shrimp, mussels and poke and a seaweed salad wrapped in ti leaves.
Diamond Head GrillFood 1/2
Address: W Honolulu -- Diamond Head (formerly the Colony Surf), 2885 Kalakaua Ave.
Hours: 7 to 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily, and 11 to 2:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays
Prices: Dinner for two about $65 to $75 without drinks; prices in column reflect dinner menu
Thanks to the waiter's error, I made the redundant, but lucky, choice of Ginger Glazed Macadamia Nut Oysters ($10). There are some who believe there's no better oyster than one served nude, but this may change their minds. The oyster lifted out of its shell to make way for a bed of crunchy cilan-tro-macadamia nut pesto, before being put back and blanketed with warm baby spinach.
Reardon has one of those menus in which every dish reads delicious, making it hard to choose. I was perfectly willing to accept the salad of Baby Okinawan Spinach ($6.50) brought to my table, although what I had really ordered was the Warm Salad of Grilled Asparagus and Portobello Mushrooms ($7) that eventually arrived topped with Nalo Greens and cozily accompanied by Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato and Puna Goat Cheese Polenta.
Even harder to commit to was an entree. How could one reject a Guava and Mustard Crusted Rack of Lamb ($32) or Herb Roasted Pork Rack ($28) served with Chorizo Sausage Hash, Black Fig Chutney and Tangerine-Pork Jus ($28)?
The Fire Roasted Opakapaka ($28) won out, assisted by a Kahuku Corn Ragout, Basil Mashed Potatoes and Truffled Manila Clam Nage, or broth.
And vegetarians have reason to celebrate with a non-creamy Kahuku Corn and Carrot Risotto ($10 half portion, $18 full) topped with sliced portobellos and slivers of crisped leeks.
Warn them in advance if you want the Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate Souffle for dessert. Or don't wait, and go with the somewhat crunchy Pineapple-Polenta Upside Down Cake, an update of the classic 1950s dessert. It's surrounded by a thick pool of caramel.
As for the question of David or David, it's a new millennium, time to look forward.
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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:
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- below average.
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