Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Town and Downtown@the HiSAM: Restaurant Reviews

I've had a lot of great meals in Honolulu, but if I had to pick my favorite dinner so far, it would be the one I had at Town. Town is in Kaimuki, a funky neighborhood packed with good restaurants. The bistro menu features mostly local and organic ingredients and the wait staff is knowledgeable about many of the purveyors. The space is cozy and contemporary though a bit noisy.

Aside from the Hawaiian ingredients used, it feels like a restaurant you would find in San Francisco with Mediterranean style selections such as hand cut pasta, risotto, slow-braised meats, a couple of fried appetizers, and cooked and raw preparations of fresh local seafood. But often the dishes have a twist, making them unique and fresh. I loved the mussels cooked with fennel and tomato. So what was the twist? A broth made with the white vermouth Cinzano and a bit of pastina in the bottom of the bowl.
Mussels with Cinzano
The gnocchi was tender and gooey with cheese and chewy oyster mushrooms, but there are only 12 orders available a night so get your order in early!
Gnocchi with Oyster Mushrooms
Both the crispy fried appetizers were cooked perfectly and not at all greasy. We ordered the salted walu brandade fritters and a frito that had slices of local green Meyer lemon, okra, kampachi and meltingly luscious green onions.
Piccolo Frito
Braised pork cheeks with creamy polenta and bitter greens was a great dish with lots of contrasting soft textures and rich flavors. Sorry for the blurry photo!
Pork Cheeks
The only weak part of the meal might have been the desserts, but only because they didn't "wow" as much as the other courses. We had a panino with chocolate and apple bananas and a pineapple napoleon. Both were fine, but nothing I'd go out of my way to order again.

I'm sorry I don't have pictures of my lunch at Ed Kenney and and David Caldiero's other restaurant, Downtown at HiSAM (Hawaii State Art Museum). The museum is free, so splurge on a weekday lunch, just be sure to make reservations since it is very popular. The menu has many similar dishes to what you find at Town. I was very happy with the tender homemade pasta in the duck confit canneloni, which was served on a bed of bitter greens and topped with a kumquat sauce. Service was a bit rushed and I didn't get a chance to try the churros and chocolate, but I will next time!


Town
3435 Waialae Avenue #103
Honolulu, HI
808-735-5900

Downtown @ the HiSAM
Hawaii State Art Museum
250 S. Hotel St.
Honolulu HI
808-536-5900