Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
To excite, encourage, raise up and rouse. That is the translation of the name of a new Honolulu restaurant, Pai Honolulu (from its original name, Ho‘opai). It’s also how chef and owner Kevin Lee wants his guests to feel about their dining experience at Pai Honolulu.
You probably thought the Hawaiian name of the restaurant and Lee’s Asian surname meant another local boy had spread his wings in the culinary world. Well, not quite. Kevin Lee hails from the Bay Area. His formal training began with his earning a bachelor’s degree in food science from the University of California at Davis, followed by a culinary degree with honors from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
Actually, Lee first set foot in the 50th while on vacation, visiting an institute classmate. That vacation turned into an opening chef gig at Prima in Kailua. After a couple of years, he left Prima to strike out on his own, looking for the ideal location for his new restaurant. That took four long years, but we now have Pai Honolulu.
You can grab one of the nine bar seats or sofas in the lounge area and simply enjoy cocktails and small appetizer plates, or you can reserve one of 10 chef counter seats for the full eight-course meal, or reserve one of the 14 seats in the dining area for either small appetizer plates or the preset eight- or five-course meals. We opted for the chef’s counter seating, which looks directly into the open kitchen for the full extravaganza.
Coconut Curry Panna Cotta
miso-cured abalone, lychee, coconut water Thai basil
Domaine Bechtold Cremant d’Alsace
The panna cotta, or cooked cream, was a perfect single bite with a little bit of salty, sweet and heat, almost like a thickened Thai curry. And, the effervescence of the sparkling wine cleansed the palate for the next course.
Baby Beet Salad
masoor dal, herbed ricotta, ikura
Paired with Principe Pallavicini, 2014
I didn’t think the masoor dal, or lightly curried lentil paste, would work with the beets, but the earthiness from both elements balanced nicely contrasted with the salty ricotta and ikura.
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Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet.”