Look for Hanai to Open in Kapaa
This Friday and Saturday will be the last time Hanai serves their food as a pop up restaurant. Since January, owners Adam Watten and Collin Darrell have set up inside Java Kai and served 24 unique tasting menus handcrafted with 100 percent local ingredients. I see the guys on Wednesdays during my farmers market tour, their cooler full of seasonal produce. They also work directly with local farms such as Kauai Roots Farm Co-op, Kauai Farm Connection and Sheldonia Farm. The shrimp, beef, lamb and fish they serve are raised on Kauai or caught off Kauai’s shores.
Preparing a hyper-local menu in someone’s kitchen is hard. Loading ingredients and equipment in and out each night is no fun, plus Kauai does not produce olive oil or grow onions, two primary ingredients in most kitchens. But for the guys, the pop up restaurant was an experiment to see if their concept would be well received.
Al la carte tapas range in price and two dishes will satisfy a moderate eater. Since high-quality, local ingredients are used, and each dish is hand crafted, it’s amazing to me that the prices are affordable. The best way to enjoy their food is to bring a friend and a bottle of wine, order one of everything and share. If you split the bill, you’ll eat extremely well for about $30.
Collin produces pop-up dinners on farms and botanical gardens and his level of service is exceptional. Adam, the former executive chef at Red Salt and the chef chairperson for Slow Food Kauai, is especially adept at creating delightfully surprising flavor combinations and textures. My favorite dishes include O.G. Greens ($8), with a mountain of baby greens, slivers of heart of palm, toasted macadamia nuts and a citrus dressing.
The Veggie Galette ($10) changed my mind about pastry-free galettes. A succulent wedge of purple sweet potato placed on a nasturtium leaf had layers of breadfruit, plantains, carrots, mushrooms and nasturtium flowers placed on top, and a pool of lilikoi (passion fruit) sauce intensified the flavor. It’s a dish I think about two months later.
The kobocha lilikoi soup ($8) was delectable as was the Kauai Shrimp ($11) served with avocado, lime and cilantro. Adam rendered local pork belly ($12) into luscious cubes and served them over edible hibiscus, broccoli and sprouted beans; skewers of grilled grass-fed beef ($13) were served with peppery watercress and smoked mushrooms. For me, the most interesting dish was Hapu Crudo ($12) with delicate strips of Hawaiian sea bass, ribbons of cucumber, yellow cherry tomatoes slices and tender chunks of mild coconut punctuated with two types of passion fruit seeds.
I caught up with Adam this week over beers and chicken wings at the Olympic Cafe. He said the concept was successful enough to open this May in the old Kojima’s Store. In the new space, Collin and Adam will be joined by award-winning chef and charcutier, Doug Kocol, as well as Gida Snyder, a private chef and the vice president of Slow Food Kauai. Many residents of Kauai believe it’s impossible to open a restaurant with a delicious 100 percent locally sourced menu. I predict this team will prove them wrong.