The rave reviews were in months ago, but I just never got around to checking it out.
It’s not that I didn’t want to dine at MW Restaurant near Ala Moana Center in the old KGMB building. Oh, I did. It was one of the most highly anticipated openings last year. But for whatever reason, maybe I was saving it for some special occasion, I never went.
Until this month.
The special occasion: to be honest, I didn’t want to cook.
I had just managed to pack away two full bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a living room of junk — 38 years of accumulation — and moved to a house in Nuuanu. I was just tired of seeing boxes and eating takeout. It was time to dine in style.
The restaurant is run by the husband-and-wife team of Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka, both long-time alums of Alan Wong’s Restaurant and Rising Star recipients from StarChefs.com.
Not only that, but both worked at the uber-swank The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif. Those are some major creds.
And add to that that of the 30 contenders for prestigious 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards given to restaurants and chefs, MW was nominated in the Best New Restaurant category and Karr-Ueoka among the 20 candidates for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
“Party of two?”
Here’s what my first meal at MW looked like — and trust me, it won’t be my last:
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Here’s a tasting of the Kauai shrimp with seafood ravioli. (It’s under there.) This came with a spicy uni (sea urchin) sauce, soy katsuo and shiso.
Here’s the final entree of the chef’s tasting — and the one I was looking forward to most. This is the oxtail stew and rice; really, a piece of oxtail (it’s a stuffed roulade if you order the entree) on beef stew risotto with peanuts and mushrooms. I love the playfulness of this dish, taking something so “local” and elevating it. Nice job!
I ordered a REAL entree: the twice-cooked pork tonkatsu with a vegetable panchan from Ho Farms. I’m not sure what it means for this pork cutlet to be cooked twice, but it was juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and all-around delish. Then pickled veggies and kim chee were a nice touch.
One of the desserts here was part of the Localicious Hawaii menu, offered by various restaurants during the month of March with proceeds from these dishes supporting local ag education. This was a Meyer lemon creme brûlée, which was utter perfection. (I’m biased since I love both flavors separately anyway.)
But what I really came for was Michelle’s signature ice cream sandwiches, carefully crafted (and wrapped) with a housemade chocolate caramel praline crunch ice cream that was spectacular. I think the restaurant should have a chef’s tasting menu of DESSERTS ONLY, too. (I’m so there.)
MW Restaurant, 1538 Kapiolani Blvd #107 near Ala Moana Center. Hours: Lunch, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner, 4 to 10 p.m., closed Tuesdays. Phone: (808) 955-6505. Reservations highly recommended.