How does this sound: ahi tartare with paiai crisp, grilled Shinsato pork chops with Kahuku corn, breadfruit croquette with luau demi glace, butternut malasadas with haupia sauce and macadamia nuts?
If your mouth is watering at the thought, be sure to head out to Highway Inn @ Kakaako next week.
Yes, thatHighway Inn. Chef Michael Kealoha decided to try something different Monday to Nov. 23, when the classic Hawaiian-food venue participates in Restaurant Week Hawai‘i, the seventh annual celebration of cuisine in the isles. Part of the proceeds from the week benefits construction of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head, where students will be able to earn four-year culinary degrees.
More than 75 eateries, from fast-food to fine-dining establishments, are presenting meals at budget-friendly prices. Some, like Highway Inn, are offering special menus.
"We wanted to utilize ingredients sourced from farmers around the island," said Kealoha. "We’ve got kalo from Waiahole and butternut squash from Ho Farms. And everybody knows about Shinsato pork. I love the marbling, and it tastes awesome."
The contemporary menu ($29) was rooted in old-school Hawaiian fare, the chef said. Inspiration came while he was working in his auntie’s loi harvesting kalo.
After making a few versions "to play around with ingredients," Kealoha came up with the dishes fairly quickly.
"The paiai fries up nice, like a chip. And the ahi tartare — it’s unbelievable!"
Menus like Kealoha’s — not to mention the great prices — have diners booking reservations all over town. This is the perfect time to try a new restaurant, said Conrad Nonaka, director of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific.
"In fact, I eat out every day the entire week," he admitted with a laugh.
Highway Inn @ Kakaako is at 680 Ala Moana Blvd. Call 954-4955. For a lineup of participating restaurants and to make reservations, visit restaurantweekhawaii.com.