Kajioka & Rush at Koko Head Cafe

Dinner – Friday, May 22, 2015

Hawaii and England are about as far apart as you can get on a map, but here we are anyway – a one-night pop-up featuring two talented chefs from these islands. Chris Kajioka (formerly at Honolulu’s Vintage Cave, with a recent stint at Mourad in San Francisco) and Anthony Rush (currently helming the kitchen at Simon Rogan’s London outpost, Fera at Claridge’s) met while working at Per Se. They have evidently kept in touch over the years, as they’re planning to open a restaurant together in Honolulu. This dinner was, in their words, a “Preview of What is to Come”.

We started with a quartet of bites (clockwise from top-left): (1) Akule, clementine, pickled cucumber, seaweed crisp; (2) ikura, potato, yuzu; (3) Yorkshire pudding, shortrib, caramelized onion, horseradish; (4) Kusshi oyster, kimchi, green apple. The last was exactly what I want in an amuse-bouche – bright, sharp flavours to whet the appetite.

Pickled daikon, coconut water, avocado

Gorgeous and really delicious – tied with the pork belly (see below) for my favorite dishes of the evening. The raw kampachi was served on a transparent raft of coconut water gelee, floated above a light avocado mousse. Varied textures and the contrast of sweet and saline made this a winner.

Stewed romano beans
Soffrito, bonito, egg yolk, crispy quinoa, pea shoots

This dish made me rethink our homemade tomato sauce for pasta – I am going to start putting bonito in it! The umami combination was intense, but moderated by the pea shoots. The yolk, more gelled than runny, ate like a thick custard – altogether, the bites came together like a salty, oozy tomato panna cotta. Excellent.

Kona abalone cooked in brown butter
Fermented mustard greens, kombu, pickled wakame, cauliflower

24-hour braised pork belly
Hearts of palm, pickled shimeji, elderberry vinegar, puffed rice

The tender belly was glazed with what seemed like a reduced char siu sauce. It was fantastic, but what really made the dish stand out was the liberal use of acid – elderberry vinegar, and a malt vinegar powder on the rice. A very strong meat course.

“Eton Mess”
Strawberries, meringue, whipped cream, pine salt

A very classic English dessert, gussied up with salt and a disc of strawberry gelee. A crowd-pleaser, to be sure. And to think I was nearly sent away to Eton…

White chocolate cheesecake
Honey cream pineapple, sea buckthorn gel, caramel, Thai basil

A delicious meal in a completely informal atmosphere (the pop-up was held in a diner, and I got away with wearing shorts and flip-flops!) – fitting for the tropical environs. I doubt we’ll be able to try their food again in the near future, but I am extremely curious as to how the restaurant will come together given their very different backgrounds.

2 thoughts on “Kajioka & Rush at Koko Head Cafe

  1. Excellent photos and coverage of this pop-up dinner! I was there for the first seating and was blown away. Loved looking at all the pix of the food again. Can’t wait for this restaurant, Senia to open!


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