A menu full of favorites at Kakaako Kitchen
Friday - January 26, 2007
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Kakaako Kitchen executive chef
If you think you have a hard time deciding what to eat when faced with a multi-layered menu that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, spare a thought for Marcia Cades. She’s the executive chef at Kakaako Kitchen, and part of her job involves deciding what new dishes stay on the menu - and more importantly, which ones go.
“People get very defensive about their favorite dishes,” she says.“Every time we create a new dish and take an old one off the menu, I just stand back and wait for the uproar!”
And it always comes. There was the time they took the calamari salad off the menu, for example.
“Oh people just hated that,“says Marcia. But the price of calamari skyrocketed and it became too costly to fit into the mid-price range that Kakaako boasts.
“Eventually we had so many complaints that I started asking the customers how much they were willing to pay for the salad,” says Marcia, “and when they all seemed to agree on a price point ( $9.95), I worked out a deal with our supplier.”
Calamari salad returned to the menu, customers happy.
And much the same thing has happened with dozens of other popular dishes, to the point that there are just certain places Marcia and chef/owner Russell Siu don’t even go nowadays.
People get very defensive about their
favorite dishes. Every time we create
a new dish and take an old one off
the menu, I just stand back and wait
for the uproar!
“You can’t touch the beef stew, the Chinese five spice shoyu chicken or the mahi plate,” says Marcia. “And don’t even think about moving the hamburger steak or the meatloaf. People go crazy.”
It sounds like every restaurant owner’s dream. Open a restaurant serving food that everybody loves, at a price everyone can afford. Then, create signature dishes that will be not just missed if they go, but positively mourned. And then watch the thousands of customers line up each week to get their daily fix of curry chicken katsu, tempura mahi sandwiches and fried chicken.
Another “problem” at Kakaako: Every time they add a new dish it becomes a huge favorite.
“We added Furikake Tempura Catfish with Ponzu Sauce ($8.75) a month or so ago,” says Marcia, “and people just love it. We sell so much of it that I feel sorry for the catfish population.”
And the addictively good Crispy Fried Sweet Chili Chicken is another new and firm favorite. “There’s no way we can take that one off the menu,” Marcia sighs.
There’s a new Chicken Tequila over Spinach Fettucini ($8.95) that is big enough to serve two and features sauteed bell peppers, onions, garlic and crimini mushrooms tossed with chicken in a tomato tequila cream sauce.
There’s no doubt that Russell Siu has our Island palate down. He has a rare talent for knowing what people like - and offering it at a reasonable price. And at Kakaako, it might be plate lunch style, but you can kick it up to be as fancy as you want. Order an Arugula Salad with Grilled Chicken Breast ($8.95), or a Bacon Tomato and Crab Salad Sandwich ($9.75), or the Fresh Catch with Waimanalo Greens, discard the Styrofoam box and you could easily be eating lunch from a much fancier place.
“Kakaako is fast fine dining,” says Marcia. “We prepare sauces and stocks and dressings from scratch just like in any fine-dining restaurant - the difference is we have to get meals out in eight minutes or less.”
From daily specials that include meatloaf, roast turkey with mashed potatoes, eggplant Parmesan and Marcia’s own pot roast, to the flavors of culturally melded Hawaii created in succulent kalbi ribs, stir-fry chow fun or a mixed plate, Kakaako Kitchen has the taste of Hawaii down. One fast food fine dining plate at a time.
Kakaako Kitchen Ward Centre Honolulu 596-7488
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