1538 Kapiolani Blvd., suite 107 Honolulu
Monday-Friday: lunch, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; dinner, 4-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday: 4-10 p.m.
In the weeks leading up to MW Restaurant’s launch, it seemed the Internet was filled with excitement about husband-and-wife team Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka opening their own restaurant. (The duo previously had worked together at Ala Wong’s, which also happens to be where they met.)
My first experience completely lived up to the hype.
I had the Mochi Crusted Opakapaka and enjoyed it so much that it’s the only entrée I’ve ever allowed myself to order, despite other items sounding equally delicious. Every bite of tender fish I took was coated with a layer of mochi that was much like eating it in its toasted form — just the right combination of crispy and chewy. Served on a bed of somen noodles and accompanied by housemade pickled vegetables, the dish was as much a new discovery as it was full of familiar flavors.
That night was about a year ago, and my visits since then have been just as memorable. While the restaurant continues to grow and thrive (a private dining room next door that will hold about 40 currently is under construction), Ueoka says they will now devote themselves to tightening loose ends.
“For us, the first year was about getting it up and running,” he says. “We scrambled a lot, threw a lot of things together, so now we want to refine a lot of things.”
In the kitchen, Ueoka takes care of the front and creates the menu’s savory items. Meanwhile, Karr-Ueoka concocts whatever sweet creation she’s decided to tackle lately, usually incorporating flavors she feels like eating.
“For me, it’s what I’m craving or what’s in season that the farmers bring,” she says.
Pastries were not always her area of expertise. For seven years, she worked on savory items before making the switch. And it’s a craft she has mastered. Each dessert item is as playful as it is a sugary showstopper.
The MW Candy Bar, for instance, is what she describes as reminiscent of a cross between Snickers and Twix candy bars. A milk chocolate praline crunch on the bottom adds texture and is topped with layers of peanut butter chocolate, Hawaiian salt caramel and chocolate ganache that combine to create a very decadent dessert.
It is served with chocolate ice cream and a “black truffle truffle.” Made with black truffle commonly used in savory dishes, Karr-Ueoka makes a truffle caramel to create the final product.
MW sources many of its ingredients from local farms and producers. The couple derives inspiration for dishes from just about anywhere.
“I think creativity for us is driven by past experiences, what we read, what we watch or what we see others do,” says Ueoka. “Also, travel … seeing and tasting different things always helps creativity, and we try to put our own spin on things.”
In honor of its first year, stop in during the last few days of MW’s prix fixe lunch menu ($24), which runs through Oct. 31. The three-course meal includes a starter and entrée, and a “Cake & Ice Cream” dessert.