ARTIZEN BY MW RESTAURANT
Hawaii State Art Museum
250 S. Hotel St., Honolulu
Phone number (808) 524-0499
Despite all the chaos that always manages to come this time of year, today was the best day ever.
I’ve been craving MW Restaurant for the past couple of months, maddeningly so, but haven’t managed to make my way there. Then, as if the universe decided to grant me a reprieve, Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka opened their newest concept in Hawaii State Art Museum: Artizen by MW Restaurant.
It’s a vastly different atmosphere at Artizen than what you’d find at their Kapiolani Boulevard location. Gone is the seated dining experience. In its place is a room full of tables open first-come, first-served with a grab-and-go menu that promises all the quickness of fast food, but with a creative, exciting flair the couple has become synonymous with.
To my surprise and greatest delight, my all-time favorite item from MW was available to order. Like its MW counterpart, the Mochi Crusted Opah (the dinner menu at MW utilizes opakapaka instead) was served atop somen noodles with Korean-style pickled vegetables on the side.
I should note that the food is not exactly as photogenic at Artizen as it is at MW, but I don’t think it should have to be. Artizen fulfills something I would like to see more of: a place to go for lunch that is fast but not banal.
And that isn’t to say that the same attention to detail I’ve come to expect at MW can’t be found here. My Mochi Crusted Opah may have been served in a plastic to-go container, but the presentation was identical to how I’ve received it on a plate. (By the way, it also tasted just as good as the MW original.)
Other items that caught my eye (that I plan on returning for) included a Chili Bowl made with shortribs, ground beef, Portuguese sausage, corn and a green bean salsa, and a Kim Chee Portuguese Bean Soup. Artizen also offers salads and sandwiches, too.
You’ve probably heard and seen photos by now of Artizen’s desserts — Karr-Ueoka’s delicate interpretations of clairs, for example. Sadly, I was too late. (I was worried about getting there too early, which was a mistake because I overheard a cashier informing someone that desserts were one of the first items to go.)
I managed to nab a slice of Chocolate Cake, excellent but a little too decadent for midday, so I saved the rest for later. There also were several baked goods still available, including chocolate chip-arare cookies and furikake bagel chips. Those bagel chips, by the way, are dangerous. Light and airy, they don’t leave your mouth feeling dry, and a combination of sugar and furikake make it sweet and salty at the same time.
You know, I’ve always felt “artisan” is one of those meaningless words, a label slapped on by non-artisans to appeal to consumers. I can’t seem to grab a loaf of French bread that isn’t deemed “artisan-made.”
But in this case, Artizen has earned it.
ONE-BITE REVIEWS With Paige Takeya
My ideal meal is full of variety — a tasty sampling rather than overindulgence. I got to live the dream last week when my foodie friend got us reservations for a sneak peek at the nook neighborhood bistro’s soon-to-come dinner expansion (check thenookhonolulu.com for updates).
But I had mixed feelings when we were done. It was an interesting dinner, but I can’t say how many dishes I’d want to eat in full size.
AHI NICOISE MEATBALLS
It tasted … exactly like a fish meatball atop a deconstructed egg salad sandwich.
KAUAI SHRIMP AND FISH CEVICHE
This citrusy-yet-creamy mix of seafood served with fried plantain chips was refreshing and light.
OKINAWAN SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI
The sweet, chewy gnocchi contrasted beautifully with the crispy pork belly, but was doused in a too-oily maple butter sauce.
I loved this ahi and its orange avocado salsa, but the dish fell flat without textural variety (it needed something crunchy).
GRILLED RIB EYE
Oh, the meat was so good: tender and flavorful, only enhanced by a wasabi créme sauce.
MANGO MOUSSELINE SPHERE
Its appearance is egg-like, or even … well, boob-like, but this gently flavored trinity of fruit, cream and crunch was the best part of the meal.