Prime for DiningBy: Alana Folen
Redefining the Burger Joint
DEMAND FOR UPSCALE BURGERS IS STILL GROWING. Hawai’i's finest restaurants are now tipping the scales and creating protein-heavy plates of Americana that are worthy of the highest culinary praise. The restaurateurs behind Plumeria Beach House, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener, Red Salt at Poipu Beach, Kaua’i, and Monkey Pod Kitchen by Merriman in Wailea, Maui, each clamored to join our rankings among those with “the touch” for refined comfort foods.
We begin with Wayne Hirabayashi, executive chef at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, who delicately prepares the Kahala Burger ($20; available daily from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) at Plumeria Beach House. This luxurious sandwich is a hand-formed masterpiece of ground Black Angus chuck topped with a fried egg, white Cheddar cheese, guacamole, bacon and shaved Maui onions, all propped on a homemade sweet milk bun and served with smoked paprika seasoned fries.
“The Kahala Burger is a very popular item on our menu,” Hirabayashi says. “Guests love the fact that it’s fully loaded- not to mention the setting in which you’re enjoying the burger, on the edge of the white sands— which really adds to the whole dining experience.”
Also elevating the bar of gourmet American fare is the renowned Wolfgang’s Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener. Executive chef James Donohue broke new ground solely for us when he prepared the newly minted “Royal Burger” ($50)-which you can special request-and was inspired by this story. Fit for royalty, this burger begins with a half-pound Prime Aged Black Angus beef inside a freshly baked (and grilled) bun, masterfully topped with lump crab meat, grilled baby asparagus and a classic, freshly made Béarnaise sauce. If it’s not enough, this concoction is served with a side of succulent lobster macaroni and cheese-it’s a sinful experience at best. To boot, if you’re prone to the burger combo “deal,” Chef Donohue highly recommends pairing this premier burger with a rare bottle of 2008 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Bottled (it will up your tab by a slight $3,500).
Let’s hop the pond to Maui’s newly opened Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman, where CIA-trained, Hawaii Regional Cuisine founder and chef Peter Merriman is cooking up dishes demonstrating his commitment to high-quality, locally sourced ingredients.
Burger aficionados will delight in Merriman’s “Pete’s Classic Maui Cattle Company Burger” ($11.95). Handcrafted from start to finish, this version is made from 100 percent Maui Cattle Company grass-fed beef, with sautéed onion, Fontina cheese, vine-ripened tomato and fresh lettuce.
“Our buns are freshly baked in-house from scratch and our pickles are house made,” says Merriman. “Local, sustainable and delicious is what makes this burger stand out from the rest.”
Better yet, Monkeypod Kitchen serves up 36 craft beers on tap served at 29 degrees, thus presenting not only the coldest but widest array of microbrews on the island. If cocktails are your thing, Merriman highlights unique ingredients like açai spirit, coconut water and Kula lavender.
Finally, feast your senses at Red Salt at the Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort, on Po’ipu Beach, Kaua’i. With a cult-like local following, Red Salt, has quickly gained an astonishing repu- tation in its short two-year period of existence, thanks mostly to its el Bulli-trained chef, Ron- nie Sanchez, whose “Ko’a Kea Kobe burger” is definitely one to scout.
“Chris Steuri, general manager of Red Salt envisioned a burger that guests would walk away and simply say, ‘Wow, now that was a burger,’” says Paul Koulbanis, food and beverage manager of Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach.
“The Ko’a Kea Kobe Burger is an 8-ounce, grass-fed, free-range Wagyu beef, served with a togarashi aioli sauce. Customers also like having the burger with our Red Coral mar- tini,” he adds. u
The Plumeria Beach House The Kahala Hotel & Resort 5000 Kahala Ave. | 808.739.8842
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener Royal Hawaiian Center 2301 Kalakaua Ave. | 808.922.3600
Red Salt Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach 2251 Poipu Road | 808.742.4288
Monkey Pod Kitchen by Merriman 10 Wailea Gateway Place, Unit B-201 808.891.2322
The next time your travels find you in the City of Angels, make it a point to spoil your senses at Umami Burger. The man behind this new burger concept is Los Angeles-based restaurateur Adam Fleischman, a self-taught chef and renowned food and wine entrepreneur. Taking the concept of your classic burger to a new dimension, Umami Burger is defined as “fine-dining, fast food,” offering burger enthusiasts a sophisticated and selective array of burgers, sides and accompaniments.
Umami originates from a Japanese word indicating the pleasant and savory taste produced by glutamate-a type of amino acid and ribonucleotides-that occur naturally in foods. It’s believed that Umami as a taste is subtle in itself, but exquisitely blends with other tastes, resulting in an out-of-this-world dining experience.
Umami Burger takes pride in its self-titled, award-winning burger ($10), featuring a generous house-ground beef patty (portobello substitute available), oven-roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, Parmesan frico and sauteed shiitake mushrooms, topped off with a house-made ketchup. Quality is pinnacle for Fleischman, hence all meat is ground, cheese processed and veggies pickled directly on premises.
Umami Burger connoisseurs also can enjoy a bit of Hawai’i's familiar local fare by succumbing to the unforgettable taste of Tempura Onion Rings ($3.50) or Kimchi Steak Salad ($11), exhibiting the refreshing accents of romaine lettuce and watercress dressed with a tempting kimchi dressing, croutons and the aromatic flavor of Parmesan cheese.
Umami Burger is located throughout the Los Angeles area with five locations.
For more information on this chic burger hot spot, visit www.umamiburger.com.