As much as we enjoyed indulging in coffee and shave ice during our stay on Oahu, we also wanted to enjoy at least one fancy dinner. For that, we decided on Chef Chai, located not far from Ala Moana Center on Kapiolani Boulevard. It’s a hip, upscale joint in a rather new building. In fact, if you look it up on Google Street View, it will still display as being under construction.
Chef Chai describes itself as an Asian fusion restaurant, though I found the Thai influence to be the most evident. By contrast, the decor is decidedly modern, which suits the more contemporary cocktail and wine list too. It’s meant to be posh and contemporary, not humble and traditional. We purchased a Groupon ahead of time for the early bird menu (before 6pm) and this consisted of four set courses.
With Thai Peanut Sauce, Cucumber Salad and Asian Flat Bread
Dinner started off with this very modest appetizer. The chicken itself didn’t have the slight char on it that I prefer and the meat was underseasoned. The peanut sauce was definitely needed to elevate the flavor.
Combination Pupu Platter
Fresh Ahi Katsu with Wasabi Curry Sauce, Kataifi and Mac Nut Encrusted Jumbo Black Tiger Prawns, Gravlax Salmon Roulade with Cream Cheese and Crab Meat, Roasted Butternut Squash and Lobster Bisque Shooter
Easily the most elaborate dish of the night, this appetizer platter had a little of everything for the two of us to share. I enjoyed the savoriness of the bisque shooter and the great crunch of the tiger prawns. The star for me was the ahi katsu. The fish was melt-in-your-mouth tender and the unconventional mix of wasabi and curry made for unique combination. The salmon was forgettable.
Braised Pork Shank
One of the two entrees that we had to share, the pork shank easily fell off the bone with a fork. There’s a good sized portion here and the accompanying gravy worked very well with the bowl of brown rice (not pictured). This is a hearty dish that’s perfect for those seeking comfort food.
Grilled Fresh New Zealand King Salmon
With Kabayaki Sauce and Spicy Pineapple
The salmon itself was cooked perfectly, retaining a good amount of moisture white still offering a nice grilled exterior. The spicy pineapple works very well here too, offering a sweetness with a kick that I’d like to try again.
Heart Shaped White Chocolate Gelato Truffle
With Raspberry Guava Puree
Shared between the two of us, this rather substantial dessert really emphasizes the tropical flavors of Hawaii. White chocolate paired with tart fruits like raspberry and guava is a very common combination. You see it all the time with cheesecake. Personally, I found the puree to be too sweet for my tastes. It’s for the best that we didn’t get one of these each!
Including the value of the Groupon we had purchased ahead of time–plus drinks, taxes, and gratuity–the total cost of our meal for two came to around $160. That’s definitely not cheap and we had decided to indulge ourselves with one fancy sit-down meal for this trip.
Service was friendly and attentive, while the food was tasty and presented well. If you’re looking for a trendy spot in Honolulu for a special meal, and you’re willing to absorb the cost, Chef Chai is worth your consideration.