The only dish on the Hanai menu that has been there every night from the very first day is the Sheldonia greens salad. It's a masterpiece that I help raise in the fields under the wings of farmer Phil Sheldon. Last night at the dinner table he told us that he's experimented with 40 types of lettuce, and that most of the ones that are good quality and grow well in California, don't do so well here in Kauai. His 30 yr old trip has been to find a half dozen varieties of lettuce that are exceptionally beautiful and tasty, and will grow in the Omao micro-climate. Natural selection is key. Farmer Phil's decades of hard work has made it to our table and we want to share this gift to all. It's a moral responsibility of mine to provide adequate respect, material supplies and personal energy to caretakers of the land such that they may continue on in the righteous path of sustainable cuisine and farming.
Lettuce is often bypassed for sincere good quality since a salad tends to be topped dressing and garnishes, which mask the flavor of the greens beneath, but trust me, one does know what lettuce truly tastes like until they try the Sheldonia greens. Like a house, a dish is only as good as it's foundation. If the greens that first plop down on a plate have a texture and taste like none other then everything else that goes on it is just icing on the cake.
On the farm our techniques are old school and simply organic. In the kitchen with Hanai the techniques are traditional and simply simple and effective. Chef D with Hanai made a sweet corn soup last night that was cooked in a way that elevated the flavors of the natural sugars of the corn from a molecular means topped with a pinch of roasted kernel in the oven, and the main and only ingredient was... corn. So there it is, the lettuce is so good all you need is the lettuce, and the corn is so good all you need is corn, and the fish is so good we don't dare to cook and therefore fly it into a crudo plate and top it with basic raw veggies and fruits and borage flowers. Kauai is unique in that you can grow, fish, hunt and harvest a world of ingredients that have more punch in each bite, more bang for the buck, because the composition of this landscape is extremely rich with old volcanic soil intermixed with ocean spray, global biological diversity, fresh water and ample insolation year-round. The culture(s) that inhabits is a collage of all the Pacific Rim native peoples plus that of the Western civilizations. In the middle of all of this is me and I'm stoked that this is pretty darn close to a miracle to have my mentor farm dude eat his own salad and 7 other bangin' courses in a strictly Hawaiian-grown pop-up restaurant just a half mile from old church studio where my lovely wife and little Kauaian girl are dreaming under a monkey pod tree.
Farmer Phil eating 'The Sheldon' salad.
Roasted eggplant, brushed with local: banana vinegar, mango juice, pink peppercorn juice, kiawe spice and pink sea salt. Caramelized on a panini press. Laid on top roasted sweet potato and padron peppers, watermelon radish and sweet peas. Garnished with calamansi, dianthus and spring onion curls.
Hapu brandade mixed with banana, underneath a 61.5 C juicy egg and mushrooms and sunflower sprout, garnished with pumpkin seed powder.
The ahi crudo with cucumber ribbons, lilikoi, heart of palm and avo puree.
Colossal shrimp for two on the fly.
Mary's Hanai to go order. Nearly everything of the menu in a box.
Family meal shrimp platter.
This photograph is the greatest gift I could ever receive from working with Hanai. Here is a group of cutting edge, but down to Earth, chefs and solo waitress (and barber) with the Sheldonia farmer (and barber), whom I've been working with since May of 2013 when my daughter was born. Farmer Phil led me to Chef Adam two months ago, and Chef Adam led me to Collin and Hanai, and from there I've been helping put together the Hawaii farm-to-table and bringing the table to the Kauai farmer.