Flavorful excellence keeps Kaimuki spot among elite
By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic
We visited this local favorite first among a number of long-established restaurants we'll be checking out in the coming months, to see how things have changed, and reacquaint ourselves with their menus.
Russell Siu is co-owner and executive chef. His cooking career began at age 15 at a local drive-in, and advanced into the corporate food world, taking him to the Mainland and Hong Kong. In 1992, 3660 On The Rise was born when Siu joined forces with Gale Ogawa (co-owner and on-site manager), chef James Gillespie and pastry chef Lisa Siu. In the past 10 years, 3660 has been a recipient of many awards, including the 'Ilima Award and recognition from the Zagat guide.
The "first flavors" part of the menu touts one of their signature dishes, 'ahi katsu ($10.25): top-grade 'ahi wrapped in nori, flash-fried, sliced and served with wasabi-ginger sauce. The warm crunchy exterior, coupled with the fleshy texture of the very rare and ruby-red 'ahi, make for mouthfeel manna. The sauce is a wonderful accompaniment to this dish; however, it tastes more like a butter-enriched French-style sauce than one of wasabi and ginger.
Another yummy starter, fried Kaua'i plantation shrimp ($9.75), is stuffed with curried crab salad, and served over slightly bitter radicchio slaw. The unusual but appealing flavor of tamarind makes itself known in the butter sauce that is drizzled on the plate. Once again, the contrasting yet complementary textures work well here; the golden brown crunch of the shrimp gives way to a soft, almost creamy, crab salad curry. Only a wedge of lime, to squeeze over the shrimp for extra brightness, could have improved this offering.
"Second flavors" include the salads and soup. We tried the clam and corn chowder ($5.75), enriched with a roasted red pepper creme fraiche. It was a bit on the thick and chunky side, with the sweetness of corn shining through. Much better was the soup of the day, tomato bisque, satiny smooth and pleasing. The soft taro rolls on the table helped to mop up every last drop from the bowl. In this section of the menu, the furikake popcorn shrimp salad ($9.25) was another triumph: highly seasoned bites of fried shrimp with chopped romaine, pea and corn sprouts, and grilled shiitake mushrooms, tossed with garlic-miso dressing.
The Chinese steamed fillet of snapper ($24.50) came highly recommended by our waiter. It is lightly seared before steaming, adding additional depth of flavor. The sauce is a subtle black bean flavor, with the characteristics of a cornstarch-thickened Chinese-style gravy. This is a fine dish, light and very full of taste.
Grilled medallions of beef tenderloin ($25.25) come wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with mushroom duxelle. A sauce reduction of shallots and marsala is matched with this entree. This dish works on many levels: The mild saltiness of the prosciutto gives way to the rich tenderloin flavor and chew, completed by the earthiness of the mushroom stuffing. Match one of these medallions of tenderloin with a baked Brazilian lobster tail (with a velvety roasted pepper butter sauce) and you have the "land and sea" combo ($32).
Other entrees to choose from: the very popular (certified Angus choice) New York steak 'alaea, pan-seared with garlic, Hawaiian salt and butter; tempura catfish ($21.75) with ponzu sauce; and pan-seared ahi steak ($23.25) with braised daikon and a gingery broth.
Lisa Siu's desserts are always outstanding. All of these are priced at $7 unless you order the symphony of three different choices, which sells for $8. One recent night, the symphony consisted of a creme brulee, warm chocolate souffle cake (a la mode), and a banana torte creation. The mile-high Waialae pie is a signature dessert: layers of Häagen-Dazs vanilla and coffee ice cream, macadamia brittle, with two sauces, caramel and chocolate.
Service was attentive throughout, and very friendly. Bravo to 3660 for continuing to do a fine job!
Reach Matthew Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.