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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, March 20, 2005

Chef Matsukawa returns in time for Easter

Next Sunday, chef Jay Matsukawa will man the omelet station, which is a new feature at the restaurant.

Photo by Randy T. Fujimori

The Willows

Where: 901 Hausten St.

Call: 952-9200

Hours: The lunch buffet is served Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. A dinner buffet is available from 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Note: Live entertainment is featured Mondays through Fridays.

Banquet facilities can accommodate parties of five to 150 guests. Call for more details and special banquet menus.

He's back. After more than a yearlong stint over at the tony Plaza Club, executive Jay Matsukawa has returned "home" to The Willows.

"It felt awkward at first to be back," he said, shaking his head in disbelief. "When I left, I didn't have plans to ever come back."

But now that he's here again, this young up-and-coming chef sees a new vision for The Willows.

"The first and most immediate priority is to enhance the buffet," he said. "I want to take it to a different level and shift the focus."

This isn't to say, however, that the buffet's most popular mainstays of chicken and seafood curry, lau lau, prime rib, turkey and kalua pork are going to disappear.

"We can't touch these items," Matsukawa said. "Just like we can't touch the suckling pig and portobello mushrooms on the evening buffets. People would stop coming here if we took these items out of the lineup."

For Easter Sunday brunch, Matsukawa will roll out his new made-to-order omelet station, offering more than nine different items, from Portuguese sausage to shrimp to sauteed mushrooms to cheese.

"I'll definitely be working the station," Matsukawa said. "Next to Mother's Day and Thanksgiving, Easter brunch is our busiest time and we're expecting 800 to 900 guests that day."

Available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a cost of $32.95 per adult and $16.50 for keiki four to 10 years old, the Sunday brunch will showcase an assortment of cold items, including Molokai-style poke, snow crab legs and smoked salmon accompanied by lox, bagels and cream cheese.

In addition to omelets and carved rosemary-crusted prime rib with au jus, chafing dishes will be filled with eggs Benedict, waffles, breakfast meats, chicken long rice, steamed lau lau and kalua pig.

"We're also going to do a lavender-honey-glazed ham," Matsukawa said. "It's something new for us and certainly different from other hams."

Also priced at $32.95 for adults and $16.50 for kids, the dinner menu (available from 4 to 9 p.m.) will showcase roast leg of lamb, snow crab legs, mussels and the signature portobello mushrooms topped with a delightful balsamic beurre blanc.

"It's great to have him back," smiled supervisor Kelly Gillis. "We all missed him and we're all glad he has come home."