At chef Ravi Kapur's new restaurant, Liholiho Yacht Club, you are going to impressed by how effortlessly different Asian dishes and ingredients mix and mingle. Much like the pop-up of the same name that preceded it, the restaurant takes its inspiration from Hawaii itself not from the clichés of loco moco and poke, though Kapur does have his own modern take on tuna poke front and center on the menu, but from the casual vibe of the Hawaiian islands and the easy blending of different Asian and South Pacific food cultures that happens there. And I'll say this right now: When it comes to modernizing and mashing up Asian ideas, Kapur is doing it with more flair and finesse than Mission Chinese Food's Danny Bowien and David Chang combined.
There's still a bunch of stuff on the menu that I'm dying to try, but one of the clearest and tastiest examples of Kapur's talents are the beef tongue steam buns. The meat is braised and then caramelized in a sweet and tangy sauce, and perfectly tender (this is, in fact, where you must try tongue for the first time if you have not), and sits in perfectly airy buns crusted with poppy seeds. These bao come topped with sweet house-made pickles and kimchi, with a slather of miso aioli on the bun that mingles with the meat glaze into something so delicious you will use any spare bit of bun to sop it up when the meat is gone.
Some other early highlights include the island-breezy Castaway cocktail, which blends Manzanilla sherry with chartreuse and salted falernum; duck liver toasts on house-made honey wheat bread with pickled pineapple and jalapeno; and a you-need-to-taste-it-to-understand twist on the age-old beet salad with marinated golden beets, crispy fried sunchoke chips, sunflower seeds, micro greens, and shiso ranch dressing.
Reservations just became available one month in advance, so get on this. Word is going to spread. Fast.
Liholiho Yacht Club - 871 Sutter Street between Jones and Leavenworth