In the past two decades, Roy Yamaguchi has become a leader in the Hawaiian regional cuisine movement thanks to his series of Roy’s Restaurants, many of which are situated beyond the big island. Now, a new generation of island-born chefs are utilizing local, sustainable ingredients to good effect, with good intentions. One of those people is Ed Kenney, the chef-owner of Town, Downtown and soon enough, a seafood focused restaurant. On June 30, Hawaii’s tourism and travel powers that be hosted a group of writers in Roy’s DTLA back room, including me, and Kenney appeared alongside Yamaguchi and a passionate contingent from Hawaiian’s agricultural community, including farmers, ranchers and landscapers. For the dinner, Kenney went whole hog.
Kenney isn’t a chef that was on my radar prior to the event, but he instantly grabbed my attention by describing wild boar, which are apparently a “nuisance in Hawaii.” Meaning locals have no qualms about capturing and cooking the free-range, snaggletooth beasts. He waxed poetic about “happy pigs who feast on wild grasses” at the base of a particular local mountain range. From that point on, the pork arrived in waves, including spicy coppa crafted from the nape of the neck, hand cut soppresata drawn from the leg, finocchiona made from shoulder and seasoned with fennel, coppa di testa (head cheese), a country-style terrine that incorporated rough cut liver, skin and “meat,” and finally, ciccoli, a creamier rillette made from the remaining meat and fat. This plank could have easily made a satisfying meal, but the pork kept coming.
A second plank supported savory blood sausage, slices of glutinous trotter stuffed with sausage and topped with green lentils, shredded head meat breaded with panko and fried. That’s not to mention the decided pork-free but still devastating lamb merguez with currants and fried squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta and summer squash. Ed Kenney was new to me, but he made a great first impression, and if I ever make it to Hawaii, his restaurant will be one of my first stops.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.