It was a busy morning of touring farms on Oahu’s North Shore, complete with stops at Waialua Estate and Marine AgriFuture, so by the time we arrived at Turtle Bay Resort, most writers in our international contingent were ready to devour local produce, seafood and meat at Ola, a five-year-old, family-run restaurant with a name that that hints at “life” overlooking the Pacific, “ola” being the word for life, living, and an overall sense of being alive in Hawaii.
Ola chef-owner Fred DeAngelo joined us on the farm tour. He was born in Ft. Lauderdale, but his mom’s from Hawaii, so his family moved him back to Oahu at an early age. He and wife Cheryl opened Ola in December 2005.
The menu features local produce, including Al and Joan Santoro of Poamoho Organic Produce, Ryan Lum of North Shore Cattle Company and Terry Shintaku of Green Growers Farm. Fred DeAngelo said the idea is to “share an experience from flavors of the neighborhood.”
Kalua pig is popular at luaus and is traditionally slow-cooked with hot rocks in the ground, in an imu, covered with banana leaves. At Ola, Chef DeAngelo smokes his meat above ground to achieve the same effect. He tops crunchy squares of fried wonton with juicy, shredded pig meat, tart plum sauce, shaved scallions and a tangy dollop of sour cream and goat cheese.
Lomi Salmon Salad featured juicy, rosy slabs of New Zealand King salmon with firm strips of Big Island hearts of palm, grape tomatoes, crunchy wonton strips, watercress. cucumbers, bean sprouts, scallions, Pupukea field greens and savory miso vinaigrette.
Ono (aka wahoo, aka king mackerel) arrived in a firm flaky fillet, sprinkled with umami-rich porcini dust. DeAngelo topped the fish with enoki mushrooms and plated with Hamakua mushroom orzo – crimini and shiitake – plus watercress, cherry tomatoes and more sea asparagus.
One of of the pleasant surprises of the meal was our Chuck Slider, with the patty featuring ground Maui flank, red onion, green onion, mushroom and Parmesan. True umami. The bun also hosted tomato and herb cream cheese, rosemary, thyme and basil. Chef DeAngelo said he gets a whole cow a month, “literally from tongue to tail,” which forces creativity.
Plantation, a mix of pineapple juice and iced tea, arrived with a pineapple rim. Really though, an Arnold Palmer probably would have been more apropos, since he designed the on-site golf course. We also got to try Kona Wheat beer with a subtle hint of passion fruit.
Restaurants with spectacular settings often pull up short, since their views provide enough sensory excitement. Not at Ola, which has Pacific views and channels local ingredients to good effect.
Note: Oahu Visitors Bureau organized a six-day island tour, and my complimentary meal at Ola was part of the itinerary.