For the past year, about a dozen or so friends have congregated (wine, food and stimulating
conversation does border on the religious) every 3 to 4 months for pre-planned wine dinners.
Someone in the group usually contacts a BYO (bring-your-own libation) friendly restaurant
and arranges a dinner whereby everyone in the party brings one bottle of wine to sample with
the rest of the group over fine food and conversation. Sometimes we simply order off of the
menu, on other occasions the chef prepares a special menu to accommodate the wines. Last
month we had a dinner hosted by the consummate restaurateur, Raymond Siu of Pah Ke’s
Chinese Restaurant and it rivaled any menu prepared by the who’s-who of Hawaii Regional
What’s For Dinner?
Since our previous tastings have been Cabernet inclined, I decided to attempt a white wine
themed dinner – specifically the Rieslings and Gewurztraminers of Germany and Alsace since
they pair well with Asian cuisine. Raymond started us of with a Crispy Foie Gras Won Ton with
Ginger, Tamarind and Chinese Sweet Sour Sauce. Though it didn’t fit the main wine theme, I
paired this starter with a 2001 Bourgeois Cru Sauterne (working class wine). The fruit and
balancing acidity and sweetness of Sauterne always pairs well with seared duck or goose liver.
The next appetizer was a Fresh Ginger Crusted Day Boat Scallop atop Sautéed Kahuku Corn. This
was matched with three different wines, a 1991 German Riesling, a 2002 Alsatian Riesling and a
2002 Alsatian Gewurztraminer. The German Riesling was the best match as its sweetness and
underlying rich, petrol quality balanced the sweet scallop. Alsatian wines tend to be vinified or
fermented drier than their German counterparts and even if they weren’t the ideal partners for
these diver scallops, still pair well with many other cuisines.
We then had a Hauula Tomato and Waimanalo Mixed Green Salad with a Soy, Ginger, Lime and
Mirin Dressing. Since the tomatoes weren’t perfectly ripe, Raymond blanched and peeled them
to reduce that under ripe tomato tartness. At this point we had several other wines open
including an Italian Gewurztraminer, another German and Alsatian Riesling. The Italian
Gewurztraminer had a pronounced rose bouquet – maybe because it’s thought that the
Traminer grape (where we get Gewürz-traminer) originated in the Alto Adige region of Italy.
The fourth dish was a Roasted Big Island Lamb Chop served on a Chinese Taro Mashed Potato
with a Kau Yuk Gravy. This was lamb to die for! Very tender and complimented perfectly with
the Kau Yuk Gravy. The rich anise flavored sauce complimented the lamb as well as any – dare I
say – rosemary, garlic or mint sauce ever could. Off of the main wine theme again, a California
Rose supported these flavors nicely even if not the perfect wine compliment.
The last entrée was a Steamed Fresh Hawaiian Moi Filet on Pork hash with a Truffle Ginger Sauce
with Choy Sum. Raymond steeped the truffle in butter (his only use of butter the whole meal)
for several hours. This was another dish to write home about! My only regret at this point was
my choice of wines. While the German and Alsatian wines paired nicely with the lighter dishes,
the lamb screamed for a spicy Australian Shiraz or California Zinfandel while the Moi and Pork
hash with truffle sauce begged for an aged Pinot Noir.
Raymond then served a palate cleanser before dessert – a sparkling wine sorbet though he did
apologize that it wasn’t made with Dom Perignon but just Schramsberg! Hey, Schramsberg is
great all by itself as a beverage so I wasn’t about to complain!
He finally presented the Pah Ke’s Style Sampling dessert plate which included his Soy Milk
Custard infused with vanilla bean surrounded by fresh fruit, Manapua Cake with coconut sauce,
Flourless Chocolate Cake with gold leaf, Lilikoi Cheesecake, Chocolate Raspberry mousse and
Pah Ke’s own Banana Split. Watching everyone serve themselves from the single huge platter
looked like polite Great White sharks at mealtime, okay maybe not very polite - just don’t leave
a finger dangling on the plate too long!
The Consummate Restaurateur
For each dish, Raymond explained the preparation and ingredients tableside. He explained that
despite the popularity of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, he ran a Chinese restaurant and wanted the
main flavor base to remain Chinese – if I may coin the term myself, how about “Nouvelle
If you decide to try Pah Ke’s, he also does this for his regular menus items – you don’t have to
be wine “celebrities” like we were that night. His style of hospitality extends to every patron at
Pah Ke’s, newcomer and regular alike. He also tries to use local Hawaii products whenever
possible and is also health conscious to boot. His salad vinaigrettes tend to use fruit purees and
flavored vinegars with just a touch of oil and when oil is an essential component as in fried
dishes, he uses only canola oil.
Organize Your Own
I encourage everyone to organize your own “Designer Dinners”. Look for restaurants in your
local area that either have BYO policies or allow diners their own libations on special occasions.
Recruit 8 to 12 friends, and decide on a wine theme (whites, reds, Chards, Cabs, sparkling, etc)
or just be adventurous – does red really pair with fish? If you’re lucky, the chef may even design
a special menu for your wines.
Or if you want to avoid the whole restaurant scene, just skip it altogether and host a wine
tasting party at home. Have guests bring a bottle and one wine friendly appetizer (hors
d'Oeuvres for the classy, pupus for Hawaii). I guarantee this will put in kick in your step for
following work week, if nothing more; it will make you wait with anticipation for your next
When Visiting Hawaii
The next time you’re visiting the 50th state, you too can enjoy the same hospitality (and
maybe even the same menu) at Pah Ke’s Chinese Restaurant - (808) 235-4505. Just give
Raymond a week or so and should be able to dream up your own personal Designer Dinner.
When visiting Hawaii, e-mail me for a longer list of BYO friendly restaurants on Oahu. And by
the way, I intentionally didn’t name each wine we sampled that night because it had nothing to
do with the exact vintage or producer. It had everything to do with the good food, good wines
and great friends!