Poke with Your Wine in Kaimuki by JAMES CHARISMA
In the familiar Kaimukī location that once held Salt Kitchen & Tasting Bar, Hale Ōhuna and, most recently, Avenue’s Bar + Eatery, a new restaurant has opened.
It’s called The Edge by Tamura’s and the name, we’re told by the amiable bartender, is intended to convey that this place offers a cutting-edge dining-and-drink experience.
As you can probably guess from the name, this spot is the creation of the owners of Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors, just down the hill. Think of this as the standalone, sit-down restaurant version of the popular wine shop and market.
You know all those rare liquors, eclectic beers and expensive wines you see on the shelves of Tamura’s? The Edge is where you come to try those flavors without having to buy a big bottle. When you’re ordering poke at Tamura’s, do you ever get the temptation to flip the lid off the plastic container and just start snacking right there in the aisle? Here, there are a half-dozen poke options by Tamura’s to enjoy properly. If Tamura’s is the pantry, The Edge is the dining room.
Inside, the tight space doesn’t allow for much in the way of radical renovation (or maneuvering), so fans of Salt or Avenue’s will recognize a familiar layout, freshened up. The new white-tile back bar and painted-black wood walls and trim give The Edge the look of a clean industrial kitchen of sorts. Small details bring the space to life, including the natural woven fibers wrapped around the metal bannister bars on the second floor.
“OKIE TOKI,” MADE WITH SUNTORY WHISKY TOKI, DRAMBUIE, HOUSE-MADE LEMON SOUR AND EGG WHITES.
The drink menu boasts an impressive selection of liquor and wine (of course), as well as more than a dozen craft beers. Of the five specialty house cocktails, we tried two: the namesake “Edge” cocktail, prepared with Zaya 12-year Reserva, Carpano sweet vermouth, Bruto Americana and bitters made from locally sourced Kona Peabury coffee beans; and the “Okie Toki,” made with Suntory Whisky Toki, Drambuie, house-made lemon sour and egg whites.
The bartender tells us that The Edge’s goal was to focus on flavors that aren’t in most cocktails.
To this end, it’s done well. The Edge cocktail could’ve been way too sweet and dense, like honey or molasses, but the bitters capped it off nicely and kept the drink crisp and concise. Likewise, the copious amount of lemon tart and egg whites came close to turning the Okie Toki into foamy sour nonsense, but the herbaceous and spicy Drambuie added a pleasant complexity. Both drinks ended up being surprisingly well-balanced and satisfying.
THE “EDGE” COCKTAIL, PREPARED WITH ZAYA 12-YEAR RESERVA, CARPANO SWEET VERMOUTH, BRUTO AMERICANA AND BITTERS MADE FROM LOCALLY SOURCED KONA PEABURY COFFEE BEANS.
The food menu is equally diverse, with selections spanning salads, poke, soups and both meat and seafood dishes (listed on the menu as “mauka” for meat or “makai” for seafood, a cute touch). Led by head chef Scott Sagon of the former Pono Plates in Pearl City, The Edge at Tamura’s does a good job of going beyond just serving up literally what you might order off a counter at Tamura’s market. These dishes demonstrate versatility.
A single menu item isn’t enough for an entire dinner, but these plates aren’t small. We ordered the taro-wrapped Kaua‘i prawns ($14) with lemongrass butter and beetroot coulis. Three big prawns arrived, stacked up tall on a big scoop of cauliflower, mashed potato-style with rich flavors of garlic and ginger. The taro stringers that wrapped the prawns brought to mind coconut shrimp (which are often spun up with those crunchy stringers), but these strands were big enough to evoke dried instant ramen noodles. The umami of the shrimp and the cauliflower countered the tangy and lightly sweet coulis.
Of the meats, we were torn between the grilled lamb chops ($15) served with garlic herb and pineapple mint salsa verde or the braised short ribs ($14) with gochujang and miso, but settled on the bartender’s recommendation: Kurobuta lechon kawali ($14), seven big, half-inch-thick slices of pork belly topped with pico de gallo and Champagne ponzu. The pork skin wasn’t as crispy as we might have hoped, but there’s plenty of pork and fat here to enjoy otherwise.
The ’Nalo mushroom brioche ($9) with truffle-butter cream was a large treat, too. Four slices of buttered bread—picture the kind that frames the perfect grilled cheese sandwich—arrive under a mountain of sauteed mushrooms and cream sauce.
FRENCH ONION OXTAIL SOUP ($8).
Another winner was the French onion oxtail soup ($8). It’s a delicious bowl of French onion with a big hunk of bread in the bowl plus a melted Gruyère cheese cap. The oxtail really brings the soup to life. The meat is cooked in with the onions; not as big hunks of beef and bone you have to navigate around, but stewed together seamlessly. The cheese has enough flavor to hold its own against the strong taste of the oxtail, and the textures mesh too; everything happily melts together in the best of ways.
For dessert, we tried the Oreo cheesecake lumpia ($7), three small spring rolls filled with hot, gooey, mushed Oreo cheesecake goodness. It’s served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and Nutella caramel. The taste is substantial but doesn’t make you feel sick or bloated; another restaurant might have made the lumpia huge (summer-roll-size, perhaps) and it would’ve been too much.
For those looking to go lighter, the acai sorbet with matcha green tea affogato ($6) would be a fine fit.
OREO CHEESECAKE LUMPIA ($7).
All in all, The Edge at Tamura’s was a blast. Based on the ambiance and the menu, you’d expect everything to be pricier than it is. Tamura’s new place is fancy, way more sophisticated than you might have predicted of a booze-and-poke stop. But it’s not quite as delicate as the former Salt or Avenue’s. The Edge by Tamura’s lives up to its name; it’s a place somewhere between formal and chill that feels comfortable in its own skin.
Near the end of the night we visited, chef Sagon came out from the back, still dressed in his black apron and chef’s wear and took a seat at the corner of the bar. He ordered a Heineken Light and chatted and laughed with the other kitchen staff and servers. With a nod hello to me and any remaining customers still at the bar, he relaxed like the rest of us. Comfortable and settling in.
The Edge by Tamura’s, 3605 Wai‘alae Ave., 732-3340