Pai – Has Potential

Pai is located in downtown Honolulu, Hawaii.  We were seated at the counter with a view of the kitchen.


Here was the tasting menu:


The meal started with snacks.  The poke was just ok.  I think poke is one of those dishes that is hard to do in “fine dining” because the “street” version is so good already.  The mac salad was also just ok.  The highlight of this dish was the beef jerky.  Amazing flavors but the pickle was unnecessary.  I could of ate this all night.


Next was the lobster.  Beautiful presentation but the dish had too much acidity.  It was interesting to note that the truffles were from Oregon.  I did not know Oregon produced truffles.


The octopus was a very good dish.  The use of watermelon and curry made the dish interesting.


The turnip cake broth was too salty but otherwise, great flavors.


The dim sum dish was just ok.


This was followed by a “ramen” which was basically a pasta dish.  It was good use of smoke a bit salty, and the pasta could be more al dente.  Overall though, it was a good dish.


Next was the sweetbread curry.  In general, sweetbreads are not my favorite thing in the world to eat.


The last dish was the nabeta with the skin/scales left on and crisped.  This was my least favorite dish.  I found that the scales were annoying to eat and very tough.


The palate cleanser was ice cream with li hing mui (ground salty dried plum skin – taste is sweet, sour, salty) which is very popular on candy in Hawaii (I also ate a lot of it growing up as it is also used in a lot of Chinese and Chinese Filipino candies).


The dessert was a malasada.  This was good and I found the varying temperatures in the dish were nice contrasts and well executed.


Overall, the service was good but a bit slow.  A few dishes were over seasoned.  Not everything worked but there is clearly potential and I feel the chef is talented. However, I also witnessed two people in the kitchen doing things with knives that I would classify as inappropriate in a kitchen setting.  Because of all this, I would rate this place somewhere between 6-7/10.

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