“Collision Cuisine” is what they call it on the Ciao Mein menu, but the fantastic food at Ciao Mein is more collaboration than collision. This upscale restaurant in Honolulu’s Hyatt Regency Hotel joins two great world cuisines, Italian and Chinese, to make dishes that bring out the best of both.
Chef James Ching says he enjoys creating unexpected combinations such as sea scallops sautéed with pancetta, cream and dried tomatoes and served on ravioli; or garlic-ginger shrimp on angel hair pasta. Having tasted both of those dishes, I can testify that the cookery works, with the different flavors and textures complementing each other. It’s delectable, especially accompanied by a subtle, rich ’08 Far Niente chardonnay.
The main Italian contributions unusual in Szechuan cooking are pasta, risotto, cheese, and cream sauces: Salmon filets are served with hot soy bean sauce and mushroom risotto.
Desserts lean toward the Italian side–tiramisu, Frangelico, Amaretto, almonds. The Marco Polo Frozen Delight involves spumoni and espresso ice cream rolled in chocolate with ginger ice cream, with a Chinese touch of lychee sorbet. But the coffee is strictly American; it’s Seattle’s Best.
Ciao Mein occupies several rooms on the third flower of the Hyatt Regency’s Ewa Tower. The atmosphere, with fine Chinese art pieces and plush fabrics, is opulent but not overdone, and the service is top-notch.
The one downside to the restaurant is that it’s due to close in May, 2011, for remodeling and will open as Japengo in the fall. It will probably be good, but different, so get here while you can. I wish I’d discovered Ciao Mein sooner, because these “collisions” are extraordinary.
— by Marilyn McFarlane, RFT Contributor