Normally I would not write about a meal that is not regularly available, and such is the case with Ravi Kapur’s pop up dinner I attended on Monday at Citizen’s Band. But, based on the popularity of these 12-course family style meals–$65 a person including tax and tip–I am pretty sure that they will pop up again. Rarely have I eaten a dinner that so fully captures the personal voice of the cook, and expresses it with so much verve, surprise and technical brilliance.
Two inspired New York chefs, Zak Pelacio of Malaysian influenced Fatty Crab and Fatty’Cue; and David Chang of Japanese and Korean inflected Momofuku Ssam Bar, come to mind. Kapur’s own unique cooking is an ode to his native Hawaii–he grew up in Kailua near Honolulu. It reflects the ethnic mash-up of the islands: Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, British, American, with a farmers’ market basket of northern California produce thrown into the pot. I’ve never tasted anything like it, either on the mainland, or in Hawaii, and I want more.
Last Monday night, Citizen’s Band, at Folsom and 8th Street, hosted the Kapur pop up, which he calls LihoLiho Yacht Club. Every seat at small tables and counters was filled, and turned. I sat with two friends at a raised communal table in the adjacent Pinkie’s bakery.
Everyone gets every dish on the menu. We helped ourselves from family style bowls. The first round brought clams in an herbal green curry with coconut milk and bits of pork from head and shank, with shungiku, curly chrysanthemum leaves, a delicate and delicious Asian green, a fantastic dish. So were salads of smoked octopus, cubed avocado and daikon; and a stunning salad of beets with seaweed flecked ranch dressing. Sweet local asparagus adorned cubes of firm tofu, seasoned with a relish of dried shrimp and chili, a perfect yin yang composition. Little slices of beef tongue braised in miso were delicious if still a little chewy. I like my tongue soft. Portions and composition of all of these left us primed for the next flight.
Out came a platter piled with crisp, honey-glazed fried quail–divine, and long Hawaiian style beef ribs with tender, teriyaki marinated meat. Lengthwise slices of Hawaiian portuguese sausage were slipped beneath the arching bones. We each got a packet of taro leaf-wrapped sticky rice larded with Chinese sausage and shiitake mushrooms. And a vegetable dish of cauliflower and insanely sweet spring carrots napped in pungent, salty black bean sauce, was just about the best thing I’ve ever eaten. All of this together evoked a dreamy Hawaiian plate lunch, one that I could only imagine, or actually, could never imagine until Kapur came up with it.
And after all this, we still devoured a paper bag’s worth of hot, airy malasadas– sugared beignets– better than any from Honolulu’s Portuguese bakeries, and a square of addictive, sticky, coconut mochi custard.
What a meal! One delight after another, buoyed by personable, intelligent service, excellent wine advice and Kapur’s friendly forays into the dining room.
I’m hoping that LihoLiho Yacht Club will morph into a cafe or restaurant with the same free spirit someday soon. This is a club I want to belong to. In the meantime, watch the internet for announcements of a reprise. You can sign up at @liholihoclub if you have a twitter account, or google the words: liholiho club twitter, if like me, you don’t.