Dinner @ Senia (Chef’s Tasting)

Chef Anthony Rush (left) and Chef Chris Kajioka (right)

Just three short weeks after dining at Senia to try its regular ala carte menu, I found myself back at the chef’s counter again, this time for the chef’s tasting menu. The tasting menu is limited to the counter (7 seats) and the booth behind. There’s but one seating a night at $185 per person plus tax and gratuity. Does this tasting menu live up to such exclusivity (limited seats) and the high price point? Yes. Yes it does.

This is not your typical Hawaii tasting menu. Unlike many other restaurants in town, who’s “tasting menus” are little more than a compilation of greatest hits from years past, Senia’s tasting menu lives in the moment and will constantly change. We had this meal on the 4th night that the chef’s tasting menu was offered, and already a few of the dishes had changed in one way or another. Based on photos I’ve seen since our meal, it appears there are already entirely new dishes that make up the tasting menu.

If you want more general background on Senia, read my previous post here.

Left to right: Kusshi oyster, green apple, yuzu kosho, cilantro / Hokkaido scallop, squid ink chip, tomatillo emulsion, ponzu, jalapeno
Smoked salmon brick – chive, lemon emulsion

I really enjoy tasting menus that open with a few small bites, or snacks, to kickstart the palate. It also helps to showcase the skills of the kitchen, as often they are able to pack an immense amount of flavor into a single bite. I really enjoyed the tomatillo emulsion in the scallops. The salmon brick was intensely flavored with strong smoke, reminiscent of a dish I had at Willow’s Inn.

Osetra caviar – smoked brioche, aged maple, buttermilk, almond

If there was one dish in our menu that bordered on “greatest hits” territory, it was this. But wow what a dish. I’ve had this from Chef Kajioka before at Vintage Cave. The brioche is so buttery and crisp, a perfect vehicle for the caviar.

Maui venison tartare – hearts of palm, hay ash, truffle dashi

Visually striking and full of umami flavor, this little bowl was an interesting take on tartare. The ash adds just a hint of fire, which pairs with the venison nicely.

Foie gras tart – cocoa & buckwheat crust, Madeira glaze, banana puree, tasting of onions, honey vinaigrette

I’ve had a lot of foie gras in previous tasting menus, but none that I can recall paired with banana. The combo works with great success here.

Custom made box made to look like a black truffle
OK Farm egg – black truffle, leek, bacon, truffle bread

Our next course featured black truffles, which Chef Rush showed us was stored in a speciality container made to look like a black truffle. This was an elegant “breakfast in a bowl”.

Opah belly – seawater brined, applewood smoked, brown butter, lemon juice, cucumber puree, curry cauliflower

I’ve never had opah belly before, but this was a fantastic introduction to the protein. The brine infused the sense of the ocean into the rich belly, while hints of smoke and curry reeled it back to the land. This was a simple dish on its surface, but complex in reality.

Roasted duck – duck leg wrapped in cabbage, celariac, daikon, blueberry, jus, green garlic oil

It’s hard to find duck in Hawaii that’s not hanging in a window in Chinatown, so I’m glad to have seen it on our tasting menu. While the protein was perfectly cooked, the jus is really what tied it all together. The jus was intensely savory and really excited the palate.

Liquid bon bon – yuzu, tamarind, white chocolate, coconut curds

Palate cleansers are often bright and citrusy to cut the heaviness of the final savory courses in a tasting. This bon bon accomplished that with great effect, likely one of the most enjoyable palate cleaners I’ve had in a while.

Blanc manger – rose geranium, olive oil cake, asian pear sherbert, pressed asian pears, honey tuile

If you’ve followed my blogs over the years, you know my palate is savory biased. I believe this is due, in part, to the tendency for desserts to be overly sweet. This blanc manger, however, is my kind of dessert. A masterful balance between sweet, citrus, savory, and refreshing.

This tasting menu was fantastic and easily contends with some of the Michelin rated meals I’ve had over the years. Senia’s overall concept is very exciting for Honolulu, and their willingness to take on the challenge of a constantly changing tasting menu, makes it all the more so. The price on this is not for everyone, but if you love food and can spring for a special meal, right now the counter at Senia is the place to go.

Senia
75 North King Street
Honolulu, HI 96817
808.200.5412

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