Ryan’s Table – AFTERNOON TEA AT MW RESTAURANT
Hawai’i Herald columnist
Before COVID-19 was part of our normal vocabulary and while the MW Restaurant still occupied the old KGMB building, they held afternoon tea once a month, usually on the third or fourth Sunday of each month. For around $50, MW would offer your choice of hot or chilled tea, a scone and six or seven small savory bites plus six or seven other desserts. They would also offer additional savory or sweet options for an additional $7-$15 if those little British-inspired bites didn’t temper your appetite. The only thing that wasn’t British was the time, as reservations were 10am-3pm; British afternoon tea usually starts at 3pm
But after an extended hiatus, first due to COVID-19, then the move from the old KGMB building to Velocity Honolulu and with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, MW restarted its tea events the post- midday at the end of March.
A long time to come
We booked our table the last Sunday in April. After our arrival, we selected our teas. I ordered Earl Gray because I love that fragrant hint of bergamot that flavors the tea, although MW’s Maui Earl Gray is both bergamot and lavender flavored. Mrs. S chose the Mango Peach Iced Tea and Mrs. C chose the MMP Iced Tea containing matcha green tea, moringa (kalamunggay) and pineapple. After our teas were served, we immediately started with a round of cocktails. Mrs. S chose the Yuzu Paper Airplane ($16) – the classic paper airplane contains equal parts bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino liqueur and lemon juice. MW’s version swapped Toki whiskey for bourbon, Amaro Montenegro for Amaro Nonino, and yuzu for lemon. Less whiskey smoke and better balance of sweet and sour flavors; in fact it was so good that I almost ordered it for my dessert. Ms. C chose the MW G&T ($15), their take on the classic gin and tonic but because the Empress 1908 gin, which starts out blue but changes color in different mixers, was initially lavender, the calamansi the syrup that was mixed turned it pink. Because the two ladies selected my first and second choice of cocktails (and my rule is to order a different cocktail from everyone on the table), I ordered the Double Take ($16) with rye whiskey , coconut chai, banana liqueur and orange bitters. Although this is my third choice, it goes well with our starter, strawberry scone with yuzu curd and our savory bites.
Crab and Clam Dip
Smoked salmon arancini
Spinach, Mushroom and Artichoke Crostini
Mango Chicken Salad
The ladies also opted to order the extra steamed onaga with dried scallop and soy ginger sauce ($20), and I “had to” order the Brandt Brand Beef Tartare ($12). MW also made us a plate of Ahi Poke Nacho ($14) – I think it’s because Mrs. C and her husband dine frequently at MW and we also celebrated our two kanreki last year at MW.
The crab and clam dip, the spinach, mushroom and artichoke crostini and the shepherd’s pie were very good. I also enjoyed the Reuben. I still think nothing can replace the classic Reuben with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing over grilled rye, especially taking that first bite with the juices running down your cheek and your hands. However, I could have eaten several more salmon arancini, especially with my glass of Prosecco. I also could have brought home a Tupperware full of chicken and mango salad with the first harvest of those delicious Mākaha mangoes that MW orders every year if the restaurant allowed take-out quantities. And I’m always a sucker for raw beef – ground (tartare) or thinly sliced (carpaccio) especially when a runny egg yolk is involved.
Orange Passion, Ka’u Orange & Guava Chiffon Cake
Mille Feuilles Banana Caramel Scot
german chocolate cake
Sakura Strawberry Eclairs
Hojicha roll cake
Lilikoi Jello Cloth
Mango Makaha Cheesecake
The two women also ordered the extra Mākaha Mango Shave Ice ($14) because our server informed us that MW’s annual order for these Mākaha mangoes had just arrived several days early. We were lucky as our outing for afternoon tea was the first day that one of chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka’s mango desserts would be served this season.
Because I don’t have a sweet tooth, miniature desserts served at teatime are perfect for me as they are only one to two bites. And there’s a reason chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka is multiple James Beard semi-finalists, including this year. The Passion Orange Guava Chiffon Cake was reminiscent of Dee Lite Bakery’s Tricolor Chiffon Cake and a treat for Mrs S as she is still in mourning over the closure of Dee Lite Bakery. The Butterscotch Banana Mille Feuille combined two of my favorite flavor partners: banana and caramel. Although the dessert doesn’t actually contain caramel, the rich butterscotch mimics the same flavors of caramel, all encased in those flaky “thousand layers.” The mango also found its way into a small round cheesecake, which was the perfect size. I love cheesecake, especially classic New York-style junior cheesecakes, but after two or three bites, I’m starting to feel like it’s too much of a good thing (like that fourth sip of a milkshake McDonald’s chocolate). However, these afternoon tea bites are the perfect size to enjoy, but without feeling like you’re forcing that thin minty wafer (Monty Python joke). The epiphany of the dessert was the Hojicha Roll Cake.
I have tasted many versions of matcha drinks and desserts and the key is to balance or mask the bitterness of the matcha. Because hojicha is the whole leaf, roasted version of matcha, some of that bitterness is masked and you create a hint of nuttiness as well. When combined in a dessert, it creates a toasted caramel flavor that pairs perfectly with whipped cream. It was the only dessert I could have tasted a normal sized piece instead of a single bite.
And finally, our palates have been cleared with this bowl of Mäkaha Mango Shave Ice! As long as these Mäkaha mangoes are in season, Chef Karr-Ueoka has always created this refreshing dessert by simply grating frozen ripe mangoes and mixing in julienned fresh mint. Apparently, Mākaha mangoes do not contain these mango “strings” because the shaved ice has the mouthfeel of thin ice cream. And MW also correctly lists it in his menu as “shaved ice” and not “shaved ice”. Shaved ice and snow cones are only served on the mainland, in the 50th we only sell shaved ice!
MW Restaurant intends to continue these monthly afternoon tea events. For up-to-date information, visit mwrestaurant.com or call 808-955-6505.
Ryan Tatsumoto is a day clinical pharmacist. Outside of working hours, however, he and his wife like to seek out the perfect food and wine pairings. Ryan is a Certified Sommelier and Certified Wine Specialist. The Windward O’ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet” (nichibei.org/columns/gochiso-gourmet/).