Chef Tylun Pang has been with Fairmont since tk, and could easily be called, “The People’s Chef” in fact a reality show on him and how he fishes for menu items, and honors everyone’s heritage in his kitchen, would be something I would watch. As I quickly learned –don’t ask him about his menu, his restaurant or his ideas. Pang credits the success of the restaurant to his team, not himself. Smart move considering this shared credit also comes with shared ownership and pride in the product. While much of the menu including the steamed Whole Fish and House Cake Noodles with vegetables and ginger oyster sauce comes straight from Pang’s father’s recipe armory many dishes come from his staff. The Portuguese bean soup and Lumpia Filipino Spring rolls are from Rick Texeria in the purchasing department. Chef De Partie, George Agcolicol contributed his family’s recipe for Filipino Pancit Noodles and Chef Eddie Domingo, came up with the Island Mahi Mahi Wrap.
How would you explain your menu? It’s not Hawaii Regional Cuisine, it’s not Pacific Rim, it’s Plantation era cuisine. the menu items are not new –but longtime family recipes gathered from our Fairmont team. The sugar plantations in the islands especially in Maui attracted immigrants from China, Portugal, Korea, the Phillipines and Japan to help tend the fields, they in turn brought their recipes from home. While this sounds like Pacific Rim cuisine – the main difference to me is there are stories tied to these dishes, which adds to the appeal.
Does the menu change? Expect the menu to evolve, I tell the team what we have that day and they create a dish. Think Iron Chef without the drama. Last week, I brought in shrimp caught just off the coast and they made Chinese shrimp dumplings paired with steamed ginger fish, Oh my God it was so good! Because of the concept of the restaurant all these flavors make sense. These dishes become specials and if popular become ‘greatest hit’ and eventually can find their way onto the regular menu.
The design of KO, is pretty unique, did you have anything to do with it? It was designed by Roger Gagon of Wailuku’s Island Design Center. What we do with food, he does with design. We tell the story of our culture, he tells the story of the island. The rounded roof, for example, mimics clouds; sheaths of tiny silver beads represent misty rain; green upholstery – the leaves of the sugar cane and the lined tiled floor is what Gagon saw as he looked down on the linear fields from an airplane. While much of this symbolism was lost on me, the result was an inviting, hip décor.
Can you share any secret menu items or insider tips to the menu? ?????
Locals don’t forget to ask for the kamaaina rate. korestaurant.com