Photo credit to Chelle Koster Walton / USA Today.
Growing up on the Big Island of Hawaii, Chef Jeff Acol has long had an affinity for the water and its diverse inhabitants. The flavors of Hawaii, with its Asian influence, not only find their way into many of his signature dishes, but the chef also carries with him a deep reverence for sustainable seafood. “A lot of the recipes are reinterpretations of my childhood, so it’s personal,” says Chef Acol. An avid diver and fisherman, he keeps the preservation of the “Aina,” or earth, at heart as he designs his menu.
A Table Apart sets itself apart from other restaurants with its pledge to serve seafood that is not overfished and does not contain high levels of mercury, and by sourcing meats and poultry products from farms that use a natural production (no hormones or antibiotics). The chef goes local as much as possible, through Farm-to-Table programs, using fresh and ecologically friendly ingredients. He’s married to a Frenchwoman, who brings her own influence to the menu at A Table Apart. Jessica Acol makes all desserts in house daily.
The decor of the cozy eatery is filled with prints from actual catches, including a 41-pound Dogtooth Tuna the chef caught in Japan. There, most fishing shops employ an artist to document the catch, rolling it in ink to make a rough print so the final image is exact in size – no fish tales! The menu is divided into Water, Earth and “Jeff turned Giuseppe” – featuring Italian dishes. The most popular entrée, according to our server Joshua, is the Triple Tail Aioli. It stars locally caught Triple Tail Snapper served with the chef’s own Asian Aioli sauce. “People come back and back for this,” Joshua says.
Another nice feature of the menu is a Prix Fixe option, which comes with your choice of appetizer, soup or salad and entrée for less than $36. A Table Apart is open for dinner Wednesdays through Saturdays in September, adding Tuesdays in October, Mondays in November and going seven days a week during high season (December through Easter). Chef Acol’s lovely creations are a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. His unique dishes offer a fusion of flavors, truly making this restaurant “A Table Apart.”
01. APPETIZER/ PORTABELLA MONTRACHET “PIZZA”
Although the description calls this a “no crust” pizza, we failed to envision this unexpected appetizer until it was artistically presented before us. The giant roasted portabella is the “crust,” topped with flavorful goat cheese, two tomato tapenade and a lofty crown of arugula drizzled with Balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts.
02. APPETIZER/ CHORIZO MEJILLONES
Sautéed mussels are succulently seasoned with a Mexican Chorizo sauce created by the chef in Hawaii. Adding to the flavorful fusion are tomatoes, garlic, white wine, and cilantro. The dish is sprinkled with “Queso Fresco” and served with toast for sopping up the sauce.
03. LAND/ WHOLE NATURAL RACK OF LAMB
Chef Acol’s culinary roots give this savory dish an Asian flair. New Zealand lamb rack is glazed and cooked to order (the chef recommends medium rare). Served with mashed potatoes and haricots vert (French for green beans), this dish is tender and tasty.
04. WATER/ SALMON TWO WAY
Can’t decide between ceviche or salmon – Why not both? Chef Acol serves organic salmon two ways in this one tempting dish. Blackened salmon is served over sautéed organic spinach and topped with Citrus Salmon Ceviche, complemented with Yuzu Beurre Blanc.
05. CHEF GIUSEPPE/ BLUE CRAB MAC & CHEESE
Lobster macaroni is on the menu at several restaurants these days, but Chef Acol puts a twist on the dish by using Blue Crab meat instead. This cheesy dish gains a distinct flavor from Brie Gatineau cheese, along with Parmesan, double cream, and Montrachet wine.
06. DESSERTS/ HAWAIIAN SWEET POTATO PIE
Among Jessica Acol’s house made desserts are the Lilikoi Cheesecake and Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brûlée. We were treated to two specials, the comforting and indulgent Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding and the creamy Hawaiian Sweet Potato Pie. A macadamia graham cracker crust is topped with a filling made from Okinawan sweet potatoes for a cheesecake-like center with a lovely pink-purple hue. The top layer is made from whipped coconut milk, giving a soft blend of sweetness. Cap it off with a Kona coffee or cappuccino.