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Shakeup at Tsunami’s

Haute cuisine, meet nightclub: Alan Wong’s former chef takes over the kitchen


Posted February 8, 2013 by Mari Taketa

We’d heard Wade Ueoka, until recently chef de cuisine at Alan Wong’s, was taking over the kitchen at Tsunami nightclub. That’s right, Tsunami’s. So when Tsunami’s called and invited us over for a sampling, half of Nonstop showed up at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon with empty stomachs and raging curiosity.

First, let’s have some backstory. Tsunami came up with its original menu as a way to lure the pau hana crowd, late-afternoon and early-evening grinders who care as much about the food as the drinks and help fill a club’s slow hours. Against restaurants and lounges with similar menus, Tsunami generated buzz especially for its deep-fried poke balls. But the kitchen staff changed, until as managing partner Bryan Yoshida notes, it got to the point where different cooks were sending out different versions of fried rice, and the menu foundered.

Photo by Tracy Chan

Ueoka took over in January. The hiring of an Alan Wong alum meant a total revamp of the menu, bringing in fresh local ingredients and more than doubling the kitchen crew to four or five on a given night. It also boosted Tsunami onto the radars of the town’s hottest chefs, with visits by Taste’s Mark Noguchi, Town’s Ed Kenney, Vintage Cave’s Chris Kajioka and Star Noodle and Top Chef’s Sheldon Simeon (Ueoka is, like Noguchi, Kenney and Simeon, one of StarChef.com’s Hawaii Rising Stars).

But what we really wanted to know was why would a veteran of iconic Alan Wong’s leave for a nightclub kitchen? For the chance to create his own menu, Ueoka said, a menu of comfort foods, using what he learned from his four years at Zippy’s to his 17 years at Alan Wong’s, where he started out as a dishwasher and from his second day started cooking on the line.

I wanted to know in particular, since we were being comped dishes that Ueoka was cooking and personally serving us, whether the food would be of the same quality for anyone on any night. How was the kitchen handling consistency issues, so that whether Ueoka was there or not, no matter who cooked it, the food came out pretty much the same every time? His answer? “We’ve been here pretty much every night.”

OK, then. Here’s what you’ll find on Tsunami’s new menu.

Tsunami's new eats (1 of 10)

Tsunami's new eats

Wade Ueoka, new chef at Tsunami. What do you get when you blend a career start at Zippy's, 17 years at Alan Wong's and a hankering to create comfort food?

Tsunami
1272 S. King St.
808-596-0700

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You can read all of Mari’s blogs at www.nonstophonolulu.com/Deliriyum. Follow Mari on Twitter @NonStopMari or email at mari@nonstophonolulu.com.

About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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