We have been meaning to go to one of Ravi Kapur’s Liholiho Yacht Club (LYC) occasional pop-up dinners for the past year and a half that he has been doing them, but for some reason our schedule never permitted it or they had no reservations available. With extensive fine dining experience at Nancy Oakes’ highly-acclaimed restaurants for almost a decade as a Chef de Cuisine at Boulevard for eight years, and then as opening Executive Chef at Prospect for almost two, he decided to take a little time off before coming back to the scene with the Hawaiian-food influenced LYC. Kapur was born and raised in Hawaii, so it made sense to apply his fine dining skills to island-influenced food, all served family style.
Originally, LYC started popping up in Citizen’s Band, then moved to State Bird Provisions (SBP) on some Sundays when it is normally closed. SBP is expanding into the space next door, and after their construction (starting on August 10), they will be open for seven days a week, bringing an end to their relationship with LYC. We saw the announcement in InsideScoopSF that they were doing three final pop-ups at State Bird Provisions and managed to get a late reservation for the first of the last three Sundays (note: July 28 and August 4, 2013 are the last two dates at SBP).
It turned out that our Hawaiian friends wanted to join us, so we emailed firstname.lastname@example.org to get on their wait list for a larger party. The friendly and very responsive reservationist at the other end of the email explained to us that they sold out the three dates on Urbanspoon’s Rezbook in 30 minutes. However, they sometimes have cancellations and no-shows, so there was a good chance of getting a reservation if we were flexible enough and wouldn’t mind getting same-day reservations. It turned out that something popped up almost immediately, and we truly felt that we had won the lottery. So before we even show you what the LYC experience was like, email LYC now and get on their wait list — chances are if you are willing to eat late or are flexible with same day reservations, you may just get in for one of their last two Sunday pop-ups at the excellent SBP (note: you may just be competing with us for one of those last coveted reservations).
When we entered SBP, we saw Chef Kapur looking quite at home manning the very familiar kitchen usually helmed by SPB Owner-Chef Stuart Brioza and his staff:
The hostess, waitstaff and general infrastructure (e.g. menu creation, billing, etc.) is actually run by the very capable SBP staff making this a very polished pop-up experience with excellent service. The winelist is SBP’s, so we ordered this very food friendly Mustilli Falanghina Sant’Agata dei Goti from Campania, Italy. We find white wines from Southern Italy to be an excellent match with seafood, likely due to its proximity of the Mediterranean Sea:
The menu, printed and presented similar to the SBP format, told us that we would have about 12 different bites primarily served in three courses of starters, mains and desserts. It’s really an excellent deal for the fixed price of $55 per person (prior to tax and tip). Dishes came to the table as they were prepared, and some were delivered to the table personally by Kapur and his chef staff. All of the dishes are served family style so all photos below are portions for four people.
The first dish that arrived was listed as “Lemon cucumber, avocado, bonito Caesar, sesame.” Similar size chunks of cucumber and avocado were dressed with a Caesar dressing flavored with dried bonito. More shaved bonito flakes and micro greens topped this refreshing summer salad which served as a great introduction to the meal (note: we are totally stealing this idea to make as a home dish):
Next up was “Spicy Tuna, tobiko, nori cracker.” The nori cracker is a regular item at SBP so it was nice to see it used here as a base for the delicious spicy tuna. The radish slices provided additional crunch and served as a substitute for a hint of wasabi flavoring:
We had seen LYC’s tweet of the Jimmy Nardello XO sauce and were excited to try the dish made with it, which turned out to be the umami-bombed “Eggplant, green beans, Jimmy Nardello XO, peanut.” Generally made with dried seafood, onions and garlic, the use of the Jimmy Nardello sweet Italian pepper derivative as the chili pepper in the XO sauce was a real surprise for another great vegetable starter:
The “Cabbage, cherry tomato, cilantro, crispy tripe, shallots” course was another excellent dish. The very crispy strips of tripe were a nice addition to the cabbage salad:
“Manila clams, green tomatoes, clamshell mushrooms” were served in a Thai-influenced lemongrass broth nicely flavored with the clam juice. As visually appealing as it was tasty, the green cherry tomatoes, chives and arugula shade-matched the color the curry sauce. Portioned at three clams per person, we used the clam shells as spoons to pick up as much of the delicious broth as possible:
As the last of the starters, we were served a bowl of padron peppers with a sweet house-made ranch dip. Usually one in ten peppers are spicy; fortunately or unfortunately, not a single on of these peppers were spicy. It didn’t matter since we ate the entire bowl of smoky peppers pretty fast anyway:
Having completed the starter courses, we must have been drinking at the right pace since we were ready to move on to a red wine. We ordered the 2007 Marques de Legarda Reserva Rioja since we are big fans of the Tempranillo grape, which we find pairs like a Pinot Noir but offers a bit more structure (in this moderate price range):
The “Roasted corn, miso butter” was served alongside the “Garlic chive sticky rice.” We were impressed with how the corn was split lengthwise prior to grilling:
Both of these items were great side dishes to the actual protein course. A view of the unwrapped sticky rice shows how the glutinous grains were really stuck together:
“Spicy honey fried quail, 5-spice pork belly, vinegar sausage, grilled beef tongue” all arrived together on a platter. We were shocked at the sheer size and quantity of all of the delicious protein choices. We were reminded that rice plates in Hawaii are fairly large, especially with this dish:
The “Coconut Mochi” dessert was just the right size for our first dessert. This traditional butter and mochi (rice flour) dish definitely tasted of the islands:
No matter how much food we all had already eaten, we had no problems finishing off these super delicious “Pineapple malasadas.” Introduced to the Hawaiian islands in he late 1800s by Portuguese laborers, these fried “doughnuts” are a staple on the island, so it was nice to be able to experience them on the mainland:
With Hawaiian music serenading us through dinner along with this excellent meal, we definitely felt the Aloha spirit at Liholiho Yacht Club. With a big mixture of Asian cultures, the island flavors were prevalent throughout all of the dishes. The ingredients in most dishes were unique or upscale versions (think J. Nardello pepper or quail) reflecting Kapur’s extensive fine dining background. The good news is that even though these are the last dates at State Bird Provisions, they plan to continue LYC with a venue yet to be determined.
Have you emailed them to put yourself on the wait list yet? Do it. Now. Aloha!