Celebrated Hawaiian Chef Creates Tapas from Around the World

Nationally acclaimed and Kauail legend Jean-Marie Josselin is back and challenging the pallets of his devotees in a whole new way. Located in Poipu, Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill offers intercontinental tapas.

In 1990, Josselin ran A Pacific Café in Kapaa. Throughout the 90s and early into the twenty-first century, he became one of the most influential chefs in Hawaiian Regional Cuisine. “At the time, doing a spring roll with Chinese duck and candied nuts was unheard of,” executive chef Josselin says of the groundbreaking era. “Now, it’s a little bit more common.”

A fresh twist on a local favorite is the Deconstructed Ahi Roll ($14). Concentric layers of sushi rice, avocado and cucumber are topped with glistening fresh Ahi. A touch of Tobiko fish roe finishes the dish.

With nearly 40 menu items, the reasonable pricing encourages diners to have fun and play with different flavors. “If you have an entree that costs $32, your commitment is to that. Here, for that price, you can have three different tastes,” Josselin says of his globe trotting menu.

Mediterranean inspired Wood Oven Roasted Kauai Mushrooms ($11), are juicy, aromatic and earthy. Josselin has managed to capture a potato’s essence and concentrate it into a “potato foam.” The silky liquid seeps into every nook and cranny of the smoky mushrooms, a hint of truffle oil rises to my nose on a puff of steam.

The 36 Hours Braised Pork Belly ($21), is an explosion of flavor and generous enough to be a meal. Two tender cuts are delicately placed on a mound of creamy smashed potatoes. A yin yang of vanilla basil and kimchee sauces pool around a medley of wood-oven roasted vegetables. The whole thing is garnished with sweet and spicy apple kimchee.

The final bill of $82 surprises my husband Dan. The high-quality food, lavish servings and pine sangria – at $9.50, the generous libation is a bargain in itself – had him thinking it would cost more for that level of dining. Dan looks me and says, “We’ve paid a lot more for a lot less!”

Photos by Dan Lane

Posted by: Bruce Fisher