Archive for the ‘Steak house’ Category

In the Kitchen: Johan Svensson

June 15th, 2011

Nadine Kam photos

Johan Svensson in the dining room of BLT Steak.

When photographer Rae Huo told me BLT Steak would be the subject of her next Pop Iroiro online magazine, I invited myself along to shoot some photos and video of the restaurant’s chef de cuisine Johan Svensson at work.

It was enlightening to hear him talk about his travels and see how his journeys from his childhood on the Swedish island of Tjörn, to London, New York, and finally, Hawaii, has shaped his cooking. Growing up in a small place gave him wanderlust, and being surrounded by water gave him a love of the ocean and its abundance of seafood.

He was thrilled to go fishing with his grandfather, and remembered crabbing excursions to the west coast of Sweden during which he would dangle mussels tied on strings to bait king crab. At times he caught so many fish that he sold them to local markets, and there were some small, sardine-like fish he didn’t like. “If the cat was in, I’d probably feed it to my cat,” he said.

He says he started cooking because his mom didn’t cook, and what went onto the plate usually came from the family garden.

“Looking back, I had a good youth,” he said, though at the time, he said he considered it boring. Lucky for us, he landed on our shores after having served as executive chef at Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit, and prior to that worked at Nobu of London and Riingo in New York’s Alex Hotel.

Our first trip to the restaurant to photograph was on April 24. Rather than cooking up something off the menu, Johan was free to play, cooking up dishes he would like to eat, including lobster and urchin with uni sauce, pastrami-spiced ono with mussels, and ribeye with chimichurri sauce.

Link for iPhone

I have a few photos here, but my mouth really started watering when I opened up Pop Iroiro and saw the photos by Rae and Zakkamono! Check it out and enter to win a $50 dining certificate to BLT.

Johan regularly offers cooking classes, each followed by a three-course lunch with wine pairings. Classes begin at noon and the lunch concludes about 2:30 p.m. Here are the dates, topics and cost for the next set of classes:

June 18: Summer desserts, including homemade ice cream ($65)
July 16: Grilling shellfish and shucking oysters; champagne and wine pairings ($95)
Aug. 20: How to make tartar: steak, tuna, salmon, yellowtail, tomato ($65)
Sept. 17: Quick lunches with island ingredients; the art of making popovers ($65)
Oct. 15: Cooking bone-in cuts of meat (cost TBA)

Seared scallop crudo with sea asparagus, topped with light, airy and crunchy ume plum meringues, an unusual and pleasant way of adding the usual touch of acidity to a seafood dish. I think a lot of people here would eat those meringues by the handful if they were made available in batches.

Pastrami-spiced ono with mussels and Kamuela tomatoes against a backdrop of BLT’s raw bar.

Lobster two ways with uni and grilled Tokyo negi.

Sauteed Makapu’u shrimp with fingerling potatoes and smoked paprika.

Chef Tourondel drops in for a visit

January 21st, 2010

BLTNadine Kam photos
Wearing a ti leaf lei was new to chef Laurent Tourondel, left, who put the LT into B(istro)LT. Chef Mavro got to use his French for a change, while congratulating Tourondel on his Hawaii opening.

I started a blog category called “Food Hero” a while back, and looking at it while creating this page, I thought it suited Laurent Tourondel, who captured diners’ hearts in New York before expanding his empire, by wedding elements of fine dining with comforting bistro fare.

It certainly makes sense in a down economy, where the precious and fussy have given way to no-nonsense fare and presentation, which is why he appears to be blanketing the nation with varied incarnations of the BLT concept: BLT Steak, BLT Fish, BLT Burger, BLT Market, BLT Prime, BLT Bar & Grill …

In case you were hibernating over the holidays, BLT Steak opened in the Trump International Hotel last month, and Tourondel came to town for a little house-warming party Jan. 18. It was great to meet the man in the flesh.

blt-juan leon

Juan Leon presided over the charcuterie table featuring soppressata, breseola, prosciutto and chorizo served with a choice of various breads or savory mini  popovers with a Gruyere crust.

Waiters were kept busy delivering pupu-sized servings of fish, sushi, lobster salad on toast, beef carpaccio on toast and shortribs to guests’ tables, while people could help themselves to shellfish and seafood salads over at the restaurant’s Raw Bar.

I was a little surprised when Natalie Aczon told me she had to leave to find an ABC store. “Huh?” was my response when she told me she’s allergic to shellfish and she could feel welts surfacing on her skin. I had just seen her devour two platefuls of oysters and shrimp! She said that even with her allergy, she couldn’t pass it up.

Afterward, we headed for the Trump’s Wai’olu Bar on the 6th floor, where the city lights sparkled and we found a third of the BLT party had also gravitated there. Obviously, no one wanted to leave.

So glad BLT came to the islands. Here’s a link to my review last month for those who said they missed it over the busy holidays:


Ahi tatare with avocado in a soy-lime sauce. A full-size serving is $16 on the appetizer menu. One of my favorite dishes of the evening was a similarly portioned spoonful of hamachi sashimi in an apple coriander vinaigrette comprising diced Granny Smith apples, toasted coriander seeds, honey, lime juice, mustard oil and cilantro.

The steak arrived toward the end of the evening, after most guests had already filled up on pupu. The steak was dressed with onion marmalade and topped with blue cheese.

blt-raw bar
From the Raw Bar guests could fill their plates with oysters, boiled shrimp and crab claws. At the Raw Bar, oysters run $18 for a half dozen, snow crab claws run $21 per five and a jumbo shrimp cocktail is $18.

BLT Steak’s Assistant General Manager Chad Yang with guest Reine Ah Moo and Chef de Cuisine Johan Svensson.