The Chef’s Table Beckons With Civilized ‘Old World’ Charm

 By Kevin McQurrie, Oahu Island News

The “fall” days outside have been hot, sunny and steamy. But step into The Chef’s Table, a restaurant in the Hawaii Kai Towne shopping center, and you’ll swear you have been airlifted into an autumn evening in Austria. Tiny pumpkins sit on each table, and the bread stays warm over a candle-heater. The lighting is low, and the music, Classical. At the window, lace curtains make you feel like you are in a grandmother’s care. Care is the operative word at this establishment, run and owned by Andreas and Kathleen Knapp.

The restaurant seemed full of regulars—always a sign of good things to come. “Why do I always look at the menu? I know exactly what I want,” sighed one woman as she cozied into her chair and ordered her favorite dish.

Since soup is a real specialty of mittel European cuisine, I started off my meal with the Roasted Onion Beer Soup ($4.75) glazed with smoked cheese. It arrived in a tureen fresh out of the oven, with the cheese gooey, the bread immersed, but not soggy, and copious amounts of rich, soft, cooked onion. It’s the kind of soup that seems so nourishing you think it might actually cure cancer. We also tried the Garlic Steamed Clams ($9). I couldn’t decide which to do first: dunk my roll into the excellent butter, wine and herb broth or dive into the tender, large clams.

We also couldn’t resist an order of the potato pancakes ($9 for four). They arrived looking dark, almost burned, yet they were perfect. Crispy, not greasy, and huge. Try them with sour cream, applesauce, or hell—carpe diem—ask for both.

For our entrées, the Trout Fillet ($18) was expertly prepared: crisp on the outside and light and flaky on the inside. The bed of mushrooms and green peppercorns under it was a perfect complement. My dining companion ordered the Sauerbraten ($20), a marinated beef brisket that comes with vegetables, red cabbage and spetzli (tiny dumplings). It was fall off the fork tender.

While the menu doesn’t seem inexpensive, in reality, the food here is a steal. First, the quality and preparation are on par with far fancier establishments. Second, the portions are so huge that you will almost certainly get two meals out of whatever you order. For example, my trout arrived as two large pieces, each easily a hearty dinner in itself, served alongside an excellent sweet and sour cabbage, a heap of vegetables, and, as if you could still be eating, Austrian-style potatoes.

There’s also a very good wine list; it’s not long, it is just well-chosen, with a nice selection of German and Austrian wines, as well as some other wine regions, such as South Africa. And the service was excellent; attentive, but never pesky.

While there are plenty of seafood dishes, and a wide variety of salads, it’s not exactly a vegetarian’s paradise. The menu focuses—and rightly, this being an Austrian restaurant—on ingredients such as duckling, ham hocks and beef.

We managed to save enough room to sample a dessert of (house-baked) Apfelstrudel. Studded with raisins and adorned with two towers of whipped cream, this one’s worth coming back for.

As we reluctantly pushed back and were paying our bill (about $100 for two, including tip), a cuckoo clock on the wall above us rang. That this restaurant would have a classic cuckoo clock just seemed so pitch-perfect: authentic, thoughtful and homespun. That pretty much sums up The Chef’s Table.

The Chef’s Table

333 Keahole St. (In the Hawaii Kai Towne Center, near Costco.) Reservations are recommended.

Phone: 394-2433

Dinner is served Tuesday to
Sunday, 5:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. to
2:00 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday.

"Please mention the Oahu Island News to your server."