And what of the food? It was all really good, but two dishes stood out: Marcel's deconstructed Hamachi Poke with Pineapple "Poi" was terrific. Finally, Marcel had found a context for his molecular gastronomy that made sense. Nowhere was there a foam-for-the-sake-of-foam, rather his esoteric techniques allowed him to accomplish things that couldn't have come from straight cooking, but with a clear respect for the Hawaiian flavors and textures. Witness his clever use of an aerator and xanthan gum to thicken raw pineapple into a light, airy "Poi" (a pineapple custard would have been a more conventional choice, but would have sacrificed the flavor of the raw fruit that is so prevalent in Hawaiian cooking).
Overall the dish was playful but focused, the flavors clean, and the presentation beautiful. The other clear success was Ilan's Morcilla and Squid Lau Lau. The dish truly borrowed from both Hawaiian and Spanish cuisine successfully; at lunch the day before, Chef Wong had emphasized how important cooked Taro leaf is to Hawaiian cuisine, and of all the chefs only Ilan attempted it -- Taro leaves are not easy to work with, and they have a strong and distinctive flavor. Ilan's chopped Morcilla (a Spanish version of blood sausage) and Squid was flavorful enough to stand up to the Taro's flavor and actually enhance it. All in all, a great dish, and one that fully embraced the challenge.