It felt to me that Sam played it a bit safe with his Poke with Sea Beans and Yuzu juice, and his Macadamia Coconut-milk pudding, delicious as they were. While I have no complaints about his food, neither of the dishes stood out for originality or seemed particularly personal to Sam, and he certainly took no risks by trying to cook using an unfamiliar Hawaiian technique. In fact, neither of the dishes were actually cooked. I'm not saying that a raw dish doesn't have merit -- it just was a safer route than attempting to cook something -- that's one less (major) thing to screw up. Elia, on the other hand, did utilize an unfamiliar Hawaiian technique by steaming snapper in Ti leaves, and we gave her props for that, but unfortunately she chose red bell pepper and peas (evoking neither Hawaiian or Mediterranean flavors) to accompany the fish, and the dish was bland. If Elia was determined to use peas, I would have like to see her connect the dots between peas and Taro -- both are starchy vegetables -- and use them to create her own "poi."
Eli's Poke of raw tuna was also a nice enough dish, though I found the olives a bit overpowering. The problem was, I didn't feel it retained anything of the Hawaiian vernacular the chefs were charged with interpreting. The flavors -- olives, capers, and tomato -- could have evoked Italy or the South of France just as easily, and the fact that the fish was raw wasn't enough of a link to Hawaiian cuisine. One of my favorite dishes to prepare at the raw bar at Craftsteak is crudo -- an Italian iteration of the same dish -- super-fresh fish, sliced and dressed with flavors that enhance the qualities of the fish itself. I felt Elia had given us a lovely dish of crudo, without a clear sense of place or Hawaiian tradition.