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French Essence

BY Mari Taketa | February 18, 2019 | Feature Features

Chef Yuya Yamanaka hits the islands' fine-dining scene with a forceful yet elegant hand.
Kilauea lava cake ($18)

It’s not easy to score a reservation at the chef’s counter at Paris.Hawaii—hardly surprising, considering there are only eight front-row seats to a twice-nightly show where premium local ingredients are presented with French techniques and Japanese tastes and aesthetics.

The resto is an edgy section of Waikiki, tucked around the corner on Seaside Avenue, where wrought-iron gates beckon you into a tiny courtyard, up a flight of stairs and into an unexpected world. There’s a hush here—recessed lights illuminate a sleek, dark cocoon where a young team in starched chef’s jackets execute a choreographed eight-course progression led by chef Yuya Yamanaka.

The toque is young—only 31 years old—and comfortable on the edge. He helped open Clown Bar in Paris’ 11th arrondissement to rave reviews from The New York Times and scored a best bistro award from the 2015 Fooding guide. Still, feeling out of sync with the French capitol’s hyperintense culinary scene, the Hokkaido native moved to Hawai‘i and took up surfing before he was tapped by Japan’s Zetton Inc. (think Aloha Table and Zigu) to open Paris.Hawaii. The pedigree and the formula for the upscale eatery: French cuisine using Hawaiian ingredients on prix fixe menus ($85) that change with the seasons.

Photography Courtesy Of: