Story by Aaron Kandell
Photo by Matt Mallams
On a quiet Thursday night in Kaka‘ako, catty-corner to nowhere, a line is forming. It’s as diverse a crowd as you can imagine: young hipsters, downtown lawyers, taro farmers, romantic retirees.
When it comes to food, most people aren’t monogamous. At least that’s the belief at TASTE, a permanent pop-up restaurant designed to indulge the wandering palate. “We call it a ‘choose your own adventure’ restaurant,” says Amanda Corby, who launched the venue last November with partners Poni and Brandon Askew (the food impresarios behind Eat the Street food-truck events) and local wunderkind chef Mark “Gooch” Noguchi. “It’s always been our dream to create a space where upcoming chefs can share their food experiences directly with the community,” adds Poni.
To that end TASTE features a different chef with a different menu every day. In many ways it’s less a restaurant than a gallery that hosts constantly rotating, edible exhibits. One day you might find well-known local chefs like Stephen Quinten of SALT or Lee Anne Wong of Top Chef in the kitchen, the next day you’ll see a housewife who’s never cooked commercially. “For me it’s about the people I meet,” says Noguchi. “I get the opportunity to experience so many different worlds of cuisine that all inspire and inform my own.”
On Monday you might get a steaming plate of Chinese-style ‘Opakapaka (pink snapper) for lunch; Tuesday, handmade lobster ravioli for dinner; Wednesday, Kuahiwi Ranch burgers on a bed of Tater Tots — each prepared by chefs with vastly differing cooking styles. “It’s a place to play and experiment,” Corby explains, “and also collaborate.” A place where local chefs get to try their chops on a clientele for whom variety isn’t merely the spice of life, but the main ingredient.