Hawaiian Flavors Bloom at San Francisco’s ‘Aina

'Aina presents Hawaiian food with the refined technique of a celebrated San Francisco restaurant. Now there's a tasting menu option.

9 photos
Eric Wolfinger
Chefs remix the traditional taro root ball called pa'i'ai by turning it into a crispy puff, similar to a chicharron. It's served with kanpachi (amberjack fish) cured in combo seaweed and wrapped in Hawaiian ti leaves, a foundational technique in island cooking.
Eric Wolfinger
The chefs draw a sharp distinction between the Bay Area explosion of middling poké bars and their fresh Inamona Limu Poké, served with Monterey limu seaweed and Hawaiian ahi tuna with black rice puffs made to resemble the lava rocks of Keao's homeland and an a oceanic froth.
Eric Wolfinger
Dried pipikaula beef is something that's very popular in Hawaii and deserves more attention here. 'Aina makes theirs with Marin Sun Farms Wagyu beef that's been cured with double-brewed shoyu (soy sauce), smoked with Hawaiian kiawe wood (which might be piped into the dining room during your tasting menu experience) and served with bone marrow flan, black garlic purée and beef tendon chicharron.
Eric Wolfinger
Japanese hamachi (yellowtail) is available for a supplemental price.
Eric Wolfinger
A guayusa (caffeinated holly) tea break helps digest the large, fast-paced meal (seatings are at 6pm and 8pm, so you're tasting many new flavors relatively quickly).
Eric Wolfinger
Lomi-lomi salmon is popular in Hawaii; 'Aina's Bay Area version currently rubs McFarland Springs trout with paprika and accompanying saffron rouille. It pairs with the guayusa tea.
Tamara Palmer
Hawaiian onaga (long-tail red snapper) is served with a purée made from native ginger and glena roots blended with celery root, banana leaf roasted baby beets, pickled hon shimeji mushrooms and koji mushroom steamed barley.
Eric Wolfinger
Kalua pig is a staple on Polynesian menus, here incorporating Massa Farms heritage pork belly and emulating the flavor cooked in an imu, or underground oven. The chefs serve it with Mana Ai hand pounded poi (taro root), a taro root raviolo and coconut smoked fish cream.
Eric Wolfinger
The 'Aina tasting menu concludes with a transportive dessert that's a fancy take on haupia, which is kind of a coconut Jello. Here it's a custard served with a Hawaiian ginger olena tart, Big Island macadamia nuts, guava purée and black sesame ice cream.
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