Chef Ravi Kapur, formerly of Boulevard and Prospect, brings his homegrown version of ohana (Hawaiian for 'family') to a pop-up restaurant he is calling Liholiho Yacht Club. The pop-up is happening at Citizen's Band in San Francisco for a total of four Monday nights. I attended the second dinner and there are two more scheduled with a possibility for additional ones in the future. The menu pulls from dishes that Kapur created with his friends in mind: the idea being to bring people together, eat family style, and enjoy each others company—without having to be an 'over-the-top-foodie experience.'
“In Hawaii, everyone seems to cook. It's a function of survival. Cooking isn't intimidating.” Kapur brings the easiness of his native Oahu to his menu, with dishes like tender pulehu beef tongue and smoked tako (octopus) easily shared between friends. Discussing the idea behind the pop-up, Kapur says, “I'm cooking with flavors I grew up with and not having to fit my inspiration into a fine-dining context.”
Though the food intentionally steers away from being 'fine dining,' the decade that Kapur spent as chef de cuisine at Boulevard and then executive chef at Prospect is evident in the dishes' execution: they look simple, but each of them has multiple ingredients that have been lovingly prepared for days before the pop-up: kimchi to accompany the main courses fermenting in the kitchen, three kinds of radishes pickling before being sliced onto appetizers, sugar caramelizing for the short-rib glaze.
Liholiho Yacht Club’s menu is fixed price, with no substitutions, set at $65 per person which includes tax and tip. The price tag might seem hefty, but considering that both the appetizer and the entrée courses include five dishes per person, there are two desserts, and all of the ingredients are high quality, your full belly will thank you after you 'grind'(Hawaiian slang for 'eats').
Sitting down at a cozy table at Citizen's Band, the first noticeable feature is the relaxed atmosphere. Even the servers have warm Hawaiian smiles and Mauna Loa music plays through the speakers. Tables are filled with groups of friends "talking story."