’Aina, the Dogpatch Hawaiian restaurant that has made good headway on accruing the national attention we predicted it would after eating there several times, has taken an additional step toward heavy-hitter status. Chef Jordan Keao, a Hawaii native who’s as laid-back outside the kitchen as he is exacting inside it, has rolled out a chef’s tasting menu.
At $60 for six courses, the mo’olelo — Hawaiian for “story” — is among the most affordable in the city, and the optional beverage pairing is only $20 more. The downside is that it’s only available at the chef’s counter, which means only two timed seatings of six lucky souls apiece (at 6 and 8 p.m.), on Wednesday through Sunday evenings, and seats must be booked in pairs.
A love letter to the 50th state by the guy who makes San Francisco’s best loco moco, mo’olelo runs on thoughtful dishes that further Keao’s mission to unshackle Hawaiian cuisine from its close association with canned pineapple slices. It starts with kanpachi, or amberjack, cured with konbu seaweed and a ti leaf salata ricotta with crispy taro root puffs. Then, the semi-obligatory poke course shows you why the trend has become so ubiquitous with a black arare rice arranged to look like volcanic rock. A tea course cleaves the meal in two, while the second half includes pork belly kalua and hand-pounded taro-root poi and an olena ginger root tart with coconut custard. Eventually, Spam will simply be known as unwanted email, without a trace of the Sandwich Islands.
Mo’olelo, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 6 and 8 p.m., at ’aina, 900 22nd St. $60; 415-814-3815 or ainasf.com