What's Inside a Hawaiian Wellington?
The chefs at Honolulu's Senia offer a layer-by-layer breakdown.
Wellington is hot right now.
From a classically British one with layers of tenderloin, chanterelles and whipped potatoes at Mizuna in Denver to chef John Fraser’s talked-about carrot Wellington at Narcissa in New York City, it’s popping up all over menus across the country.
At the new Senia in Honolulu, the beautifully wrapped present of a dish—a roll of filet mignon, mushroom and foie gras wrapped in a pillowy dough—gets a distinctly Hawaiian twist from chefs Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush. They blend their backgrounds—Kajioka is a Hawaii native, while Rush was born in Devon in southwest England—for their modern and locally-driven take on the dish.
Here’s how they make the showstopping dish, layer by layer.
Wild venison. The chefs rely on delicate loin in place of filet mignon. The venison is sourced from Lanai, Kauai or Maui, depending on availability and quality.
Luau leaves. Also known as taro plant leaves, Kajioka and Rush steam the leaves to remove their itch-inducing crystals, then hot-smoke them to recreate the effect of an imu, a traditional Hawaiian oven that cooks whole pigs underground on hot stones.
Big Island mushrooms. The King Ali’i, or king oyster mushroom, is the go-to for its meaty texture and flavor.
Smoked ham and cured lardo. Since the venison is so lean, the chefs add richness with pork.
Puff pastry. Right now, the pair relies on flaky puff pastry made in-house, but eventually they hope to turn the island’s abundant breadfruit, or ulu, into a sort of pastry mimic by roasting it and mixing it with Dijon mustard.