My grandparents used to love visiting Hawaii. They’d fly from their Central California home and explore Oahu, occasionally dipping their toes in warm waters, even though my grandmother never learned to swim. After each trip they’d regale us with stories about the food they ate and fun they had. Among their favorite destinations was the famed International Marketplace, what was then a series of local vendors set up in stalls under a banyan tree in Waikiki.
The small vendors are now long gone, but the banyan tree is still alive and well in the newly reopened International Marketplace. The new structure houses many high-end retailers, but is anchored by its restaurants, such as the new concept from local celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, Eating House 1849.
Yamaguchi was inspired for his latest venture by the flavors of Hawaii’s plantation past, flavors he first sampled in his own grandfather’s kitchen.
“My grandfather left Japan in the early 1900s and ended up in Maui working on the plantations,” Yamaguchi says. As a child he helped in his grandfather’s market, and Yamaguchi says his “cooking has evolved from the flavors of my childhood.”
Those childhood flavors have served him well. Yamaguchi won the restigious James Beard award in 1993, and has been the visionary behind many of Hawaii’s favorite restaurants, including his namesake, Roy’s.
“Workers would share at lunch what they had,” explains Yamaguchi. “Eating House is paying tribute to those kind of cuisines.” The plantation influence is clear in Eating House 1849’s menu. The “1849” Plantation Pupu Platter consists of ribs, gyoza, lumpia and wings. This type of eclectic food could only come from bringing a diverse group of people together, something only really seen in Hawaii.
One of Yamaguchi’s favorite dishes from the menu is the plantation paella. Rather than a relatively dry rice dish, Yamaguchi’s paella draws from the thick beef stew he ate as a kid for a more brothy meal. “It’s a great dish,” he says.
In addition to the International Marketplace, there are two other Eating House 1849 locations, one in Koloa, Kauai, and another in Kapolei on Oahu.
The menus at each change based on what’s available and in season. “We plan our menus according to what we have available in Hawaii,” says Yamaguchi.
No matter the location, Eating House 1849 gives diners top-quality meals in a fun and inviting atmosphere. As with all of his restaurants, Yamaguchi says, “We keep it nice and fresh and exciting.”
No matter the location, Eating House 1849 gives diners top-quality meals in a fun and inviting atmosphere.