Grind Time: TASTE closing in January

Dec. 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

Guests hang outside the back door at TASTE in Kakaako during a pop-up dinner featuring chef Lee Anne Wong in December 2012. (Star-Advertiser File)

Guests hang outside the back door at TASTE in Kakaako during a pop-up dinner featuring chef Lee Anne Wong in December 2012. (Star-Advertiser File)

BY JASON GENEGABUS / jason@staradvertiser.com

Much like the pop-up concept it championed, Kakaako restaurant incubator TASTE Table has reached the end of its run after a little more than a year in business on Auahi St.

Launched by the Pili Group’s husband-and-wife team of Amanda Corby and chef Mark Noguchi in partnership with Brandon and Poni Askew of Street Grindz, TASTE opened its kitchen to dozens of mobile food vendors who set up shop on a weekly basis for lunch and/or dinner service before a new group would replace them a few months later.

1215 taste 001

TASTE TABLE

661 Auahi St.
Open 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays
www.tastetable.com

DECEMBER LUNCH VENDORS:

» Onda Pasta (Tuesdays)
» Ono to Go (Wednesdays)
» Blk/Box (Thursdays)
» Momo Burger (Fridays)

JANUARY’S ALL-STAR LINEUP:

» Good Clean Eats
» Mimi’s Place Peruvian Cuisine
» Poi Dog Philly
» Chef Lee Anne Wong
» Chef Chris Kajioka
» Chef Mark “Gooch” Noguchi

Once the current lineup of vendors vacates at the end of the month, an “all-star lineup” will take over for the month of January. Construction is scheduled to begin on a new parking garage for the neighborhood in March, according to landowner Kamehameha Schools.

“We always knew this time would come,” said Brandon Askew. “There’s a lot of change happening right now in Kakaako.”

Askew, who also produces the monthly “Eat the Street” food festival at 555 South St. and “Honolulu Night Market” along Auahi, said the TASTE concept was perfect for food truck operators and working chefs who needed an affordable option to test out their concepts in a brick-and-mortar environment. The Pig & The Lady, Zaratez Mexicatessen, Cocina and MW Restaurant all operate their own restaurants after holding down residencies in Kakaako.

“The huge props really goes to Adam for really making that space what it is,” said Corby, referring to TASTE general manager Adam Locke. “He’s just been so amazing.

“We put a lot of energy and work into TASTE in the beginning, but Adam has been the foundation … 95 percent of what you see coming out of TASTE is a result of his efforts.”

The departure of TASTE and other storefronts along Auahi is part of the bigger plan to transform the neighborhood into a hip urban destination for the art and fashion crowds, as well as create gathering places for residents of multiple condominium towers planned for the surrounding area. Kamehameha Schools exhibited a great deal of business savvy by working with tenants to let them remain as long as possible — and keep the option of bringing them back to reopen once construction is complete.

“We have been lucky to have TASTE Table be a part of Our Kaka‘ako,” said Christian O’Connor, senior asset manager at Kamehameha Schools. “In the short-term, we plan to continue to utilize that kitchen space in new and exciting ways. The future of Block F will be the Salt development, where local restaurants, shops and exciting innovative concepts will continue to grow.”

Chef Mark Noguchi, right, in the kitchen at TASTE. (Star-Advertiser File)

Chef Mark Noguchi in the kitchen at TASTE. (Star-Advertiser File)

For the Askews, upcoming construction means “Honolulu Night Market” will move two blocks from its current location on Auahi St. to Cooke St. in March. “Eat the Street” will remain at the corner of South and Pohukaina streets for now. Street Grindz will also be part of the New Year’s Eve “Party of the Year” at Kakaako Waterfront Park, hosting a lineup of mobile food vendors to keep revelers happy as they welcome 2014 to Honolulu.

Corby and Noguchi are expecting their first child this month, so Corby plans to spend some time welcoming the new addition to their family while Noguchi continues to oversee the recent opening of Lunchbox, a private dining room at Hawaiian Airlines’ corporate headquarters. The pair continue to develop new projects together, and Corby maintained a return to Kakaako is a definite possibility.

“It’s not the end of TASTE,” she said. “It’s not going to come back in it’s exact same format, and probably not the same space, but you will see something similar because part of our mission is supporting the chef community.

“TASTE was always meant to be a project that had a beginning and end. It was never supposed to last forever or create a huge money-making business opportunity for any of us. It was always meant to be a project that brought chefs together. We wanted to see a positive experience.”

For the most current list of January events, visit tastetable.com.
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“Grind Time” is always looking for the latest places to get your grub on. Email Jason Genegabus with restaurant, bar or any other food/drink-related item at jason@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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