Pink neon, a layering of tropical plants and banquette seating covered in palm frond prints dress the set. Towards the rear a wall garden paints a Hawaiian garden maze of greenery. The decor mimics an outdoor dining terrace, bringing the outside in – a neat trick indeed. The Hana concept restaurant was dreamed up by Hawaiian-born head chef Mario Manabe and his close friend and colleague Curtis Stone while celebrating Mario’s recent wedding in Hawaii. While Mario has supported Stone in recipe development, much of it in California, the move to Melbourne has put an energetic smile on the face of the previously back-of-house chef, elevating him to a new position as a major player in Melbourne’s rich tapestry of quality bar/dining experiences.
As you might expect, playful tiki bar ceramics, including hula girl designs, a volcano cup (careful with this one!) and a shark’s head add to the charm. We sample a Koki Beach daiquiri, a wonderful palate teaser. Hana’s three fish croquettes – barramundi, kingfish and snapper – feature a perfect mousse interior that sings of a blend of tarragon, parsley and chive. The black squid-ink tapioca crisps topped with fresh tuna, avocado and yuzu citrus are also on point. A hint of sesame oil is a delightful finishing note. There’s also snapper ceviche, cured in leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) that presents perfectly, and Hana’s special fried rice – serious must-try. Made with a Hawaiian-style sofrito, it is complex and spicy, almost umami-like in its depth of flavour.
Lean, fresh, and acidic wines go with Hawaiian food. Case in point the Heathcote Dirty Black Denim unfiltered sangiovese. It has a lean palate of sour cherries with bright acidity, finishing pleasantly rounded.
We love the succulent sliced lobster tail that arrives upon a bed of cardamon-spiced carrot purée. Under the influence of ultraviolet lighting it beams with an intensity of luminosity that is totally out of this world. Complementing the heavier end of the menu the slow-cooked, crumbed, pork shank is served with heavily chargrilled cabbage and pineapple, chargrilled flat bread, compressed (pickled) apple (ginger spiced), vegetable aioli and a honey-soy jus. It’s inspired by kālua – Hawaii’s traditional cooking method that uses an imu or underground oven. To mimic this experience pull apart the shank, layering it upon the grilled flat bread with all of the toppings. A layer of smoky flavours build the dish – it’s a winner.
We wondered though if there was anything else that the team at Hana could add to their list of perfection… Perhaps ukulele music playing at the lua would be nice? Oh… they thought of that too!
212 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel 03 9654 4860