Very few restaurants in Honolulu have been as hotly anticipated as Senia, and after months of delays, it finally opened its doors this week. Located right next door to another hot eatery, The Pig & the Lady, Senia is a joint collaboration between chefs Anthony Rush and Chris Kajioka. The two chefs met while working at Per Se in NYC and are now bringing their wealth of skill, experience, and training to Honolulu.

I have been waiting for a restaurant like Senia to open in Honolulu for years. Restaurants like Senia are important to the continued evolution and growth of our restaurant scene. Senia also holds personal significance to me in my journey and passion with food. You see the first real tasting menu I ever had was cooked by Chef Kajioka, right before his departure from Roy’s Waikiki. I still reflect back on the photos of that meal.

Senia is separated into two main areas: the dining room and the chef’s counter (plus one small booth behind the counter). For now the entire restaurant, counter and dining room, will serve Senia’s ala carte menu. But, in a few short weeks, the chefs will begin to offer tasting menus at the chef’s counter. While I anxiously await the debut of Senia’s tasting menu, I had to try the ala carte menu right away!

The menu is straightforward, divided into snacks, small plates, shared entrees (good for 2-4 people depending on which), sides, and desserts. The downside of dining as a couple is limited stomach space, but I think we were able to sample a great portion of the menu!

“The Chung Chow” – Pimm’s No. 1, ginger beer, ice balls (lemon, orange, mint, cucumber, strawberry)

A beautifully creative take on Pimm’s cup. The flavors become more complex as the iced juices melt.

Poke cracker – squid ink chip, tuna

An elevated take on a local classic. The squid ink chip adds flavor and dimension to the bite.

Bubbles & Squeak croquette – smoked egg mousse
Chicken liver mousse – honey vinegar, “everything spice”, financiers

The snacks on Senia’s menu continue. Rich, smooth chicken liver mousse with just a touch of sweetness from honey. The smoked egg mousse provides richness to the surprisingly light croquettes.

BBQ beets – avocado, green garlic, seeds, grains
Charred cabbage – Shio kombu, green goddess, buttermilk
Mushroom & kale lasagna – OK Farms egg, fontina cream

Vegetables are often overlooked as the centerpiece of a dish, especially in Hawaii where protein and starch plate lunches are a part of our food culture. These three dishes really show how complex and interesting vegetables can be. The charred cabbage in particular was marvelous, a perfection of other cabbage dishes I’ve had from Chef Kajioka during his time at Vintage Cave (photos here and here).

Herb dough baked snapper – Manila clam “bouillabaisse”, saffron aioli

A surprise bonus dish courtesy of the chefs to four of us a the counter. Visually stunning and playful, this snapper packs a lot of flavor. The bouillabaisse is delectable; we could have a whole bowl.

Glazed pork belly – beet charsiu, ML harissa, pickles, Manoa lettuce

The richest cut of pork belly I have had in recent memory is the star of this entree. DIY construction with the choice of lettuce or scallion pancakes. Harissa and pickles are smartly added to help cut the fattiness of the luxurious pork.

Creamsicle – Greek yogurt parfait, tangelo carrot sorbet, gingerbread crumble, tangerine meringue, lime curd, carrot powder
Chiffon cake – yuzu

Senia’s pastry chef, Mimi Mendoza, came from a 1-star Michelin restaurant in California. Her skills show in these desserts, which deftly control sweetness, allowing other flavors to come through.

I am so excited and happy for the chefs at Senia for what they have built. I can only hope that the tasting menu experience is just as satisfying. If you haven’t made a reservation yet, do it now.

75 North King Street
Honolulu, HI 96817