As we know, Kaka’ako is booming. As the area develops with more high rise luxury condos, businesses will naturally want to move in as well. The SALT block is a nexus point for new stores and restaurants. One of its most recent additions is Vein at Kaka’ako, owned and operated by a Japan-based restaurant group. My instagram feed has been flooded with pictures from Vein since it’s recent opening, which led Judy and I there tonight to check it out for ourselves.

Grilled tako - Vein at Kakaako
Grilled Tako, roasted fennel chimichurri, mustard greens, roasted potatoes

Vein at Kaka’ako is located on the first floor of the SALT complex, right next door to Boiling Crab. The restaurant features indoor and outdoor seating, along with a large chef’s counter that provides diners a view into the kitchen. We were seated just opposite the chef’s counter, but ended up asking to be moved to the main dining room as there was an unusually strong A/C draft bearing down right at our table.

The menu at Vein is a mixture of different influences, leaning toward a fusion of Mediterranean and Japanese. Uni pasta, grilled octopus (pictured above), osso buco, and tarako wasabi pasta are just some of the examples of this fusion. The price point at Vein is definitely in fine-dining territory, with appetizers running $12-$24 and entrees from $29-$48.

Mai Tai 44 at Vein at Kakaako
Mai Tai 44 with Kohala rum, clove, cinnamon, orange, and mint

Judy has been having quite a few mai tai lately. Seeing it was one of the featured cocktails at Vein, she decided to try it out to compare/contrast with others. Vein’s version is intentionally served without a straw to ensure that the scent of the mint and ingredients comes forward with each sip. I didn’t have any, but Judy remarked that this was one of the better versions she’s had recently.

Tomato and burrata at Vein at Kakaako
Vine ripe tomato and burrata, yuzu, olive oil, vin cotto, bread

Both appetizers we ordered – the grilled tako and tomato/burrata – were of decent size for the price. The tako in particular came with a generous weight of octopus. Unfortunately the tako was rather tough and chewy, unlike other iterations of Mediterranean octopus I’ve had. The burrata hit the flavor notes you’d expect, but didn’t stand out from others.

Snapper with chives, guanciale, bacon dashi
Chicken “alla plancha”, cavolo nero, Kahuku corn relish, vadouvan sauce

The flavors found in the snapper dish were nuanced, but pleasant. The fish was cooked very nicely with a crisp skin and soft, flaky flesh. There was, however, a noticeable undertone of fishiness. The bacon dashi helped to mask it, but it was a little disappointing nonetheless. The chicken alla plancha was tender and moist, with a good medley of flavors from the vegetables and vadouvan sauce. Overall, the chicken was the most well-executed plate of the night.

Bread pudding with pistachio gelato

Not only am I fairly big eater, but I feel I am fairly forgiving when it comes to finishing a plate. I usually don’t waste food or leave a plate half-eaten, but had to make that decision with this bread pudding. The pistachio gelato was great, but the bulk of this dessert was quite bland. Bread pudding is often a sweet dessert, which is actually against my preference as I usually prefer refreshing desserts, but this had almost zero sweetness (save for the fresh berries). We ended up picking out the berries and eating the gelato, but left half the bread pudding on the plate.

This quick recap probably comes off harsh. Don’t get me wrong, the food wasn’t bad (except for the bread pudding perhaps). I just don’t feel it was worth the $135 bill before tip. At that price point I could have easily gone to Senia, Pai Honolulu, Pig & The Lady, or Sushi Izakaya Gaku and, at least for me, gotten a much better value overall.

Vein at Kaka’ako
685 Auahi Street Ste. 121
Honolulu, HI 96814