Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year's Day Dinner: President Obama Visits Nobu Waikiki Restaurant

The end of a family day spent honoring the Dunhams...
UPDATE: President dines at Nobu in 2013
After spending a quiet New Year's Eve in his rental compound in Kailua, President Obama capped a New Year's Day filled with paying homage to his maternal family, the Dunhams, with dinner at one of the best sushi restaurants in Hawaii, Nobu Waikiki. The first Presidential dinner of 2012 came after a visit to the grave of Mr. Obama's grandfather Stanley Dunham, and a visit to an exhibition of his mother Ann Dunham's field work in Indonesia, at Honolulu's East-West Center. (Above: The First Family, including a niece, at the East-West Center)

Joined by First Lady Obama, family, and friends on Sunday evening, the President arrived at the chic restaurant at 7:55 PM. Located in the "perennially hip" Waikiki Parc Hotel, the restaurant, an ultra high-end global chain, bills itself as "yet another canvas for Chef Nobu Matsuhisa to display his legendary dishes."

The Presidential dinner, close to three hours long, included Lobster and Foi Gras in the chic dining room under sea-urchin inspired chandeliers. The New Year's Day menu was a special multicourser for $15o per person. It opened with Ozoni soup and Yamaimo Tofu, with Caviar, Uni & Wasabi Umami Gelee, followed by a "Seafood Duo" of an Oyster Shooter and Salmon Ceviche with Ikura.

Next was Seared Oh-toro with Yuzu Miso & Crispy Carrot Salad, and Butter-Poached Lobster with Curry Foam, Lobster Essence & Thai Basil Oil. A Duck Trio finished the rich mix of tastes: Duck Rillette, Crispy Tuile, Blood Orange Gelee; and Roasted Duck Breast, Baby Bok Choy with Mushroom Chips & Ginger-Soy Reduction; and Seared Foie Gras with Apple-Pear Compote & Toasted Hazelnuts. Assorted sushi was served in between the courses.

The Presidential motorcade returned home after 11:00 PM. The visit to Nobu was the third Presidential fine dining outing of the vacation: He also took family and friends to Alan Wong's Restaurant and to Morimoto restaurant, both in Honolulu. There was also a shave ice run to Kailua's Island Snow, an annual pilgrimage.

A day of Dunham: A visit to Punchbowl Cemetery and East-West Center...
The President's day began with a morning visit to the grave of his maternal grandfather in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. Mr. Dunham and his wife, Madelyn Payne Dunham, raised the President from the age of ten on Hawaii, while his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, worked in Indonesia. Mr. Dunham passed away on February 8, 1992. (Above: A photo of the President in Hawaii with his grandfather, mother, and sister)

Arriving at 10:39 with his family, the President spent 11 minutes at the cemetery, located in the Pu'owaina Crater (Punchbowl), known as the "Hill of Sacrifice" in ancient times. It has dramatic views of downtown Honolulu. The Dunhams hailed from Kansas, and during a recent trip there to give an important speech on his economic policy, the President hailed his family as "the Obamas of Osawatomie."

The First Family, joined by the President's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, then traveled to Honolulu's East-West Center at 11:00 AM, to view an exhibit on the anthropological field work of the President's late mother, "Through Her Eyes: Ann Dunham's Field Work in Indonesia." Dunham was an East-West Center graduate student fellow in the 1970s. (Above: The President and daughter Sasha at the East-West Center)

"At the president’s suggestion, the family also made an unscheduled visit to the Center’s Japanese garden, where the family held a memorial service for Dunham after she passed away in 1995," noted the Center on its website.

"The Obamas spent a few moments looking at the carp in the stream, and the President spoke of his parents meeting on the Manoa campus. He told his daughters that he had played in the garden as a child."

Soetoro-Ng has worked as a consultant for the East-West Center, and now teaches at a local university.

From the Center's catalog on Ann Dunham's work: "This exhibition includes photographs taken during her years of field research in Indonesia as well as personal artifacts which include examples of metal smithing, jewelry, leather work, textiles, ceramics, and basketry made in the villages of Indonesia. Dunham’s personal art and artifact collection has been augmented by some recent purchases, in order to give wider context to her work in Indonesia. She was not only concerned with connoisseurship, she also purchased common items that reflected what people made and used."

The First Family departs Hawaii on Monday to return to Washington, DC.

Information: Nobu Waikiki is located at 2233 Helumoa Road Honolulu, HI 96815. Phone: 808.237.6999.

*Top photo by AP/pool; second East-West Center photo courtesy of the East-West Center.