V is for Vikram

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Savory offerings at Garg’s (pictured) new restaurant include a seafood “hotpot,” ulu fries and steamed artichoke with balsamic dip, while the dessert menu is filled with a whimsical selection of sweets such as the gold-leaf-topped mango popsicle and banana cream puffs with caramel sauce poured tableside.

Chef Vikram Garg’s “pop-up” restaurant TBD… is up and running at the Lotus Honolulu.

EVER SINCE VIKRAM GARG LEFT HIS POST AS EXECUTIVE CHEF AT HALEKULANI HOTEL THREE YEARS AGO, THE QUESTION ON THE MINDS OF THOSE WHO KNEW HIM—OR AT LEAST HIS FOOD—WAS WHERE HE WAS GOING TO UNPACK HIS KNIVES NEXT. Another hotel? Open up his own restaurant, perhaps? As it turns out, it was a bit of both.

For the last three years, Garg has been with The MacNaughton Group as operating partner, hospitality division. And with the Group’s recent purchase of the Lotus Honolulu hotel at the end of last year—it seems that’s Garg’s first restaurant is his own but also in a hotel.

TBD… the name does leave much to be determined—maybe it’s Garg’s cheeky way of saying, enough, people—here’s your restaurant, satisfied? Whatever the etymology is, I’m just glad I don’t have to wait for a food event and line up for bite-sized pieces of Garg’s creativity. The Waikiki restaurant is where the short-lived Wisp used to be and Diamond Head Grill prior to that. But most know the location from when it was Bobby McGee’s for almost three decades. Garg isn’t worried about longevity though. In fact, TBD… has a shelf life of about 18 months (more like 16-17 months at this point). It’s merely a temporary space; a tricked-out R&D playground for Garg, his team and patrons who choose to pay it a visit.

And while I’ve only been there once, let me just say that playing guinea pig as Garg conceptualizes his permanent venue(s) is a good role to have. The 3,500-square-foot-space is divided into two areas—a lounge/bar space and an actual dining room, which faces Kalakaua Avenue. The interiors lend an “art deco meets mid century modern” atmosphere to the space, and despite it being a pop-up establishment, it doesn’t feel all that “temporary.”

The food is like the décor—only successfully executed if one knows how to combine distinctly different elements.

Do it wrong, it clashes; do it right, it sings. So far, TBD… is carrying a very pretty tune. The menu (which will change through- out the year) has a number of starters, outnumbering the list of entrées, allowing diners to sample a variety of offerings.

A few highlights from the Small Plates section include a burnt-butter-based Popcorn Soup, Koftka “Meat Balls” with a tomato-cinnamon sauce and Kona Abalone with a miso-pepper crust. While Garg’s dishes are dubbed “rustic with fine dining techniques and global flavor,” Garg certainly pays homage to his heritage— he hails from Andaman and the Nicobar Islands of India—by incorporating ingredients and spices found in traditional Indian fare. And the food, while familial in some respects, it is anything but traditional—the tandoori chicken is fried and topped with mango chutney and the Aged Tomahawk for two is accompanied by a spectrum of sauces.

The further along you move into your meal, the less traditional it gets. Come dessert time, sweet endings are equal parts delectable and Instagram-worthy if you’re into that. The gold-leaf-topped Mango Kulfi is shaped into a popsicle was presented like a work of art. Same goes with the banana cream puffs—a mini tower of bite-sized puffs with caramel sauce poured tableside.

And speaking of tableside, in lieu of old school Caesar salad or guacamole, TBD… has something with a little more whimsy in mind. There are plans to add a mac-and-cheese cart where diners can request savory toppings like bacon, truffle, lobster and, for the truly indulgent, caviar.

“The concept is fun and constantly evolving,” shares Garg. “It provides an opportunity for me to do what I love, but to also test different ideas for the future.” TBD… 2885 Kalakaua Ave., 791.5164, tbdhawaii.com

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