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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ravi Kapur's LihoLiho Yacht Club Pop Up Is Like a Hawaiian Childhood

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 at 10:05 AM

click to enlarge Ravi Kapur, sous chef Nana Guardia, and April
  • Ravi Kapur, sous chef Nana Guardia, and April

Chef Ravi Kapur (Prospect, Boulevard) describes the birth of his son this October as the catalyst to taking the next step in his career. Not wanting to miss out on the beginning of his new family's life together, Kapur left his post at Prospect.

Away from a professional kitchen, he discovered that his love for cooking and restaurants was as strong as ever, so he returned to an idea he had toyed with for years: a menu exclusively his own.

"I wanted for myself to have a clear identity," Kapur says. Inspired by his own fond food experiences, Kapur began his pop-up, LihoLiho Yacht Club at Citizens Band, where the menu is all done "family/dinner party style," with five dishes in the first course, five dishes in the second course, and two desserts. It's $65 per person, exclusive of beer or wine, but including tax and gratuity. LYO's second dinner is April 9 with 3 seatings from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Reservations can be made at via citizens 

Kapur named it for beach parties Kapur from growing up in Hawaii, where his uncles sold beer and BBQ to supplement their sailing hobbies. With this namesake in mind, Kapur's mission is to recreate food experiences from his childhood, calling on familiar flavors and emotions. LYO is designed to let diners experience a Hawaiian tradition he describes as an interactive and social event "similar to pot-lucks, with dishes from many cultures at one table."

By designing menus all his own, Kapur relishes in the opportunity to exclusively employ his favorite flavors.

"In my experience in restaurants, my own cooking could never dominate because we had to allow a range to meet multiple palates," Kapur says. "I didn't want to follow rules to fit a menu. At LYO I am cooking the way I enjoy eating. I am creating social bonds through food and drink." 

Unconfined to a particular style Kapur is sharing Hawaiian history with his guests. "Hawaiian food comes from a mish-mash of different cultures working on the field together. The farmers could appreciate one another by sharing their food."

Kapur believes this experience is much deeper than fitting a menu which will appeal to everybody. "I wanted the menu to tell a story. What I came up with reminds me of Chinese feasts I would go to as a child. There was always more food coming, lots of dishes with many different tastes, and whatever was coming next never mattered as much as the feeling we got from sharing everything."

This playful lack of specificity and direct avoidance of traditional restaurant culture allows both Kapur and guests to really relax and just enjoy the meal. "My cooking now can be about the flavors, and in this setting we don't have to worry about other logistics like tickets and fire-times." Kapur promises the hardest decision his guests will have to make is whether or not they will be drinking. After that, they can just relax and have fun.
"The bottom line is getting back to the fun part of eating out," Kapur continues "and more personally, why cooking was enjoyable to me in the first place."

 Kapur says that the longer he was in the business the further he got from the stove. A successful Chef's work can get so management heavy, "Being in a big restaurant for so long you get distracted by the big things that are not directly related to the plate. LYO has been a great exercise to look at what will work when I eventually open my own restaurant."

His favorite part has been working with his friends, "This is just such a nice, super cool, fun vibe!"

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Sylvie Boland

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