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Most people on the mainland, or even Honolulu residents, are lucky enough to have their go-to neighborhood Chinese restaurant in their iPhone’s Favorites contact list for a night in of Netfilx and good takeout. This was not an option for the folks of South Kohala though it was much desired and left us clamoring for the distinct Asian flavors. Thankfully, co-owner Chef James Babian of Pueo’s Osteria and Executive Chef Aaron Murai stepped in to fill this huge void in the Big Island dining scene with the opening of Pele’s Wok Bistro & Bar. Not only did they deliver on providing the locals and visitors alike with a takeout option, but created an inviting space to enjoy elevated Chinese cuisine with locally sourced, high quality ingredients with an impressive offering of appetizers, fried rice, noodles, soups and main dishes perfect for sharing family style. This is the Chinese food we have been craving. Who is envious now? I dined at Pele’s Wok before I had a chance to talk story with the chefs behind the dishes, but my own experience lived up to the story they shared about their passion for Chinese cuisine, as well as Chef James’s Regional, Seasonal, Artisanal philosophy, sourcing locally as 88


often as possible while also using the finest ingredients to create tasty, memorable meals. This combination of thinking leads to some really surprising, mouthwatering dishes at unexpectedly affordable prices you and your dining mates will be sure to remark on throughout the meal. But it was the story about how the restaurant got off the ground that was really striking. Chef James and Chef Aaron worked together at Four Seasons Resort Hualälai, with Chef James as the executive chef. When Chef James decided to open his own restaurant, Chef Aaron followed, telling him that he didn’t work for the company—he worked for his chef. After working at Pueo’s Osteria together for a few years, Chef James remarked on the lack of good Chinese food in the Waikoloa area. That’s when Chef Aaron shared that though his passion was cooking, his obsession was the Chinese cuisine he grew up eating and making with his family. Chef James promised that if Pueo’s was doing well after five years, he and his wife Christine Babian, the coowners of both Pueo’s Osteria and Pele’s Wok, would add a Chinese restaurant to their restaurant portfolio That day arrived in a serendipitous way. On a Thursday they made BIG ISLAND TRAVELER

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