Hailing from opposite sides of the world, British chef Anthony Rush and Honolulu chef Chris Kajioka serendipitously crossed professional paths in 2007, while working at one of New York City’s Michelin three-starred restaurants. Nine years later, they are now poised to unveil their own restaurant, Senia, this autumn in Honolulu’s urban Chinatown district. Rush and Kajioka, each with their own impressive culinary pedigree, decided to join forces and apply all they have learned in their collective three decades of experience to this new venture. Senia represents a shared culinary evolution influenced by the chefs’ very different cultural experiences, and it reflects a sense of place, heritage and true collaboration.
Chefs Rush and Kajioka are building Senia with a clear goal in mind: to create a convivial, comfortable environment where guests will enjoy delicious food, well-crafted drinks and a thoughtfully curated wine selection. The combination of their talents is exothermic, and the regional American cuisine they create will be an exploration and celebration of Hawaii’s abundance of beautiful ingredients. The energy behind Senia drives a three-fold offering. A casual and relaxed, 40-seat main dining room will be home to an ever-evolving, approachable, à la carte menu with a selection of snacks, plates and larger format, family style dishes. Lunch will be served Monday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday. Closer to the open kitchen, chefs Rush and Kajioka will host up to 12 people, Tuesday through Saturday, for dinner at the Chefs’ Counter. With its immersive, dinner party-like environment, the Chefs’ Counter will feature a multi-course tasting menu with original, inspired and refined dishes comprising an extraordinary gastronomic experience. Beyond the main dining room and Chefs’ Counter, Senia extends upstairs with a private dining room in one of the building’s two loft units. The private dining room allows for larger gatherings of eight to 12 and welcomes parties into a chic industrial space.
Senia’s creative team will be fortified by wine juggernaut Chris Ramelb. Ramelb is quickly becoming one of Hawaii’s most lauded wine talents. At 28 he is already a former Walter Clore scholar, the first Hawaii native to win the prestigious Rudd scholarship and is currently a Master Sommelier candidate. He will curate an intriguing wine selection to parallel the innovative nature of Senia’s cuisine. Ramelb’s passion for wine—and for finding the right wine for each guest—is authentic, and adds fuel to an already dynamic collaboration.
The building where Senia is located was built in 1889. It is one of Chinatown’s few original structures to survive through the century and is a listed Historic Building. The D’Ascoli family has spent the past two years respectfully restoring it, and the restaurant’s design retains much of the building’s original character. With the interior featuring the craft of local artisans, Senia’s sense of place extends beyond food. Suspended from the main dining room’s 14-foot ceiling, a Jonathan Swanz original illuminated glass sculpture lures your eye and holds your attention with a play of light, translucence and reflection. Jonathan’s fellow University of Hawaii instructor, Nick Hunsinger, provides a counterbalance and grounding force with bespoke, handcrafted wood cabinetry. In addition, Dae Son, founder of the woodworking company Wood HI, brings to life the beauty of local monkeypod with the organic lines of his custom, live-edge tabletop at the Chefs’ Counter.
The restaurant’s name is a play on the word “xenia”, the ideology of guest-friendship that defined the ancient Greek concept of hospitality. In an era when it was believed that gods walked amongst men, everyone was treated with the same courtesy and generosity. Built by Anthony Rush and Chris Kajioka on a base of friendship with a mutual passion for hospitality, Senia welcomes everyone to gather around a table as friends, to celebrate crossing paths and to share aloha.