On the North Shore of O‘ahu, a private dining club brings local and international chefs together to explore the proteins of Hawaiian game and sea life.
Text by Julie Zack Images by John Hook
The instructions I was given were clear yet cryptic: Enter a code at the gate, take the first left, and then follow the last driveway to the end. There I would find the Terra Club, an exclusive club dedicated to unique member experiences at its location in Waialua, a few miles inland from O‘ahu’s North Shore. The evening would feature a panoply of locally sourced foods and an intimate performance by the reggae band Common Kings.
It rained the whole way into Waialua, further setting my restless nerves on edge. At the end of the packed drive I found a two-story luxury cottage with shoes piled high outside of the glass front door in typical local fashion. Barefoot, I wandered in and was greeted with a glass of prosecco and a peck on the cheek from host Paul Coyne, which set me at ease as I took in the space.
The main room’s back wall was comprised almost entirely of windows, with views of the Wai‘anae Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean in the distance above the home’s 7.5-acre certified organic orchard.
The interior decor featured massive busts of Hawai‘i-caught wild game, such as a horned goat and hairy boar, and a crossbow hung by the back stairs.
This was Terra Club’s headquarters, and home to its creator, Coyne. In 2015, Terra Club was started as a way to bring local and international chefs together to explore the proteins of Hawaiian game and sea life, according to Coyne.
The club consists of Terra O‘ahu and a second location, Terra Exuma, which is expected to open in the Bahamas in June 2019.
Terra Club Hawaii’s current, monthly events provide an integrated dining experience that personally involve guests with their meal. The meats served are caught in the wild, and club members have the option to take part in the hunt. Lead hunter and chef Chris Stanley is an expert hunter and fisherman who teaches interested guests his trade.
Each dinner is the culmination of an outdoor experience that brings members and culinary luminaries into the waters and lands that produce their meals.
Another option available to members is to request meals made with specific Hawaiian wildlife, which is what was done by Frank Guidera, co-owner of Eleven Madison Park, the world’s top-ranked restaurant according to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants organization.
Guidera wanted to try kūmū, a species of goatfish, which Stanley specifically sought out for him.
“Never have I had my meal pursued specifically for me,” Guidara says. “At the feast that evening, the kūmū, combined with the atmosphere, the story, the connection to the dive, and the incredible flavors and fires made for the best fish I have ever eaten.”
This night’s dinner featured a 150-pound wild boar that Coyne shot on his property with a crossbow two days prior. The wild boar that roam his orchard eat fallen fruit such as mangos, figs, liliko‘i and ‘ulu, and the sugars from this cornucopia lent the meat a sweet, almost tropical flavor heightened by cooking it on a paniolo-style open grill.
Guests were welcomed into the frenetic kitchen to watch, learn, question, and post on Instagram as Stanley and fellow chefs Erik Leterc, who is from the Pacific Club, and Lamont Brown dashed between the outdoor grill and a plethora of bubbling pots and pans on the stove.
Those like myself who have difficulty adequately boiling water could leave the chefs to their work and instead explore the grounds, chat with other attendees, and enjoy the libations that included Lanikai Brewing Company beers made with fruit from the onsite orchard.
Among the guests were the band members of Common Kings, who had finished an inter-island tour the previous evening and were about to head out on a European tour.
The Southern California-based musicians were relaxed and clearly happy to have a night of being guests, as well as performers. They played an acoustic set between courses of poke on shrimp crackers, venison meatballs, grilled tako, mahimahi, freshly pounded poi, and of course, wild boar. Overall the night was an education in flavors and pairings, all with an eye to Hawai‘i’s culturally rich traditions and bounty.