Tag Archives: restaurant

#FUUD: New menu items at Arancino Kahala

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Confession: the last time I dined at Arancino at The Kahala was when it first opened.

A year ago.

So when I was invited to taste the first anniversary menu, I was a bit embarrassed.

I did love dinner there last year. But at the time, it was a prix fix menu that took a full three hours to partake. I wanted to go back — but I just didn’t have the time!

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Since then, though the restaurant, situated at the posh Kahala Hotel & Resort, has begun offering its menu items a la carte for dinner. (You can even order brick-oven pizzas baked on site.) So you can pick and choose what you want.

And now you can pick and choose from even more dishes.

To celebrate its one-year anniversary, Arancino, which has been serving authentic Italian food in Waikīkī for nearly 20 years, is serving up some brand-new menu items in Kāhala, including casarecce ragu di polpo (octopus and casarecce pasta with spicy garlic tomato sauce), tagliatelle con orechiette di mare (Kona abalone with fresh house-made tagliatelle pasta tossed in an abalone bouillon garlic cream sauce) and spaghetti alla carbonara (a deconstructed version of the classic Italian dish with a poached egg, crispy pancetta and truffle butter).

I was most excited about bistecca alla lavanda, a 5-ounce lavender-infused sous vide A5 Miyazaki premium wagyu beef, served with roasted petite potatoes and onions petals. Miyazaki is a region in Kyushu in Japan that grows high-quality cattle. And I had heard that this particular cut and preparation was mind-blowing.

I like having my mind blown.

So here’s a glimpse into the new menu at Arancino:

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Here’s how I like to start my meals: with a drink. This is called the Arancino ($11), one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails made with Skyy blood orange vodka, Combier Liqueur D’Orange, passionfruit puree and sweet-and-sour.

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This is one of my all-time favorite amuse bouche (though it’s not a traditional single bite): Kahuku corn foam with prosciutto. Great texture and flavors.

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Arancino knows how to serve up a memorable bread plate. Here, rosemary foccacia, a whole wheat square and — my favorite — a parmesan crostini. It was all served with softened butter and Hawaiian sea salt.

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One of the restaurant’s popular dishes, if not just for its stunning presentation, the crostacei di mare ($19) features Kona abalone, Moloka‘i ama ebi and scallops with micro greens and topped with herb oil. It’s arranged by Chef Daisuke Hamamoto to resemble a coral reef.

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Our server recommended the fegato d’oca ($19), sautéed foie gras with a wild raspberry red wine reduction. It was a nice piece of decadent goose liver, seared and topped with the slightly-sweet-but-savory reduction. The small bread squares were great to sop up the sauce at the end.

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One of the menu’s highlights — and a new dish — is the spaghetti alla carbonara ($25), chef’s take on the classic Italian dish. This one, though, features a poached egg, tons of cheese, cream, pancetta and truffle butter. Thanks to the cream, cheese and poached egg, this dish was rich and creamy and delicious.

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I’m surprised to even write this, but this risotto primavera ($23) was one of my favorites of the night. The perfectly prepared risotto was paired with 14 different seasonal vegetables and topped with parmigiano reggiano cheese. Light but filling and incredibly tasty. The crispy kale chip on the side was a nice bonus.

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Another new menu item is the grigliata di mare ($38), a plate of grilled lobster, scallops, shrimp, calamari and the fresh catch of the day, with watercress pesto and a spicy tomato sauce.

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But the star of the dinner was the 5-ounce Miyazaki beef. The bistecca alla lavanda ($70) was infused with lavender and served sous vide style. This beef, rare to find in Hawai‘i, has been the winner of the Prime Minister’s Award in Japan for the past 10 years for its outstanding quality. And it’s obvious why. You literally didn’t have to chew, the marbled meat was so soft and tender. It came with salt, pepper and a house-made mustard, along with a super unique shoyu gelee (that I gobbled up). Trust me, though, the meat could stand alone.

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While I really wanted the torta al cioccolato (a dark chocolate torte with a kumquat compote) or the panna cotta made with a house-made Hamakua tomato sorbet, I let my husband pick dessert. He chose the Monte Bianco ($10), a nugget of custard-filled chestnut puree with chestnut meringue triangles and a yuzu honey sauce. I was surprised I could eat any more, after that meal! But then again, there’s always room for dessert!

Arancino’s current five-course tasting menu is priced at $85 ($110 with wine pairings by Japanese world champion grand master sommelier Shinya Tasaki) and provides great value, with some of the restaurant’s newest and most popular dishes available to order. And there’s often live music, too.

Arancino at The Kahala, The Kahala Hotel & Resort, 5000 Kahala Ave. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, 5 to 10:30 p.m. for dinner daily. Phone: 808-380-4400.

To learn more about Arancino at The Kahala, follow @arancinokahala on Instagram or like the restaurant on Facebook.

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Good service goes a long way

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It’s rare that I encounter such bad customer service at a restaurant, I feel like blogging about it.

And while I’ve been tempting to outline everything that happened to me at a particular establishment recently, I decided not to. And here’s why.

It wasn’t the wait staff or food was bad. In fact, I didn’t even sit down at a table. I got poor customer service right at the front door — and that prompted me to never book a reservation there in the several months the restaurant was open.

Oh, I wanted to blog about it. I’m a big believer in sharing accurate information, even bad experiences, because people should know what to expect.

But in this case, I didn’t. I felt it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else who worked there, particularly the chefs and owners, to let this one person influence my view of a restaurant at which I had never dined. It wouldn’t be right.

So I bit my tongue as I browsed photos of crab cakes and short ribs on Instagram, hoping my experience wasn’t shared by others — and cursing the fact that the food looked so ridiculously good.

And then I broke down.

I called one afternoon and booked a table for that evening. When I walked through the door, there was no sign of the worker who had left such a bad taste in my mouth about the place. And the restaurant, as anticipated, lived up to expectations, churning out well-crafted dishes from start to dessert.

It’s interesting how influential bad customer service can be. As someone who writes about food for a living, I’m supposed to try new restaurants, yet this one experience with a front-of-house staffer caused me to put it off for months.

I was reading a blog by New York Post restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo who bemoaned the poor service he received at several new restaurants in the city. And these restaurants knew who he was!

“That I encounter at least as much amateurish, clueless or downright hostile service as I did in my ‘anonymous’ days speaks to the current state of restaurant staffing. It makes it easier to write funny reviews, but it’s nothing to laugh about when regular customers are treated worse.

Exactly.

Service can make or break your business, restaurant or not. I eat at certain restaurants almost exclusively because the people who work there are nice and attentive. The food can hover above mediocre.

And poor service can start from the front door.

But what I’ve come to realize, though, is this: you can’t always judge a restaurant — or any business — by one person who might be having a bad day. Yes, I agree workers shouldn’t bring their personal issues to work. But we’re all human, too, and it happens.

That said, repeated bad service or a business that doesn’t care about the poor treatment you received — well, I’d close that door and never come back.

It may have taken awhile to finally book a table at this restaurant, but I’m glad I did. The food was stellar, the ambiance was perfect and, yeah, the service was up to par, too.

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FUUD: Menchanko Tei in Keeaumoku

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It’s been so cold lately.

In fact, with the exception of last night, I’ve been wearing pajamas to bed every night and sleeping under three layers of blankets.

And it’s almost April!

So lately I’ve had a craving for ramen — that warm bowl of noodles is the perfect cold-weather dish.

My girlfriend suggested we try Menchanko Tei on Keeaumoku Street, which opened this location in May 2012. The original shop was founded in Hakata, Japan in 1980 by Akihide Yonehama, who then opened up shops in Fukuoka, Manhattan and Honolulu.

I hadn’t been since it opened here — there was a location in Waikiki — and I was eager to try something new.

So here’s what our recent lunch looked like:

Inside Menchanko Tei

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This ramen shop — its first location outside of Waikiki — opened here last year in the space vacated by Go Shi Go and Broadway Seafood & Oyster Bar on Keeaumoku Street. But I remember this spot most as the location where my beloved Taishoken Ramen once was. It was hard going back!

Menchanko Tei, 903 Keeaumoku St. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. daily. Phone: (808) 946-1888

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FUUD: Kissaten Ramen in Waikiki

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I miss Kiwami, that authentic noodle shop on the lower level of the Waikiki Shopping Plaza.

And ever since it closed last year, I still frequent the spot, waiting to see if there’s word it will re-open somewhere else.

But last night, something else was in the spot vacated by one of my favorite ramen shops.

Kissaten Ramen — or Japanese Noodle Shop, as it said on the window — had its soft opening yesterday

This is owned by the same folks who run the popular 24-hour Kissaten Cafe near Ala Moana Center. But it’s strictly a ramen shop; don’t expect to find the cafe’s tomato bisque or turkey pesto melt here.

Here’s what our recent dinner looked like:

Kissaten Ramen

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I'm not sure if this place is called "KIssaten Ramen" or "Kissaten Japanese Noodle Shop," but the sentiment is the same: this is a ramen shop, not a coffee bar.

Kissaten Ramen, 2250 Kalakaua Ave. Suite LL-102, Waikiki.

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FUUD: Doraku Sushi in Waikiki

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For years, I had walked past — or, rather, under — Doraku Sushi on Kalakaua Avenue and always thought, “Someday, I’m going to eat there.”

Friends had raved about it. Foodies love it. And it was just a matter of time before I just walked up there and made reservations.

So one night, as Derek and I strolled around Waikiki, we decided to pop in and see if the restaurant had any available tables. It was 9 p.m. — and the restaurant was packed. Luckily, there was an open table on the lanai overlooking Kalakaua, so we ordered drinks and sat down.

Here’s the backstory about this place: This fusion sushi bar was started first in South Beach, Fla. by Kevin Aoki, the son of famous restauranteur Rocky Aoki (of Benihana fame). Doraku — which literally means something like path of fun — boasts a contemporary menu fusing Asian and Cuban flavors, from a nigiri with slices of Cuban beef to a South Beach roll with shrimp, takuan, avocado, shiso, salmon and mango salsa.

Interesting, right?

So here’s what we ate on our recent visit to this unusual sushi bar:

Doraku Sushi in Waikiki

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Located in the revitalized Royal Hawaiian Center, Doraku Sushi has garnered a loyal following of foodies and late-night eaters with its interesting blend of Asian and Cuban dishes. This contemporary fusion sushi bar was started in Miami by Kevin Aoki, son of famous restaurateur Rocky Aoki. As a result, you'll find some Cuban-influenced fusion dishes on the mostly-traditional sushi menu that are as exceptional as they are unique, like the nigiri with slices of Cuban beef or the spicy lobster roll with cucumber and a spicy cream sauce.

Doraku Sushi, Royal Hawaiian Center, 2233 Kalakaua Ave. Hours: Noon-10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, noon to 11:30 p.m. Friday, noon-midnight Saturday. Happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. excluding holidays. Phone: (808) 922-3323.

Its second location on Kapiolani Boulevard is also worth trying. Read the review by Ed Morita from Nonstop Honolulu.

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