A Taste of Taormina
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Taormina takes your breath away as one of Sicily’s top travel destinations since it became part of the European Grand Tour in the 19th century and claimed the title of Sicily’s first-ever resort. This pristine haven lies 200 meters above sea level on Monte Tauro on Sicily’s east coast, and offers remarkable views of the majestic coast and Mount Etna volcano. A visit to Taormina during springtime is ideal, when many travelers enjoy the wonders of this exotic town, including remnants of its Greek and Roman habitation, a fine medieval quarter and castle ruins, and, of course, its modern shops and outstanding restaurants.
Now you can experience a taste of Taormina right here at home at none other than Taormina Sicilian Cuisine, conveniently located in Waikiki Beach Walk on Lewers Street. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, enticing guests with the finest in Sicilian fare.
“We’re very adamant about entertaining guests in a true Sicilian fashion,” says Conan Paik-Rosa, general manager of Taormina. “We’re an authentic Sicilian restaurant, and a lot of people ask what’s the difference between Italian and Sicilian cuisine. When it comes to Sicilian cuisine, we use a lot of fresh ingredients. We don’t use heavy tomato sauces or cream sauces, instead we use a lot of fresh tomatoes, fresh seafood, white wine and lots and lots of olive oil. Sicilian cuisine is a lighter cuisine — simple, but very elegant.”
Taormina opened its doors in November 2007, and pays homage to the time-honored cuisine of Southern Sicily with contemporary style and flair all within an invitingly warm and modern, family-friendly atmosphere (dress code is casual). And executive chef Hiro Mimura ups the ante on a daily basis as he expertly pairs the freshest of pastas with the highest quality seafoods and meats.
“I’ve been to Taormina, Italy, many times. Food is the culture there, people are always eating,” says Mimura, who has dazzled diners at restaurants across the globe with his extraordinary culinary techniques. “I’ve worked in Tokyo, Florence and Sicily,” he states. “My mentor is chef Luca Pecorini, who I worked with in Florence. He’s been an inspiration to me.
“Sicilian cooking incorporates a lot of fruits, nuts, cheeses and seafood, in addition to a lot of herbs and spices such as coriander and cumin,” Mimura says.
As the only Sicilian restaurant here in the Islands, it’s no surprise that this gem of an eatery is frequented by both locals and tourists alike. In fact, Paik-Rosa recommends diners make reservations at least a week in advance to guarantee a place at this hot spot, especially during the dinner rush.
“We have a grand menu aka our regular menu, a mid-day selections menu and a five-course menu for patrons to enjoy,” Paik-Rosa says, noting that the five-course menu and grand menu are available all day. “We highly recommend the five-course menu ($60 per person) because it’s the perfect amount of food with each course, and it allows our guests to sample some of the most popular items off of our grand menu.”
Prepared especially for individual dining, the five-course dining experience begins with an anti pasto or appetizer of Misti, sliced Parma prosciutto and melon with mozzarella paired with a perfect portion of marinated squid and octopus. Then cleanse your palate with a refreshing bowl of Chilled Green Pea Potage Soup topped off with olive oil, parsley and croutons. Next, your Sicilian culinary journey continues with a pasta of your choice, whether it be Spaghettini alla Taormina (spaghettini with pan-fried shrimp, fresh tomato, arugala and basil lightly tossed with garlic and olive oil) or Ricci di Mare (spaghettini with fresh sea urchin and garlic).
“You can upgrade your pasta choice to Ricci di Mare for an additional $10,” Paik-Rosa explains. “We just recently added this to the five-course menu because this uni pasta is our signature dish. It’s really popular and a lot of people want to try it.”
As for your main course, select from three exquisite entrees of Seared Ahi Tuna with Salsa Cecca, Hawaiian tuna filet with fresh tomato salsa served with mixed greens, beets and goat cheese; Filetto di Manzo, grilled beef tenderloin with a balsamic reduction; or Pan Roasted Duck Breast, thinly sliced duck breast drizzled with an orange balsamic reduction sauce.
“Beef tenderloin would have to be the most requested of the three,” Paik-Rosa says.
Finally, the five-course meal ends on a high note with the sweetest delight. Drum roll, please, for Cream Caramel with Italian gelato splashed with a homemade strawberry sauce.
“We have regular patrons who never tire of this place and come in every week,” Paik-Rosa says, adding that the restaurant’s extensive wine list lures in many customers as well.
“We’re a well-rounded restaurant,” he adds. “The ambiance is amazing, service is amazing and, of course, the food is amazing. We’re unique, and the majority of people really appreciate Sicilian cuisine and are willing to try it — and we’re happy because of that.”
Taormina Sicilian Cuisine
- 227 Lewers Street
- Honolulu, HI 96815
- (808) 926-5050
- Sunday – Thursday
- 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Friday – Saturday
- 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.