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Getting to the Heart of Artichoke

By Alana Folen Photos By Anthony Consillio
April 12, 2015

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‘Tis the season for artichokes! From March through May, artichokes are believed to be at their peak in terms of freshness and abundance. Having grown up with this good stuff since I was a kid, I can’t help but love it. For as long as I can remember, my mother would steam it to perfection, and my family and I would dip the artichoke leaves into a blend of mayonnaise and shoyu, scraping off the meat with our teeth until we finally reached the best part of the artichoke: the heart. It’s delicious!

California produces almost 100 percent of all of the nation’s artichoke supply, but because artichokes are native to the Mediterranean, Italy, France and Spain are flagship suppliers.

Canned and jarred artichoke hearts are easy to come by, but what’s most tempting of all are the freshly made dishes interspersed with artichoke. This week, these OYK eateries bask new light on the endless possibilities made possible with this fascinating vegetable.

Sarento’s at the Top of the Ilikai

For dinner and a view that will take your breath away, Sarento’s, situated on the 30th floor of Ilikai Hotel, is the answer. A longstanding Waikiki establishment since 1994, Sarento’s knows a thing or two about top-notch Mediterranean fare. Recently, executive chef Edmond Kwok has spear-headed the idea to infuse more locally sourced ingredients into the restaurant’s rustic Italian fare.

Greek Roasted Chicken Avgolemono ($30) will please the artichoke aficionado. Robust with refreshingly clean flavors and a whole lot of savory, this dish features pan-seared boneless chicken breast placed atop garlic arugula pesto orzo, which sits in a pool of zesty Avgolemono sauce. Chef then adds pieces of crispy chicken skin, grilled artichokes, cherry tomatoes and caper berries for garnish.

Predominant flavors from lemon, garlic, artichoke, parsley and pepper immediately hit the palate, and automatically, this Greek-inspired dish is one of my go-to picks.

“The sauce is rich, and the grilled artichoke hearts bring out freshness and some acidity to balance out the dish,” says Kwok.

Sarento’s dining room opens at 5:30 p.m. nightly, and the bar at 5 p.m. Guests are treated to live music, and kamaaina (with a valid ID) receive complimentary valet at the Ilikai.

Sarento’s at the Top of the Ilikai
1777 Ala Moana Blvd.
955-5559

Formaggio Wine Bar

Formaggio Wine Bar, located on the lower level of Market City Shopping Center, beckons those who want to wash away life’s stresses with a sip of wine that goes down smoothly, good food and conversation. The restaurant, now owned by Niraj Maskey, provides an intimate setting where patrons can dine on tapas while sampling a variety of wines — approximately 80 selections.

Primarily known for its French and Italian fare, Formaggio offers a wonderful presentation of Pizza Puttanesca and Formaggio Fonduta. Both dishes infused with artichoke, Pizza Puttanesca ($13.99) is a prize of a pie topped with tomatoes, black olives, capers, artichoke, pine nuts and oregano. The meatiness of the artichoke is an added bonus (anchovies are available upon request). Priced at $13.99, Formaggio Fonduta is my absolute fave. This mouth-watering fondue, which is composed of imported cheese, spinach, artichoke and crab meat is to die for, and, of course, crostini is an obvious accompaniment.

Don’t wait any longer. Unwind in style at Formaggio Wine Bar.

Formaggio Wine Bar
Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 106
739-7719