Melting My Heart
One thing I rarely hear anyone disagree with is the pure molten magic of melted cheese — oozing out of grilled cheese sandwiches, topping mouthwatering pizza slices and sizzling over lasagna. Well, the Swiss were clever enough to take this celestial melted bliss, mix it with some wine and herbs, and create an entire dining experience around it. And for that, all of us bona fide cheese-lovers forever will be grateful.
While daydreaming of dunking chunks of rustic bread into bubbling pots of cheesy ambrosia, I set out to explore some of Oahu’s hottest fondue this week. Much to my enjoyment — and surprise — this journey led me to some truly unique free-flowing creations, and not only of the savory variety. I also reveled in the joy of chocolate fondue, joining chocoholics in rejoicing over their favorite ingredient liquified and made splendorous with bundles of fresh fruit.
I’ve got the scoop on all these sweet and savory fondue happenings right here.
FORMAGGIO WINE BAR
As a homey dish that brings warmth to those hovering around it, fondue is meant to be savored in the coziest of environments — like that of Formaggio Wine Bar in Market City Shopping Center.
Amid an enchanting interior that makes patrons feel as though they’re dining in a countryside Italian wine cellar, frequenters of this spot wine and dine on a menu rooted in European flavors and sips. Among the treasured bites is Formaggio Fonduta ($14.99), a dish many regulars start their evening with, according to owner Niraj Maskey.
“A lot of people who drink wine like to start with the fondue — or the Escargot Bleu or Smoked Salmon Carpaccio — but everybody likes the cheese, so this one is the most popular appetizer,” he says.
This game-changing take on fondue not only delivers with a blend of high-quality cheeses, including mozzarella and Cheddar, but it also builds rich flavors with crab meat, spinach and artichoke.
And for dipping? Not just any piece of bread will do.
The crisp accompaniments with this pupu are perfectly toasted slices of baguette – which are ideal for scooping up impolite amounts of cheese.
Open evenings, the restaurant encourages guests to devour Formaggio Fonduta alongside cheese’s best friend: a tall glass of wine. The eatery’s featured bottles for December, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and Santa Christina Rosso, are excellent choices.
Formaggio Wine Bar
Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., Ste. 106
The Swiss may have popularized melting cheese in a pot, but we have New Yorkers to thank for the glorious dessert known as chocolate fondue. Luckily for Oahu dwellers, we can find luxurious streams of warm chocolate close to home at Makino Chaya in Westridge Shopping Center.
Known for offering one of Hawaii’s most popular buffets, the restaurant showcases snow crab, lobster, fresh sashimi, ahi, hamachi and much more — all offered for unbelievably reasonable prices. As part of its wide array of offerings, Makino Chaya has an impressive dessert selection to boot — the centerpiece of which is an ever-regal chocolate fountain.
Overflowing with velvety sheets of dark milk chocolate, the fountain is prime for dipping, as guests may eclipse sweet chunks of honeydew, pineapple and cantaloupe in its cocoa-coated walls. As general manager Chris Mitchell explains, the fountain is especially popular with keiki, and during the holidays, special goodies such as bananas and marshmallows also are available for dipping.
Before leaving, be sure to stop by the dessert station for heavenly Hot Bread Pudding, fried to perfection and topped with frozen yogurt and sherbet.
Diners may taste it all during the lunch buffet, offered Monday through Friday for $14.98 and Saturday and Sunday for $19.98, with snow crab available during the latter; dinner daily, which is priced at $32.98 and features the buffet as well as a la carte items; and the early bird special, priced at $20.98 Monday-Thursday, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
As for the little ones age 12 and younger, children 4 to 5 feet tall receive 50 percent off, 3 to 4 feet receive 75 percent off and under 3 feet eat for free (keiki taller than 5 feet pay full price). Additionally, seniors 65 and up receive lunch Monday through Friday for $10.98 with a valid ID.
Mitchell reminds guests to visit makinochayahawaii.com for more info, as well as coupons and discount offerings (not applicable during early bird hours).
Westridge Shopping Center
98-150 Kaonohi St., Aiea