Rice Is Nice
In Spain, it’s called paella; in the Middle East, a pilaf; in Italy, it’s known as risotto; and throughout Asia and Hawaii, fried rice. Regardless of where you go, rice serves as an irreplaceable foundation for hearty, traditional meals, many of which are considered classics among their respective cultures.
If we take a hint from the Spanish, in particular, nothing quite compares to mixing that universally adored rice with a blend of fresh seafood. It’s like a match made in heaven, with the rice serving as a blank canvas that’s ready to soak up all of those ocean-kissed flavors.
But as you’ll see in this article, Spain is not the only country that masters the mixing of seafood and rice. Here, we’ll take a multi-cultural bite out of some of Honolulu’s best recipes in this department.
MY, OH MIMI’S!
Another nation that cooks up flavorful rice specialties is Peru, and one of those dishes is Arroz con Mariscos. Translating from Spanish to mean “rice with seafood,” this regional creation comes from the coastal towns of the South American country — and luckily, you can try it right here at home at one of Oahu’s only Peruvian restaurants, Mimi’s Place.
Located in Waterfront Plaza, Mimi’s gives islanders a taste of chef and owner Mimi Rivasplata’s cuisine, who moved to Hawaii with her familly from Lima, Peru. You’ll feel as though you’ve traveled to the country when you dine at Mimi’s, as traditional music sings through the speakers and Peruvian photographs adorn the walls, including one of Rivasplata on her wedding day. You might even spot Spanish-speaking kamaaina enjoying a meal in the convivial setting.
The real authenticity shines through the food, however, which is a reflection of Peru’s multi-cultural population that encompasses Japanese, Chinese, French and Italian influences in addition to the local Peruvian flavors.
Getting back to Arroz con Mariscos ($25), the dish is something of a Peruvian take on paella, presenting a plethora of seafood that varies depending on what’s fresh. Often featuring mussels, octopus, shrimp, scallops and even opihi at times, the entree is cooked slowly in a white wine-based sauce. You’ll love the Peruvian flair that’s added to the rice with traditional spices such as achiote, which also gives the rice its distinctive golden color.
“Arroz con Mariscos is becoming one of the customer’s favorites,” says Katya Rivasplata, Mimi’s daughter and restaurant manager. With a fresh squeeze of lime on top, the dish is simply perfecto.
Come in to Mimi’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and be sure to try other favorites like ceviche or Lomo Saltado with beef and french fries.
500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 1 E, Honolulu
‘RICE RICE’ BABY
Perhaps the most well known — and elegant — interpretation of rice is risotto, a classic dish originating from Northern Italy. It’s usually slow cooked in broth to give it an especially thick, creamy and comforting consistency, while short-grain Arborio rice gives risotto just the right texture.
If there’s a risotto you have to try here in the Islands, it’s Lobster Seafood Risotto from Sarento’s at the Top of the Ilikai. Priced at $54, this treasure of an entree presents 5 ounces of Maine lobster tail paired with pan-seared scallop, shrimp, calamari and manila clams. It’s served over a saffron risotto decked out with house-made Italian sausage and a rich and buttery lobster nage (broth).
“It’s one of our most popular items, so we always have it on the menu,” says general manager Joe DePolis.
For years now, Sarento’s has been championing Mediterranean cuisine dressed up with local ingredients on a daily basis. Seeing as it’s located on the top floor of Waikiki’s iconic Ilikai Hotel & Luxury Suites, the eatery couples its supreme food with a stunning 360-degree view of Honolulu.
Admire the sunset during happy hour that offers specials in the bar and lounge area from 5 to 6:30 p.m. nightly, and all night on Wednesdays and Saturdays. To supplement the drink specials and “small plate” dining selections, patrons receive 40 percent off any menu item with the purchase of a signature cocktail during happy hour — all while enjoying live music. It truly doesn’t get better than that.
Sarento’s at the Top of the Ilikai
Ilikai Hotel & Luxury Suites
1777 Ala Moana Blvd., Waikiki