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Award-winning Meals

Ono, You Know

October 14, 2018

Story By: Ellise Kakazu | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

Editor Ellise Kakazu holds Wolfgang’s Steakhouse’s 2018 Ilima Award while server Ryan Takayama presents the restaurant’s best-seller, Steak For Two ($120.95).

Everyone wants to be recognized as the best. It doesn’t matter if you are a musician, actor, athlete or chef (the list goes on), you can’t deny the innate desire to be No. 1.

But in order to be named the creme de la creme (French for best of the best) of any industry, one must put in a lot of hard work and dedication before earning such a title. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”

So when the Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s 2018 Ilima Award winners — who are considered the “best restaurants on Oahu” — recently were announced, I knew I had to recognize some of the deserving victors in this week’s column.

Without further ado, I would like to present a couple of the award-winning spots relentlessly working to serve up nothing but top-notch food.

THE BEST OF THE BEST

Since the very beginning, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Waikiki has been offering only high-quality food and service.

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse’s Steak For Two accompanied by Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach ($11.95 each)

The steakhouse’s persistent efforts to provide guests with outstanding dining experiences even caught the attention of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s publisher Dennis Francis, who selected Wolfgang’s Steakhouse as the 2018 Ilima Awards’ Publisher’s Choice.

“It’s just such a great honor,” says Bill Nickerson, general manager. “It takes everybody that works under the name Wolfgang’s to receive such an honor. It’s very flattering to see the hard work of my employees pay off.”

Nickerson notes the aloha spirit and hospitality guests receive at Wolfgang’s is what he is most proud of. But, of course, that’s not all the steakhouse provides.

Known for its divine cuts of beef, Wolfgang’s presents only USDA Prime grade meat (only the top 2 percent of the United State’s beef falls into this category) to customers’ tables — the restaurant imports its exquisite beef from Master Purveyors, Inc. in New York.

Nickerson says Wolfgang’s mission is “to serve the best steak anywhere and do it with a smile.”

All of Wolfgang’s steaks live up to their esteemed reputation, but there’s one that always leaves customers in awe — Steak For Two ($120.95), a hefty porterhouse steak that arrives to one’s table sizzling hot. Before being plated for guests, the beef is dry-aged for about 28 days to obtain its tender texture, condensed marbling and great flavor, and is cooked to perfection using 1,600-degree heat. “It’s our flagship steak,” Nickerson notes.”I think there’s definitely the ‘wow’ factor.”

Between bites of the succulent beef, guests can enjoy sides like Creamed Spinach ($11.95) or Mashed Potatoes ($11.95). “It’s quintessential steakhouse fare,” adds Nickerson.

While the steakhouse is famous for its meat, Nickerson notes its seafood offerings also are hits — guests can find items like opakapaka, ahi and lobster rolling out of the kitchen. “We have great seafood,” he says.

RISING TO THE TOP

Fendu Boulangerie’s owner and chef Niel Koep is not afraid of hard work. At the tender age of 15, Koep landed his first job as a restaurant floor sweeper in New Jersey and worked his way up to busser and barboy. A couple years later, he wound up at a French restaurant, where he eventually got a job in the kitchen.

Fendu Boulangerie’s Valrohna Dark Chocolate Domes ($5.99 each)

“That’s where I really got the spark to do desserts,” says Koep.

From that point on, his passion for baking sky rocketed. He attended numerous culinary schools and received formal training from masters across the country — Koep traveled everywhere from New York to Chicago to learn his craft.

“School is invaluable,” he notes. “Formal training is great, you learn a lot, quick.”

After years of training and experience as a chef, Koep opened his dream bakery — Fendu Boulangerie — in 2009 with a mission to provide Hawaii’s residents with European-style baked goods.

Fendu Boulangerie’s Basil Pesto Chicken Panini ($10.25)

According to Koep, the bakery was a hit from day one. And thanks to its loyal fans, Fendu continues to be known as one of the best bakeries on the island. In fact, Fendu Boulangerie was named Illima Awards’ Best Bakery in the Critic’s Choice category this month.

“I feel honored,” says Koep. “(I’m) very happy about it.”

Rolling out goodies that are both sweet and savory, Fendu offers a ton of award-worthy bites. Customers can find everything from fresh baked breads and Lanai calamansi tarts to delightful artisan sandwiches at the bakery.

Koep notes one of the most popular sandwiches on the menu is Basil Pesto Chicken Panini ($10.25), which features house-made macadamia nut pesto, sauteed shallots, bacon, goat cheese, strips of chicken and farm tomatoes between made in-house bread.

Those looking for the perfect way to end a meal or a treat to get you through the day, should reach for Fendu’s Valrohna Dark Chocolate Dome ($5.99), a glossy chocolate bomb filled with Grand Marnier (orange liqueur) creme brulee, dark chocolate mousse, chocolate chunk macadamia nut sponge cake and a thin almond cookie. “Its definitely a French inspired dessert,” Koep notes.

Koep serves up all of these treats and more every day of the week. Hard work never tasted so good!

Well, I think we learned an important lesson here — dreams don’t work unless you do.

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