Setting the ‘Stage’Cover Story
June 16, 2019
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
For something deliciously different, check out Bespoke at Amuse, 6-7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. Held in the Bamboo Garden in Amuse Bar, Stage Restaurant’s neighbor at Honolulu Design Center, the event ($35/person) features three spirits, sampled raw and then in cocktails that highlight each one. (This month: bourbon!) “Our guests vote for the one they enjoy most, and we run it as Signature Cocktail of the Month,” explains general manager Michael Moore.
“The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places,” wrote British novelist Roald Dahl.”
Mr. Dahl might have been referring to a place exactly like Stage Restaurant. One of Honolulu’s most unique places to eat, Stage is located on the second floor of the Honolulu Design Center on Kapiolani Boulevard. The first floor is home of INspiration, whose six showrooms are filled with gorgeous contemporary and European furnishings.
These striking surroundings certainly seem to inspire the exquisite menu at Stage. Just a little off the beaten path, the restaurant offers a fine selection of delightfully creative, reasonably priced dishes. Stage’s delicious fare is ample reward for the tiny bit of extra effort it takes to get there. The wonderful setting is just icing on the cake.
“We’re a hidden gem, to say the least,” says general manager Michael Moore. “We’ve been here for 12 years and there’s still plenty of people who aren’t familiar with us.”
But those who have been fortunate enough to discover Stage invariably become instant devotees. They rave about the restaurant’s gorgeously whimsical decor, its spacious dining room with plenty of elbow room and its cozy booths that are perfect for dates, and its free parking garage, with entrances on both Piikoi and Pensacola. Most of all, they rave about its menu, developed in a kitchen led by executive chef and world traveler Ron de Guzman.
“We’re such a unique place that Chef tries to make the food experience unique as well, to match the environment,” says Moore. “One of the restaurant’s main themes is world-inspired cuisine with a local comfort interpretation. Chef likes to take inspiration from anywhere around the globe, and incorporate familiar flavors and ingredients locals would call their own.”
It’s the season to showcase lighter fare, and Stage’s salads are the undisputed summer stars. Made with en-dive, Big Island hearts of palm, crispy Parmesan, anchovy vinaigrette, and bacon powder, the Caesar Salad ($12) is a unique interpretation of a century-old classic. That’s also true of the Smoked Ho Farms Panzanella Salad ($12). Stage’s take on this Tuscan specialty includes croutons, grape tomatoes, balsamic pearls, herb oil, and delectably smoky goat cheese.
Fans of umami foods must try the Chawanmushi ($13). Savory, salty, and irresistible, the custard is stuffed with shiitake mushrooms, sweet corn, scallion puree, katsuobushi (dried, fermented, smoked skipjack tuna) and smoked trout roe.
Stage’s Kauai Shrimp Garlic Scampi ($32) is an applause-inspiring entree made with shrimp from the Garden Isle, considered by some people to be the finest in the world. It also includes Asian-inspired pasta, garlic cream, crispy garlic, shiitake mushrooms, tobiko (flying fish roe), shiso (whose leaves are in the mint family), katsuobushi, and chili threads.
The restaurant makes an astonishing 100 wines available by the glass, and also features a full bar with extended spirits menu, classic cocktails and craft beers.
For birthdays, bachelorette parties, and other private gatherings, the Bamboo Garden at Amuse Wine Bar can seat 20-25 guests in a charming 350-square-foot enclosed room overlooking Kapiolani Boulevard. For larger gatherings, the Cupola Gallery offers private dining for 22 and an open gallery that can accommodate a standing reception of up to 150 guests. The space is perfect for events ranging from intimate chef’s tasting dinners to elegant cocktail parties. Call Stage for details.