Where Life is a Stage (And the Food, Drinks are the Main Act)

Columns Order of the Day

February 13, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Grilled ham and cheese. Home-style meatloaf. Apple and blueberry crisp. They’re all humble dishes, even a little pedestrian — unless, that is, you’re ordering them at Stage Restaurant, the funky, intimate eatery at the Honolulu Design Center on Kapiolani Boulevard.

  • Bubu arare-crusted New Zealand king salmon with Hirabara baby lettuce ($18)
  • Dinner appetizer Kahuku corn pannacotta with crab salad, parmesan crisp white truffle essence ($12)
  • Stage chef Ronald de Guzman
  • Stage's sleek, interior design
  • Spanish-inspired Manilla clams ($12)
  • The hamachi sashimi appetizer ($13)
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There, a simple Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich ($12) is elevated to greatness as a lunch special with ingredients like Danish Havarti, San Daniele prosciutto, truffle essence and a fresh baguette. The humble Meatloaf ($18) becomes something spectacular when it’s made with certified ground Angus beef and served with a side of truffle-mashed potatoes. And there’s nothing pedestrian about Warm Apple & Blueberry Crisp ($8), when it’s topped with house-made honey ice cream and fleur-de-sel caramel sauce.

Working with the very best ingredients available, says Charly Yoshida, makes all the difference in the world. Yoshida’s part of the “front-of-the-house” management team, and an unabashed fan of the culinary delights at Stage.

“The best tomatoes, lettuces, fish …,” Yoshida sighs happily. “Our executive chef, Ron de Guzman, describes his food as a blend of the flavors he grew up with, and the best local products he can procure. He loves fresh mushrooms, so right now we’re featuring (dishes made with) Big Island abalone mushrooms, alii mushrooms, and maitakes. Waialua asparagus, tomatoes from Hamakua Springs … he uses as much local produce as possible.”

The salads on Stage’s lunch menu are among Yoshida’s favorite plates. “I think it’s the greens that make it,” he says. “All our baby greens come from Hirabara Farms on the Big Island. Beautiful salads, beautiful sandwiches. I think we have some of the best lunch fare in town.”

Served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, lunch at Stage Restaurant features a small and thoughtful selection of dishes, each as carefully prepared and elegantly presented as the restaurant’s dinner offerings. “Our Steak Sandwich ($16) is very popular; it’s ribeye steak, sliced and sauteed, served on fresh bread with Swiss cheese,” says Yoshida. “People love the Salmon Salad ($18) and the Blackened Ahi Chopped

Salad ($16), one of my own favorites. We sell a lot of Misoyake King Salmon ($18) with green tea soba noodles as well.”

For an elegant lunch in whimsical, intimate surroundings, this place is tough to beat. Part of the 80,000-square-foot Honolulu Design Center owned by Oahu design retailer Thomas Sorensen, Stage’s decor consists of elements from the design center’s massive furniture collection, which includes pieces by Fendi Casa, Natuzzi and de Sede. Each table gets its own unique lighting treatment.

During the lunch rush, Honolulu office workers enjoy Stage’s free parking and accessibility. “It’s easy to get here,” Yoshida says. “People come from downtown on King Street, turn down Pensacola, and come right into our building; the parking is covered and you don’t have to pay for it. Locals appreciate that!”

There’s plenty more to appreciate here. Oenophiles appreciate Stage’s huge wine list — almost 500 bottles are available here, priced from $15 to $4,000. And wine geeks-in-training love the Amuse Wine Bar, a self-serve dispensing system that offers 80 different vintages, from 40 cents to $30 per ounce. On Mondays and Wednesdays, guests may purchase $50 of Amuse credit for $30.

All the breads at Stage are house-made, and three different types are always offered with dinner (tonight’s selection: pumpkin bread with ginger essence, sourdough and a pepper brioche). “If you come to lunch and order a burger or an ahi sandwich, the bread and buns are made here,” says Yoshida. “We also make our own ice creams in small batches, about a gallon at a time.”

The exquisite desserts at Stage are the work of pastry chef Cainan Sabey, whose Vietnamese Style Coffee Flan ($8), made with Manjari chocolate crunch, coconut sorbet, Nutella syrup and candied hazel-nuts, is a huge hit with regulars. In the evenings, diners may finish with Cotton Candy & Ice Cream Cake Du Jour ($14): “Leave everything to your chef,” the menu instructs. It’s dessert, omakase-style — a sweet tooth’s secret fantasy.

On Tuesday, Stage will once again offer a three-course prix fixe dinner ($34.95), consisting of appetizer or salad, a choice of two entrees and a dessert sampler to share. “We did it in October, and people keep asking for it, so we’re going to do it again,” says Yoshida. “But we’re waiting till after Valentine’s Day!”

Ah, yes. If you haven’t already made reservations at Stage for its special Valentine’s Day dinner tomorrow evening, you’ll have to wait till next year — it’s all booked up.

Stage Restaurant

  • Where
    • 1250 Kapiolani Boulevard
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
  • Call
    • (808) 237-5429

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