The Top-Tier of Fine DiningCover Story Features
March 15, 2015
Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
Next time you’re in Waikiki, have your sights set on Sarento’s at the Top of the Ilikai, a fine-dining restaurant emanating casual elegance and charm. The restaurant, located on the 30th floor, opened in The Ilikai Hotel in 1994, with the goal of providing warm, hospitable service to local and visiting guests, paired with majestic views of Honolulu’s skyline and time-honored Mediterranean cuisine.
A part of Tri-Star Restaurant Group, a successful local business with more than 30 years in the restaurant industry, Sarento’s is owned and operated by president and chief executive officer Aaron Placourakis, vice president Al Souza and chairman Jiro Noguchi. Most recently, Edmond Kwok came on board as executive chef. Kwok was raised in the restaurant biz, as his father and grandfather owned the former Kwok’s Chop Suey in Kaimuki. A graduate of the local Gros Bennet Culinary School, and trained at Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Ore., Kwok spent time working at some of the island’s most renowned establishments, including Brew Moon, Alan Wong’s, Halekulani and The Kahala Hotel and Resort. After his apprenticeship at The Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, Kwok gained further experience at Nobu Waikiki and Trump International Hotel, before landing his current position at Sarento’s. Five weeks into his role as executive chef, Kwok has plans to infuse more locally sourced ingredients into the restaurant’s signature rustic Italian repertoire.
“In the near future, the menu will highlight island-grown produce from Hamakua Farms, ‘Nalo Farms and Kula, Maui,” says Kwok, who appreciates the freshness and vibrancy of such products.
Sarento’s boasts a diverse selection of cuisine that reflects the family traditions of owner Aaron Placourakis, who comes from a family of successful restaurateurs.
Osso Buco ($44) has earned its place as a highly coveted dish, and has been a favorite since the beginning. Derived from an old-country recipe, Osso Buco features melt-in-your-mouth, tender braised veal shank placed atop saffron risotto with a zest of citrus gremolata.
For the carnivorous palate, Filet Mignon Meatball Pasta ($28) also is essential, served with spaghettini in pomodoro sauce and Pecorino Romano.
Frutti Di Mare Sausage ($12) contrasts the aforementioned dishes in a complementary manner. The appetizer offers an exquisite plating of grilled local seafood sausage made of smoked salmon mousse, spiny lobster, tiger prawns, diver scallop and fresh fish, which sits in a pool of lilikoi mustard.
“We’ve been busy gearing up for the menu revamp, and I want to inspire people to come and eat at a locally-owned restaurant,” states Kwok. “I have never forgot where I came from, so I want to do my part to help groom and train new and upcoming chefs.”
In addition, Kwok hopes to integrate a new culinary concept to the menu, by introducing other delicious parts of animals that are usually not utilized in cooking.
“For example, I’m thinking of sweet-bread aka the thyroid gland of a veal, along with rabbit and the heart of a duck. They won’t be the main attraction of the dish, but it will accompany the dish nicely,” he says.
For the not-so-adventurous patron, Sarento’s Caesar Salad ($12) with Kula baby romaine, truffle zabaglione and parmigiano reggiano is a safe choice, along with the restaurant’s famous Cheese Board ($18 small, $30 large), which features chef’s selection of three types of cheese (Gorgonzola, Burata and Talalgio), candied macadamia nuts, house-made jams, chutney and pickles, as well as Lovash and grasini.
Sarento’s at the Top of the Ilikai houses a full bar, which is another popular attraction among guests. The bar opens at 5 p.m. daily, and presents its own delicious array of selections.
A class act, this award-winning establishment is a must-try for everyone. Guests also are treated to live music daily, and kamaaina (with a valid ID) receive complimentary valet at The Ilikai.
Sarento’s at the Top of the Ilikai
1777 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
Bar opens at 5 p.m., Dining room opens at 5:30 p.m. daily