Let’s Go On A Gourmet GetawayColumns Ono, You Know
August 13, 2017
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
For many of us, dining out offers the chance to escape the norm by lux uriating in fine flavors we don’t see — or taste, rather — every day. When done right, a lovely meal paired with great service can make us feel as though we’ve taken a mini vacation from our daily responsibilities.
For that reason, I’m in search of something extra special this week — a bite that is fanciful and utterly unique for our next culinary getaway.
To me, salmon perfectly fits the bill, as its distinctive flavor renders it unmistakable in any dish, and its rich, oily texture always feels lavish to the tongue.
Plus, the versatile fish lends itself to sushi, lomi-lomi, lox and cooked preparations, making it one ingredient we’ll never tire of.
So without further ado, let’s get whisked away to a world of salmon bliss:
FOR YOUR ‘AMUSE-MENT’
When cooked correctly, salmon meat is unctuous as can be.
Though many home cooks have mastered the art of preparing this fish just right, I, sadly, am not one of them. To avoid a dry, overcooked fillet, I leave my salmon indulgences to the professionals, trusting in the culinary talents of executive chef Ron de Guzman to make my palate’s dreams come true.
De Guzman heads up the contemporary island-fusion cuisine at Stage Restaurant, as well as the menus at sister eateries Amuse Wine Bar and Stage Café — all located within Honolulu Design Center. One dish that continues to rotate throughout all three of those dining spots is Bubu Arare Salmon ($14). De Guzman is known to refresh his menu items regularly, but the popularity of this light yet sumptuous meal has made it a total keeper. (In fact, it’s a favorite of owner Thomas Sorensen.)
Currently served evenings at Amuse Wine Bar and during the day at the ground-floor café, the entree highlights New Zealand King Salmon whose succulence is balanced by a light salad dressed in yuzu and olive oil. The defining factor of this dish, however, is its electrifying crust of crispy rice crackers.
“I like the mini rice crackers because they have a familiar flavor and a nice texture that lends to a dish that has a lot of softness; the fish and salad are on the softer side, so they add a crouton crunch to the dish,” says the chef.
Lastly, house-made tri-mustard vinaigrette — a recipe that’s been perfected over the five-plus years since the dish debuted — brings a welcomed pop of flavor.
And just as we aim for with any nice meal out on the town, Amuse Wine Bar, with its glistening wine dispensers and convivial atmosphere, offers the perfect setting in which to escape it all. There’s also a secluded spacious banquet-style room tucked away behind the bar that is available for upscale private dinner parties.
Amuse Wine Bar
Honolulu Design Center
1250 Kapiolani Blvd, Honolulu
THERE’S ‘LOX’ TO LOVE HERE
Perhaps it’s being surrounded by beautiful hotels, world-class shopping and a stunning shoreline, but something about dining in Waikiki instantly makes me feel as though I’m on vacation. Even better, I’ve just about jet-setted to Italy when I scoop up the house-made pasta and fresh ingredients served at Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar.
In addition to offering delizioso lunch and dinner menus, complete with an extensive wine list, Il Lupino serves as a fabulous spot to revel in a leisurely breakfast (every morning from 7 to 11:30) or weekend brunch (7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday) throughout the week. And if you’re partial to al-fresco dining like I am, take a seat on the eatery’s lanai overlooking gorgeous foliage.
Once seated, start your day with one of Il Lupino’s smoked salmon specialties, the restaurant’s take on a few breakfast classics.
Smoked Salmon Benedict ($16), for starters, dazzles with poached eggs, fresh and locally grown tomato, and Atlantic lox placed on top of a toasted English muffin. The high-quality salmon is accented by executive chef Diego Pacuruco’s luxurious house-made hollandaise, which gets a superb speckling of chili pepper and fresh chives.
In an effort to use island-sourced ingredients as much as possible, the chef notes that “we use local farm eggs for the dish.”
The other way to get your fill of lox at Il Lupino is to order a caper-spotted Smoked Salmon Bagel ($16). You’ll be more than ready to tackle the day after taking a hearty bite of the cream cheese, shaved red onions, Kamuela tomato and romaine lettuce accoutrements.
IL Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar
Royal Hawaiian Center, ground floor
2233 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki