Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Bernini Honolulu

Restaurant Insider

September 27, 2020

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: MARK GALACGAC

Bernini Honolulu executive chef Toshihiro Kobayasahi (center) and treasurer Nat Kobayasahi (right) share what’s exciting on the menu with Anne Lee.

ANNE LEE speaks with Bernini Honolulu executive chef TOSHIHIRO KOBAYASHI and treasurer NAT KOBAYASHI

I had a chance to sit with executive chef Toshihiro Kobayasahi and his sister Nat Kobayasahi at Bernini Honolulu in Kakaako. The popular Italian/French-influenced bistro first opened its doors in April 2011, and Toshi and his family recently became its new owners and have added a few personal touches.

Toshi studied under chef Teruaki Yoda and worked alongside him at the famous restaurant Ramages for many years. Teruaki, for his part, is one of the only Japanese chefs trained by the iconic “Chef of the Century” Joël Robuchon, and was the youngest chef allowed into the exclusive Club des Trente. With extensive training under the best of the best, Toshi brings the French and Italian experience to the local palate. Dining at Bernini Honolulu gives you the experience of traveling to France and Italy, right from your proverbial backyard.

Aside from pastas and pizzas, Bernini Honolulu also serves up great meat dishes.

AL: What got you into the culinary industry?

NK: Since he was a child, Toshi really loved food — he loved to eat. At age 18, his love and curiosity for food led him to enroll in culinary school in Nagoya, Japan. That is when his curiosity shifted to wanting to learn how to make the delicious cuisine that he enjoyed eating.

TK: I always had a passion for food. When I first started culinary school, I wanted to be an Italian chef. I asked for advice from a famous Italian chef in Nagoya, and he suggested I learn French cuisine first, as that is much more difficult. Once you can do that, he said, you can incorporate that knowledge into Italian — it cannot be the other way around. I trained under Teruaki Yoda for over 10 years. After culinary school, I reached out to all of the famous chefs for an interview, and chef Teruaki Yoda was the one chef that gave me an interview. He challenged me. Working under him was hard, long hours with no breaks, but I learned every aspect of the kitchen.

He was strict but it came from the heart. Chef Teruaki had a passion for what he did, and I learned so much from him and use those skills today.

Assorted appetizers

AL: What brought you to Hawaii?

TK: My parents have a home here in Hawaii (about 10 years ago), and every year I would come to visit. I always envisioned opening a restaurant here, and wanted to do French cuisine because at that time there weren’t that many French restaurants. I wanted to bring my palate and culinary skillset to Hawaii to bring the flavors of famous restaurants in Japan.

AL: Tell me more about your wine list.

NK: We sell the most Kenzo Estate wines out of our restaurant. Dining Out readers can take advantage of some special prices for Kenzo wines and other wines that chef recommends for takeout. Some savings are up to 50 percent off! You can find our special-priced wines on our website: berninihonolulu.com.

AL: What are the top sellers here?

TK: Ricci De Mare, our version of the uni pasta, was one of our best sellers before COVID. Our version is different, as it’s oil based. Our signature French dish on the menu is Rossini ($55), which is Washugyu filet mignon on top of puréed potatoes, foie gras, and perigueux sauce and truffle.

AL: What is your favorite dish to eat?

TK: I love everything I eat. I do not like to eat the same thing and always try new things. However I am in awe of sushi. It’s amazing how fish and rice can have such an impact on the world. Everyone knows what sushi is, from high end to low end.

AL: Are there any specials our readers should know about?

TK: Right now, we are featuring our three-course meals to-go ($25). Choose one appetizer, one entrée (pasta or pizza) and two assorted desserts. You can also choose some items on this menu for a light upcharge, like our Pizza Romana, for example. The one we are featuring is our No. 1 seller: the Prosciutto e Marscapone. Our pizza dough takes two hours to make, and there is a two-step process to the crust to make it light, airy, thin and crispy.

AL: What are some local favorites?

TK:We know a lot of locals love beef, so we started to offer American Wagyu steak plates to-go (starting at $15). We are featuring our Grilled “American Wagyu Fillet Mignon” with homemade steak sauce, served with salad, Bernini onion soup, and your choice of focaccia or rice for only $27.

AL: Is there anything else you want to share?

NK:We offer free delivery for orders of $50 or more (between the airport and Hawaii Kai), delivered by Toshi himself. Guests are delighted when he delivers their food to their door, because he is also able to give you suggestions on the best way to reheat and serve your order. We will be incorporating more delivery staff due to the demand.

Honolulu, HI 96814

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best