Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Stage Restaurant and Amuse Wine BarRestaurant Insider
November 22, 2020
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with Stage Restaurant executive chef RON DE GUZMAN
Executive chef Ron de Guzman has worked with Alan Wong at The Pineapple Room and at Halekulani, but Stage Restaurant has a special place in his heart. In fact, he’s been with the establishment since it opened in 2007.
“I did leave in 2013 for six months, then returned because I missed it so much and have been here ever since,” he explains. “Our owner Thomas Sorensen has a big heart and this place is truly unique. I really am blessed to be able to create and work with a collaborative team. I love what we can do here.”
This week, de Guzman shares more about the upcoming Wine Ovation Dinner and Thanksgiving specials. Note that reservations are recommended, and dine-in groups are limited to parties of five or less.
AL: How has COVID-19 impacted your restaurant?
RDG: We seriously thought about how to preserve the dining experience. It is such a special part of our lives, and we try to do everything we can to not take away from it. We want you to feel safe and not have to worry about how to adhere to COVID guidelines. Most of our lives are now spent thinking about it, and we wanted to keep Stage and Amuse as places where you come to have a good time. Once you are seated, you can leave the responsibilities of guidelines and protocols to us.
AL: What’s happening for the holidays?
RDG: We are starting off Thanksgiving week with our Wine Ovation Dinner and will also be running Thanksgiving-themed specials on Wednesday. We are closed on Thanksgiving Day, but have a “Take & Bake” menu available to preorder. A holiday tasting menu will be available in December, plus special menus for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. A December tasting menu is also coming up!
AL: The monthly Wine Ovation Dinner is every third Tuesday (except for December). Tell me more about November’s menu.
RDG: This month’s menu ($65) was inspired by Thanksgiving. You can add a wine pairing for $35.
Amuse Bouche “Turkey Dinner”: Mash Potato, Gravy, Cranberry, Pate Choux.
First Course, Persimmon Salad: with Goat Cheese Croquette, Nuesky Apple Wood Smoked Bacon, Kahumana Greens, Walnut Powder, Cranberry Vinaigrette.
Second Course, Pork and Pumpkin: Crispy Pork Belly, Kabocha Pumpkin-Coconut Puree, Apple Cider Reduction, Island Honey Glazed Organic Maui Carrots, Rosemary.
Third Course, “Stuffing” Crusted New York Strip: Creamy Horseradish, Blue Cheese Potato Salad, Caramelized Maui Onions, Demi Glace.
Dessert, “Sweet Potato Casserole”: Roasted Sweet Potato, Brown Butter Apples, Candied Pecan Crumble, Toasted Maple Meringue, Cookie Butter Ice Cream.
AL: How do you come up with menu and wine pairings?
RDG: Our culinary team comes up with a theme, and designs dishes incorporating different flavors and techniques. We do our best to use local products and flavors whenever possible. It’s a special monthly menu, which showcases the talents we have on our culinary team, as well as the wonderful Sky Cameron. He uses his expertise to pair wines with every course, and is here with us in the evenings to talk each guest through wine pairings and offer information on the wines featured on this menu.
AL: You recently added a Tasting Thursday menu. Tell me more about that event.
RDG: Tasting Thursday ($50) is a weekly three-course menu offered at Stage Restaurant. You can add a wine pairing for ($25) or cocktail paring ($30). It’s our way of being able to share our passion and come up with different menus weekly. It’s also a great way for us to support local, as they all are themed around local products, techniques or flavors.
We also wanted to make sure that we were creating an affordable and fun experience for all. We rotate our menu based on local availability. Due to popularity, there are times we don’t have all three items on the menu, but they will come back once we have access to the ingredients.
AL: What are some customer favorites?
RDG: The Angus Certified Homestyle Meatloaf ($22), Beef Wellington ($42) and The Pan Roasted Island Opah ($32).
AL: The dining chairs and tables are actual pieces that you can purchase. Who helps choose these pieces?
RDG: The majority of the furniture in Stage Restaurant is designed by Kenneth Cobonpue, a Filipino industrial designer known for his unique designs that integrate natural materials through innovative handmade production processes. In 2018, when owner Thomas Sorensen decided to renovate Stage Restaurant, he decided to go for a more “tropical feel” — instead of the darker, more modern decor featured previously.
Cobonpue’s designs were a perfect way to reinvent Stage largely because of the materials he uses; they symbolize an “ode to nature.” Thomas chose all the different furniture pieces himself and, of course, purchased extra to be sold in INspiration Interiors. He is a huge believer in cross-promotion, and what better way to test out dining room furniture than to enjoy a five-star meal in it.
AL: What is your favorite part of your job?
RDG: The creative part of cooking; getting to create dishes and have them on the menu.
AL: Any fun facts most people wouldn’t know about the restaurant?
RDG: We have over 180 wines by the bottle, a very extensive wine list that is offered at Amuse. Our guests are still able to enjoy all of the different offerings. For the safety of our patrons, we do the pouring for you.