Wednesday, June 26, 2013

First course: Arancino at the Kahala

Nadine Kam photos
Arancino at the Kahala's bagna cauda comprised orange and purple carrots, potato, okra, tomato and other greens beautifully "potted" and served with a warm anchovy and oil dip. I've seen children enjoy their vegetables when presented this way. A non-fish eating companion was offered a melted cheese dip instead.

I was wondering what Arancino's owners would do to differentiate the new Kahala Hotel & Resort branch of the restaurant from its popular Waikiki restaurants.

The answer was to go more upscale in keeping with the resort ambience. I see a bit of the Vintage Cave here in terms of plating and the focus on every detail of the ingredients that comprise each dish. The presentation is beautiful.

They've also gone with a prix fixe concept, following the Italian progression of five-course dinners, for $100, or four-course dinners for $85. Only lunch will be available a la carte.

During a media preview that took place June 17, the Inamura family, CEO Ichiro, wife Fumie and daughter Aya Inamura, vice president of Arancino Restaurants, introduced chef Daisuke Hamamoto and grand master sommelier Shinya Tasaki of Tokyo—named the World's Best Sommelier 1995 by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale—who created the wine list for the restaurant, comprising 100 selections from Italian and Pacific Rim countries, at a cost of $7 to $12 per glass.

From left, Arancino at the Kahala's Fumie Inamura, CEO Ichiro Inamura, Vice President Aya Inamura and grand master sommelier Shinya Tasaki.

The Arancino restaurants started with Ichiro's love of food, and upon moving to Hawaii, he opened a beer bar on Beachwalk Avenue, a few steps from the original Arancino at 255 Beachwalk. Arancino di Mare opened at the other end of Waikiki, in the Waikiki Beach Marriott, in the fall of 2010.

The Kahala venue, Aya said, presents the perfect opportunity to bring the cuisine up a notch and "serve the perfect upscale Italian."

The setting is the site of the former Tokyo Tokyo, and Arancino at the Kahala now features al fresco dining for about 60, outdoor bar, and a private dining area for up to 12 guests.

It'll be open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and 5 to 10:30 p.m. daily. The dress code for lunch is casual resort with shoes or dressy sandals. For dinner, it's evening resort wear and aloha wear with shoes of dressy sandals. Swimwear, sleeveless T-shirts, athletic apparel and hats will not be permitted.
Reservations: Call 808.380.4400

The private dining room.

During a media preview event, the amuse bouche was a lovely Kahuku sweet corn foam with proscuitto di Parma.

The bread selection included housemade whole wheat roll, foccaccia and grissini al formaggio (cheese breadsticks), served with unsalted butter and black salt.

The antipasti course comprised Crostacei di Mare, abalone and amaebi (sweet shrimp) lightly drizzled with herb oil. Rolled cucumber served as "planters" for sprigs of basil, parsley and other greens. Thin-sliced cauliflower added to the arrangement. Paired with 900 grapes sauvignon blanc Marlborough, New Zealand.

Chitarra alla Pescatora was one of the primi courses, featuring al dente housemade squid ink chitarra pasta, topped with a small dice of lobster, scallops and shrimp tossed with a garlic tomato sauce, and topped with two slices of grilled calamari. It was paired with Dog Point pinot noir, Marlborough, New Zealand.

General manager Matt Stancato shows the stringed chitarra used to cut sheets of pasta, inviting the "guitar" reference that gives the pasta dish, above, its name.

The secondi course was Bistecca alla Lavanda, or lavender-infused sous vide Tajima beef, surrouned by petite potatoes and onion petals, a spring of lavender, arugula, Dijon mustard, pepper and salt. This was so wonderful and the beef may look startlingly rare, but it's fully cooked and oh-so-tender. Paired with Bookwalter Foreshadow cabernet sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Wash.

A friend who could not eat seafood or meat was offered a primi course of Gnocchi Viola con Prosciutto, locally grown Okinawan potato gnocchi transformed into gnocchi and served with a light sage brown butter sauce with prosciutto and walnuts. Delicious. Paired with Montes Alpha chardonnay, Casa Blanca, Chile.

Another secondi option is Muscovy duck presented in an autumnal arrangement of earthy organic mushrooms, gobo and lightly fried leeks in a roasted duckling stock reduction. Like the beef, the duck was also prepared sous vide style. Paired with Villa Antonori Chianti Classico Riserva, Toscana, Italy.

I chose the intriguing Monte Bianco for dessert, part of the challenging new movement dolci movement. I'm pretty open to new ideas for the rest of the meal, but I find savory desserts somewhat challenging, especially in light of the fact that many people would eat dessert first if they could because they crave sweets. This chestnut puree wrapped around celery custard was decidedly unsweet, leaving it up to the yuzu honey sauce to work its magic. I do love the flavors of chestnut and celery root, but moreso as an appetizer than dessert. Served with the sinfully sweet Antinori Vin Santo, Toscana, Italy.

Dessert traditionalists will likely prefer this Mousse di Ananas, rum-infused white chocolate pineapple mousse with citrus sorbet, topped with a jaunty white chocolate cap. Served with Jackson Trigs Vidal ice wine, Ontario, Canada.

I returned for lunch later, where, by day you can enjoy the sunshine and potted rosemary against a backdrop of tropical foliage.

A ginger cooler garnished with lime slices is a thirst quencher on hot summer days.

Another light summer selection, lovely jamon Iberico atop a slice of papaya.

Tartare di Mare comprises layers of avocado, Kona kampachi, ahi tossed in a light tomato sauce and squid ink-dyed tobiko, served with toast.

Spaghetti tossed with sea urchin in a sweet garlic wine cream sauce. Very strong uni flavor.

For dessert, we opted for the dark chocolate torte with smooth glassy finish, topped with gold leaf and accompanied by a kumquat compote.

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