First-time guests to Baci Bistro might think that co-owner Bill Duval is psychic. On any given night, he greets visitors at the door, addressing most by name. His friendliness is hardly supernatural, though—it's a shared habit between himself and his wait staff: remembering the names of returning guests. Some of the servers have even been stocking their mental rolodexes since the bistro first opened in 1997, when designers first planted the red, puckering-lips logo around the foliage-flanked interior.
Along with the warmth of its employees, Baci Bistro's signature element is freshness. Executive chef and co-owner Reza Azeri stands by the appetizing simplicity of made-to-order meals, prepping sauces that harmonize with pastas instead of masking their flavor. Ravioli remains the house specialty, whether it's stuffed with lobster or the surprise ingredient of the day, and meat entrees decorate veal, pork, chicken, and fish with vegetables and wine sauces. The menu also allows children to mix and match their choices of sauces and noodles rather than forcing them to eat like adults, who enjoy wine sauces and wipe their mouths with business cards.
At first glance, The Grove is a paradox. It's family owned and operated, but helmed by the same world-class chef—Fred DeAngelo—who has run award-winning establishments such as the beachfront Ola restaurant at Turtle Bay Resort, and hosted a dinner at the James Beard House in New York City. Chef DeAngelo draws products from local farmers whenever possible, but also uses internationally gleaned ingredients such as cedar-plank New Zealand king salmon and Maine lobster. And although the twinkling party lights and live music on the laid-back patio give the restaurant a low-key, family-friendly vibe, the regular training, menu quizzing, and table hurdling of the attentive wait staff are reminiscent of a fine-dining experience.
The answer to the puzzle may be found in the diverse background of Chef DeAngelo's 'ohana, which is Hawaiian for family. As reported by the Honolulu Weekly, DeAngelo and his sister are Italian, Hawaiian, Korean, German, and Polish; his wife is Hawaiian, Chinese, Spanish, and Filipino; and his brother-in-law is Greek. So guests can order ahi poke, Greek-marinated roast chicken, or risotto all from the same menu, whose eclectic nature may also stem from Chef DeAngelo's world travels as a representative for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
According to another Honolulu Weekly article, the blend of cultures is a success. "The food and well-trained service is white tablecloth … But the mood is palaka-covered picnic table. A rare and sweet balance." Whatever the reason behind the culinary choices, they seem to be working: the hot spot was named a Best New Restaurant silver medalist in Honolulu magazine's 2013 Hale Aina Awards.
Behind Tokoname's dark-wood storefront and rustic carved sign, chefs craft of authentic Japanese fare by the light of hanging lanterns. Sushi standards such as ahi tuna nigiri and shrimp tempura share table space with more exotic seasonal items, including abalone and monkfish liver. Patrons can also opt to wash down meals with a round of sake cocktails or a beer tower for the table. During lunches at the Manoa location, chefs also drizzle chicken in homemade teriyaki sauce.
With Flavor of Hawaii Culinary Adventures, tourists and locals can experience the culture and unique flavors of Hawaii at the same time. Its walking tour explores a variety of restaurants in Kailua or Waikiki, allowing diners to sample different dishes and interact with an award-winning chef. While walking between restaurants, tour-takers can savor the flavors of dishes such as fried rice, malasadas, haupia-glazed bread pudding, and fresh ahi poke.
Once a month at Formaggio Grill, guests indulge in four-course meals paired with fine wines. It sounds like a typical dinner party, save one difference: no one can see a thing. The monthly event is called Dining in the Dark, and Formaggio Grill hopes that it will encourage guests to slow down, savor their dinners, and even reconsider their approaches to fine dining.
Even without the blindfolds, Formaggio Grill touts that mission with careful preparation of Mediterranean-style cuisine in a warm, welcoming space. Chefs smoke prime rib over kiawe wood and toss pastas with housemade sausage. Servers are happy to help pair entrees with selections from a list of more than 50 wines from around the world.
The restaurant envelops diners in warm reds and golds, and low light casts plush red stools and a wooden bar in a warm glow. The artwork of Ron Genta adds splashes of color to the walls, and local musicians take to the stage on the weekends to entertain patrons with smooth guitar sounds or the dulcet tones of a whale’s song.
Round Table Pizza's chefs have been rolling out fresh, made-from-scratch dough, sprinkling it with a signature three-cheese blend, and baking the delectable disks to a golden brown for more than half a century. Diners can begin jaunts down the menu by sinking fangs into the King Arthur Supreme to get a taste of pepperoni, italian sausage, dry salami, linguica, and various veggies ($14.49 for a small), before waiting patiently as companions take turns trying to free them from its cheesy embrace. Gourmet veggie pies curb herbaceous cravings with sliceable fields of artichoke hearts and zucchini punctuated by fragrant blossoms of mushroom, roma tomatoes, green onions, and chopped garlic ($14.49 for a small). A create-your-own-option pizza inspires culinary creativity by inviting diners to mix and match from ingredient choices such as zesty red or pesto sauce, artichoke hearts, jalapeños, and an original or pan ($10.99+ for a small).