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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 30, 2001

Dining Scene
Bali more than just another pretty view

By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic

Bali-by-the-Sea, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, offers creative and well-executed cuisine, expert staff and the celebrated view. Reserve a table for when the sun is setting.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser


Hilton Hawaiian Village

2005 Kalia Road

Dinner: Mondays-

Saturdays, 6-9:30 p.m.


Very Good

Bali-by-the-Sea, the Hilton Hawaiian Village's signature restaurant, offers a sprawling and beautiful dining room with sweeping ocean views. Your first impression is definitely "Wow," followed by "Let's see whatcha can do." You will not be disappointed.

The staffers are pros: They look good, smile a lot and are adept at small talk, but, most importantly, they are food and drink knowledgeable. You can trust them to steer you in the right direction.

The starters menu is laden with familiar and tasty items, artfully prepared. The 'ahi poke tower ($8.75), resting on sesame won ton chips with a lovely wasabi-ginger cream sauce, was built high on the plate. The grilled eggplant napoleon ($8.95) was smoky, stuffed with tofu and ratatouille (eggplant, tomato, onion, bell pepper, zucchini, garlic and herbs simmered in olive oil), with purple Okinawan sweet potato relish to round out the plate. The seared diver scallops ($12.95) were perfectly done, with wild mushrooms, watercress coulis, and drizzled with truffle vinaigrette. The many flavors are complementary, not competitive.

We were blown away by the salads and soups. A roasted beet salad ($6.50) innocently occupies the third salad choice on the menu, but this baby is top-notch. Imagine sweet shreds of scarlet succulence, topped with creamy goat cheese, surrounded by caramelized macadamia nuts, bits of dried pineapple and a dressing made from Banyuls (a sweet, fortified wine often paired with chocolate desserts) and ginger vinegar.

The island bouillabaisse ($10.50) is excellent, giving patrons a chance to sample a bowl without having to pay top-dollar entree prices. This version of the classic Provencal seafood stew was touched lightly with a saffron cream base and featured jumbo shrimp, scallops, and fresh fish. Another standout is the Kula onion and ginger soup ($6.75) that had Miss A oooh-ing and ahh-ing over its creamy marriage of sweet and savory. Combined with the basket of homemade breads and a couple glasses of wine, you could have an excellent meal by ordering just an appetizer, a salad and a bowl of soup.

Reserving a table before sunset is recommended. There's a lot of boat traffic that gives dimension to your night-time view, too.

When it came to entrees, I know the conventional wisdom is that fresh fish is your best bet at a seaside restaurant. Always the defiant one, I took a chance on the veal tenderloin Wellington ($32.75) with morel cream and spinach spatzle. Unfortunately, the crust was a bit soggy and the veal tough.

In all fairness, our waiter did suggest the Sonoma paniolo rack of lamb ($34.50) glazed with orange-hoisin sauce. Also highly recommended is 'opakapaka with kaffir lime sauce ($32.25). Be sure to try it. The macadamia-crusted filets leaned against a cilantro and sweet-potato mousseline, with an asparagus and carrot accompaniment. The seared tiger prawns with lobster sauce ($30.25) is another winner, served with mushroom ravioli and baby yellow squash.

At the end of your meal, whether you order dessert or not, a beautiful chocolate mold of Diamond Head is brought to your table with a flourish. The confection rests upon a smoking platter (dry ice providing that visual treat) and is filled with chocolate truffles.

The hotel suggests gentlemen wear jackets at Bali-by-the-Sea, but most didn't on my two visits.

This restaurant is special — and worth visiting.

Reach Matthew Gray at ChefMatthew@LoveLife.com.