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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, January 30, 2005

Restaurants serve up memorable times

By Simplicio Paragas
Dining Out Editor

Servers Kaori Teramoto and Ryan Spaise welcome guests during their special occasion at Sunset Grill.

Randy T. Fujimori

Two weeks ago, I listed favorite dining spots for that "special occasion."

I was elbowed then kindly reminded by G.B. and other Dining Out readers — among them Elizabeth Jackson who e-mailed me from Las Vegas — that I failed to mention several others.

Mea culpa. To atone for my guilt, here are other establishments that are noteworthy when stepping out for a special dining-out evening.

In planning an April wedding reception, Jackson narrowed her choices to either Hoku's at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental, Hawaii 5000 Kahala Ave., 739-8780) or the Hanohano Room at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel (2255 Kalakaua Ave., 30th Floor, 931-8383).

Her decision, she wrote, would be based on the "view and the beautiful ambiance." Well, the two restaurants offer both. So good luck Elizabeth!

Having its share of "special" stories, Sunset Grill (Restaurant Row, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., 521-4409) has been known to be the site of many proposals and, surely, many first dates.

With Frank Sinatra singing "Love and Marriage" in the background and tuxedo-clad waiters providing attentive — but not intrusive — service, Matteo's (364 Seaside Ave., Marine Surf Hotel, 922-5551) sets the scene for romance. (Here's a tip: Ask for booth seating since it allows for greater intimacy.)

La Trattoria (2168 Kalia Rd., 923-8415) is another Italian restaurant that exudes a special quality. It may be less formal than Matteo's, but it still offers a great deal of charm.

Speaking of charm, Cafe Sistina (1314 S. King St., 596-0061) is perhaps Oahu's most unique restaurant, given its Michelangelo-inspired Sistine Chapel-like ambiance. Food and art go hand in hand here ... and so do couples.

Sam Choy's Diamond Head (449 Kapahulu Ave., 732-8645) is another popular restaurant among kamaaina. And it's always at the top of G.B.'s and my favorite places to take out-of-town guests. The last time we were there, our friends Susan Ross and her daughter Carrie Stephenson went gaga over pastry chef Fenton Lee's cascading chocolate fountain, which is rolled out on Friday and Saturday nights. Phenomenal, they said. I would agree.

Stunning describes the sunset view at Aaron's atop the Ala Moana (410 Atkinson Dr., 36th floor, 955-4466). The same could be said about the panoramic vistas at Mariposa's (Neiman Marcus, Ala Moana, 951-3420) and Top Of Waikiki (2270 Kalakaua Ave., 923-3877).

OnJin's Cafe (401 Kamakee St., 589-1666) and both Roy's (6600 Kalanianaole Hwy., 396-7697 and 92-1220 Aliinui Dr., Ko Olina, 676-7697) indulge their guests with impeccable cuisine.

Azul at the JW Marriott Ihilani Hotel & Spa (92-1001 Olani St., 679-0079) and 21 Degrees North at the Turtle Bay Resort (57-091 Kamehameha Hwy, 293-8811) are fabulous "destination" restaurants. The drive to either place is undoubtedly worth every scenic mile.

And lastly — at least until I'm served more reminders — Hy's Steak House (2440 Kuhio Ave., 922-5555) earns kudos for its beef, private-club-like atmosphere and tableside service.