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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, July 24, 2005

Level of food, service reaches lofty heights

By Simplicio Paragas
Dining Out Editor

Chef Ron Amasol's two newest dishes include the rice-cracker shrimp starter, left, and stuffed tournedos.

Photo by Randy T. Fujimori

Hanohano Room

Where: Sheraton Waikiki

Call: 922-4422

Hours: Nightly from 5:30 p.m.

Note: Live entertainment is featured nightly from 7:30 p.m.

I've never been slapped with a high five by a waiter just because I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir. Nor have I ever had a tournedos Rossini prepared with port-wine sauce, as opposed to the usual Madeira.

And never has G.B. tasted such delicate oysters as the ones she had during last week's dinner at the Hanohano Room.

We hadn't dined here since chef Ron Amasol took over the kitchen a little more than a year ago. We've only heard that his cuisine falls into a Continental/Regional Island cuisine.

As we rode the glass elevator 30 floors above Waikiki, our anticipation built and so did our appetites.

We were warmly greeted by a hostess by the name of Shannon who, while leading us to our booth, paused to show us the stunning view. She then sat us cozily side by side in a booth, placed our napkins on our lap, smiled and wished us a "great" dinner.

Her wish would turn out to be a portent for our evening.

While servers here may not sport tuxedos like their counterparts do at other fine-dining establishments, their level of service keeps pace with the best of them. And we appreciated their casual, high-five-slapping, yet still-professional service.

Our server Richard was knowledgeable and confidently asked that we allow him to choose the wine pairings for our appetizers and entrees.

With our starters, he chose a glass of Moet & Chandon Nectar ($12), which he described as fruity with a clean finish.

It went refreshingly well with my beef tataki ($18), which was perfectly seared to a pink hue then covered in a spicy roasted garlic-hoisin-and-sesame-soy vinaigrette. After one bite, I reached for my champagne to put out the fire on my taste buds — this dish, I promise, is not for the spice-sensitive palate.

Much to her delight, G.B. remarked that she received seven oysters ($14) as opposed to the normal half dozen.

Asked why, Richard said that the Miyagi oysters are smaller and therefore they provide more of them.

Lucky us. As we discovered, these oysters were a lot sweeter and more delicate than most others. Although they came with a trio of sauces, G.B. preferred them raw, saying they were too good to be disguised with any type of horseradish cocktail sauce.

As our table was cleared, we slunk back into our booth, listened to the melodic duet of Jennifer Hera — former Miss Hawaii 1998 — and Brian Robertshaw, exhaled a sigh of satisfaction and took in the twinkly-light view.

Returning to take our order for our entrees, Richard recommended that one of us had to try the Hanohano stuffed tournedos ($39), a new item which has quickly become Amasol's signature dish.

It sounded way too indulgent and way too rich. I was sold.

But first, we were presented with a palate-cleansing lemongrass sorbet, which was a nice fine-dining touch and much needed before digging into my French-inspired dish.

Reading the tournedos description — a filet of beef stuffed with Island baby spinach, blue cheese and Maui onions, and topped with foie gras — I could already taste the combination of flavors. It would not disappoint.

The tarty flavors of the blue cheese and spinach were just enough to add a sharp bite to balance the sweetness of the truffle-port-wine sauce, which was overall complementary and not overpowering.

G.B. opted for the garlic-and-rosemary-roasted chicken ($31), which was moist and punctuated with a morel cream sauce. A side of garlic mashed potatoes tastefully rounded off this dish.

As we finished our dinner, guests of all ages were starting to take to the dance floor.

Hanohano ... hana hou!