Vintage Cave — Honolulu (5/2014)



The Ala Moana Shopping Center is a most unusual place for an establishment like the Vintage Cave.  It opened a little over a year ago as a membership club for people who enjoy very good wine and wanted a place to store their collection.  It also houses a very expensive modernist cuisine/molecular gastronomy restaurant that is open to the public.  The owner is a Japanese-born real estate magnate who has lived in Hawaii for 50 years.  He turned the basement cafeteria of the Japanese department store Shirokiya at the mall into a wine club and a place to display his fine art collection.  He imported around 167,000 bricks from Pennsylvania and bricklayers from Romania to create the 15,000 square-foot place (the brickwork is amazing).

It was easy for me to get a reservation via phone (email is an option also) for dinner on short notice, even though the restaurant is not very big.  They will seat people at half-hour intervals, starting at 6 pm.  There are only two menus:  A seasonal menu of about 15 courses and a “classics” menu of about half that number of items.  I opted for the seasonal menu (while dining I notice that the shorter menu was not simply a subset of the seasonal menu, although there were some items that were served from the seasonal menu as part of the short menu dinner).

The food menu is just displayed as a list of major ingredients.  It was already at the table when I was seated, as they ask you when you make the reservation which menu option you wanted for the evening.

For the full write-up, click here.

Top of Waikiki — Honolulu (9/2012)



I arrived in Honolulu with no specific dinner plans for that evening.  The plan was to check out the Executive Lounge food and then wander out somewhere and find something easy to eat.  I was having a text conversation with a friend and he said the Top of Waikiki, a rotating restaurant, was surprisingly good.  I looked it up on and I found an opening for that evening.  It was located about a 15 –minute walk from my hotel towards the center of Waikiki.  It tops a building called the Waikiki Business Plaza, where an elevator ride and a few escalators get you to the restaurant.

 The interior is tiered, so every table gets a clear view of the windows as the restaurant rotates about once every hour.  The emphasis is on local ingredients (as I think most good restaurants are in Hawaii just because of the isolated location).  The menu had several pre-entrée choices and a few specials.

For the full write-up, click here.

La Mer — Honolulu (9/2012)


La Mer at the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki has had a high reputation for a long time.  So, I decided that on this rare visit to Honolulu for me, I would give it a try, even though the dress code requires one wears long sleeves (jacket or shirt), dress slacks, and leather dress shoes (all very un-Hawaiian-like).  Even though it was pricey, it was not pricier than some other places I have been of comparable formality, especially for being right on the water in Waikiki. As soon as I sat down, they offered me a complimentary glass of champagne (their choice).

 I had a nice table, overlooking an outdoor lounge with live music and the ocean (lit up, but you cannot see that here).

Their menu consists of selecting 3 or four courses selected from different sections of the menu, or the menu degustation (shown on the far left.  I went for that tasting menu, asking to substitute the lamb course for a duck dish that appears as one of the meat selections.  They cleared it with the chef, so I was all set.

For the full write-up, click here.