Where La Vie takes diners to France, its new sister restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Quiora, opts for sunny Italy for a menu of starters, pastas and boards for casual grazing.
Casual doesn’t mean inexpensive, but Quiora is worth the splurge for elegant cuisine meant to be enjoyed at leisure on an open-air lanai.
Ritz-Carlton executive chef Shaymus Alwin worked on the menu with sous-chef Miranda Eckerfield, an alumnus of San Francisco’s acclaimed Flour + Water, who’s versed in the art of pasta-making. We’re fortunate to have her expertise here.
All the pasta on the menu, except the orecchiette for now, are made in-house, and what pasta it is. First there are the ones we all know and love: lush, blankety pappardelle; our childhood love, spaghetti; and ribbony tagliatelle. Then there is the delightful cappellacci ($25 individual/$38 family), flat sheets of pasta folded to resemble conical little hats and served here with Italian sausage made in-house and brightened by little more than fresh lemon and butter.
THE NAME Quiora, which translates as “here and now,” reflects the philosophy of enjoying the moment, often with friends and family. To assist, the heart of the menu comprises family boards designed for two, but that can serve more mouths depending on appetite size and other dishes ordered. Coupled with an appetizer or two and a family-size pasta dish, a single board could easily feed four with normal appetites.
The boards ($55) feature your choice of daily pork, whole fish, bone-in steak with seasonal vegetables, plus a choice of such sides as polenta, chicory salad, garlic broccolini or country potatoes with onions, and a choice of sauce. Of the sides, polenta and broccolini are the favorites but the broccolini is not for those who can’t take heat — it’s spiked with Calabrian chili. The chicory salad is a nice option for those who need a daily dose of greens.
It’s typical to enjoy a board alongside pasta, but I’d prefer to end with pasta. As delicious as the pastas are, they do fill the belly, not leaving much room to enjoy the rest of the irresistible menu, along with a handful of Italian wines and craft cocktails.
I have yet to look beyond the daily pork, which has included pork braised osso buco- style in a rich tomato sauce. On my first visit, they had me at “porchetta,” a beautiful skin-on pork roast that deserves a permanent spot on the menu. Italian porchetta is seasoned with fennel, and you get all that flavor at Quiora, in the form of fennel pollen, used with honey, black pepper and Calabrian chili pepper.
The fiery chili from Southern Italy figures prominently on the menu, first appearing in a starter of chili garlic shrimp ($21), five pieces served with heads on, with grilled toast to cut some of the heat.
I loved the simplicity of burrata ($16) served with tapenade, tomato jam and arugula, also for enjoying on toast. The salty, savory tapenade worked especially well with the creamy cheese. Pork meatballs ($18) drenched in a pecorino-tomato sauce are another option, but these pale in comparison to the daily pork, so if it’s pork you want, I’d go for the $55 splurge.
The only starter that seemed out of place was the Jidori chicken wings ($19) in a tangy barbecue sauce that seemed to have more in common with American barbecue than Italian grilling that favors herbs, citrus and olive oil.
FOR A healthful component, there are salads of arugula and kale ($16), panzanella (bread, $16) and Caesar ($14). The arugula and kale salad has the crunch of chopped marcona almonds, a flash of maroon from bits of red wine ricotta cheese and a sprinkling of sea salt flakes.
Several sandwiches are more popular at lunchtime than in the evening. The Here and Now burger ($28) and a grilled naan fish sandwich (most recently red snapper, market price) get top billing. If you’re wondering what goes into a $28 burger, it’s a special blend of Kunoa chuck and brisket, the patty layered with pancetta, caramelized onions, tomato jam, arugula and truffle boschetto, a semi-soft sheep and cow’s milk cheese. It’s wonderful if you can afford it.
As for the pastas, the cappellacci dei brigante mentioned earlier is great for those who like lighter, brighter flavors. Its opposite may be the orecchiette carbonara ($22/$35) the “little ear”-shaped pasta rich in its savory blend of egg yolks, Parmesan and pecorino. An extra-runny egg on top provides that sensual satisfaction of breaking the surface to let its contents ooze out before stirring it into the dish.
In between these pastas is the agnolotti ($24/$27), a smaller relative of ravioli, these stuffed with sweet roasted pumpkin, with the brightness of a lemon, sherry and butter sauce. Another favorite is the mushroom pappardelle ($21/$34), simply tossed with saute of eryngii and maitake, olive oil and pecorino, topped with charred kale. The mushrooms do all the work of imparting their earthy bouquet.
Squid ink tagliatelle ($24/$37) is a popular choice for seafood lovers, the ocean quotient doubled by the presence of Kauai shrimp.
A Hawaii favorite of uni pasta ($26/$39), spaghetti in this case, was the only disappointment. We’re accustomed to creamy sauces that coat the noodles and distribute the uni evenly throughout, but this was more of a dry spaghetti that didn’t lend itself to blending. Calabrian chili is the other star of the dish, but without that even distribution, the heat can be overwhelming to some.
Of the handful of desserts, my favorite is the most basic, a sweet cream ice cream, or “fleur de lait,” with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of salt. Divine.
Ritz-Carlton Residences lobby level, 383 Kalaimoku St. (valet parking only)
>> Call: 729-9729
>> Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
>> Prices: About $75 to $80 for two without alcohol
Ratings compare similar restaurants:
**** – excellent
*** – very good
** – average
* – below average
Nadine Kam’s restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Advertiser. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.