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Rave Reviews: E. Clarke Reilly

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / SEPT. 19
                                Grilled octopus with a fingerling potato salad, top, and a smoked beet salad are highlights of the menu at Fete.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / SEPT. 19

    Grilled octopus with a fingerling potato salad, top, and a smoked beet salad are highlights of the menu at Fete.

PREMIUM PICK: FETE

2 N. Hotel St., Chinatown; 369-1390. Lunch, dinner (closed Sundays). $$$-$$$$

As a transplant to Hawaii from New York, I miss the cozy neighborhood restaurants found throughout Greenwich Village where I’ve made countless fond memories while breaking bread with family and friends. Fete is one of those places for me in Honolulu.

The dining room has a warm, convivial atmosphere, with some chef’s counter seating where you can watch the magic happen in the kitchen.

Husband-and-wife owners Chuck Bussler and Robynne Maii truly take the farm-to-table concept to the next level, by listing their partnerships with local vendors right on the menu. As you might expect, the offerings change with what’s seasonal and available.

A recent special appetizer of local oyster mushrooms sauteed in a brandy sauce on a thick slice of Breadshop brioche came topped with a poached egg. It was a rich bite of heaven quickly dispatched by our table. I hope it makes a regular appearance on the menu.

You can’t go wrong with the smoked beet salad with a tangy Gorgonzola crema, supremed citrus (membranes removed), shaved fennel, arugula and candied pistachios, or the tender grilled pulpo served with a fingerling potato salad. Smoked paprika and piment d’Espelette give the dish a subtle smokiness and heat.

My husband loved the multiple layers of flavor in the Niihau lamb sausage dish with housemade cavatelli, fennel-saffron sofrito, green olives, mint and preserved lemon.

My favorite entree is the schnitzel with 2 Lady Farmers’ pork. It’s a large slab of meat served with a creamy gribiche sauce, German potato salad and sweet-sour red cabbage.

An extensive wine and cocktail menu is just as carefully curated to complement the food. If you have room, the dessert menu is worth a look. Warm pineapple crostata, anyone?

VINO ITALIAN TAPAS & WINE BAR

Waterfront Plaza, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., 524-8466. Dinner. $$$

Dining at Vino feels a lot like eating at home — if your dad is a master sommelier and you’ve got an uncle who makes kick-ass Mediterranean-inspired food. Don’t we all have that?

Kidding aside, that’s what owner Chuck Furuya strives for: a feeling of home. And it’s delivered.

The master sommelier, who’s quick with a pun, will make you feel at ease and offer wine selections to best complement the food you order (knowledgeable waitstaff will do the same). Furuya sources the majority of his wines from small artisanal makers, who are really passionate about their craft.

As for the delicious eats, chef Keith Endo changes up the menu throughout the year, tapping the bounty of local farmers. His approach is casual, but packed with layers of flavor.

Try the starter of Roman-style pork and veal meatballs with a San Marzano tomato sauce, pine nuts and breadcrumbs; they are amazingly light. Fresh baked bread helps mop up the sauce.

I’m a sucker for fresh-cut pastas. Luckily, there are several to choose from. Consider the seafood linguine, chock-full of clams, prawns and scallops all in a satisfying tomato-y cioppino sauce. I’m currently in love with the Bolognese pappardelle and its veal and pork ragu.

I took home a hearty dish of red-wine braised lamb shank with roasted fingerling potatoes, artichoke, gremolata and pickled red cabbage, which my husband quickly devoured.

Even if you think you’re too full for dessert, I highly recommend sharing the lemon poppy seed cake with lemon curd and vanilla ice cream, or the cherry panna cotta. Molto bene!

KA ‘IKENA LAUA‘E

Kapiolani Community College, 4303 Diamond Head Road; 734-9499. $$-$$$

Kapiolani Community College, 4303 Diamond Head Road; 734-9499. $$-$$$

Tucked into a corner of the Kapiolani Community College campus is Ka ‘Ikena Laua‘e — a fine-dining restaurant that doubles as a learning lab for culinary students.

The second-floor dining room overlooks Koko Head and the ocean, a spectacular view that I love to take in while enjoying the quality cuisine.

The menu changes with each semester. This spring it featured interesting starters such as a savory shallot tarte Tatin served with Belgium endive, sliced apple and a walnut-mustard dressing. A substantial entree of beef parmentier (think: an elegant French version of shepherd’s pie) showed off the students’ deft knife and pastry-bag skills. Mashed potato was carefully piped atop the meat with glazed tourne-cut carrots served alongside.

The dessert selections rotate; I enjoyed a creamy cheesecake topped with a macaron shell and a darling marzipan mouse, complete with a chocolate tail.

Pro tip: Be patient. The students are still learning as they work through the culinary arts program, so service can be slow and uneven. But that gives you more time to catch up with your tablemates and enjoy the view. Also, it’s BYOB.

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