My aim with Pau Hana Patrol is to live the good life — on a budget — and Island Vintage Wine Bar, to my delight, lets me do just that. It’s been open since August, 2019, but I’m just discovering it; it’s become my latest obsession, because it’s just that good.
The wine bar is an extended venture from Paul Kang, owner of the adjacent Island Vintage Coffee. Kang established himself as a perfectionist with the popular coffee outlet, which serves 100% Kona-grown coffee at multiple locations; he’s reached new heights with the wine bar, which hits multiple targets with finesse.
This spot beckons from first glimpse, with a clean look and welcoming atmosphere. One of the most attractive aspects is its open-air view out of the Royal Hawaiian Center, looking over greenery and the lawn and pink walls of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Find Island Vintage Wine Bar at the Diamond Head side of the shopping center, on the second level of Building C.
A distinguishing feature is Island Vintage’s dispensing system for wine, allowing patrons to choose a pour by the ounce or more from a wide variety of bottles. A wall of wine dispensers and stand-alone cabinet with even more pours provides for a wide variety of options, including many organic wines.
Thoughtful labeling and knowledgeable staffers combine to make ordering easy. This is streamlined during happy hour, when a short, but well-crafted list of compatible options are offered.
The seating varies, with cushioned chairs, two-top and four-top tables, high communal seating and a bar. Happy hour menu orders are available throughout the restaurant.
Manager Christine Lee and Wine Director/sommelier Mark Cartland are hands-on operators, with a clear attention to detail. Everything works in sync.
The wine options here are great, but any two visitors might well debate whether the food is an equal or greater draw.
Island Vintage serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with Wagyu beef burgers, sandwiches, small plates and gourmet salads among the options. Its cheese and charcuterie plates are top-line.
The Burrata, especially, deserves mention — though not a happy hour dish, you may want to splurge on it. At $24 and big enough for four to share as a pupu, it’s made with soft mozzarella, prosciutto de Parma and locally grown arugula, and made singular with pineapple florets, cut thinly from a honey-cream pineapple that is more subtly sweet than tart, and tastes so good with the cheese. Topped with edible flowers and beads encapsulating balsamic vinegar, it’s a sophisticated and highly pleasurable dish.
Happy hour plates are $7 and $14, and you can be very happy ordering from this menu.
Small plates include Crispy Purple Sweet Potatoes (regularly $10), hitting the spot as would french fries without oiliness, topped with shaved cheddar and served with a smoked aioli dip, or Panko-Crusted Mozzarella (reg. $12), topped with a tomato-meat sauce.
I enjoyed another small plate, the Poke Bento Box (reg. $12), made with layered sushi rice, avocado and spicy ahi and served in a laquered container. You could share it, but might not want to.
Of the larger plates, I sampled the steamed Keahole clams (reg. $24) in a white wine garlic broth, and served with garlic bread — this is satiating, but also one of the dishes that keeps calling me back.
Also a must-try: the papaya and prosciutto, served as three pieces with a small arugula salad (reg. $18). This dish represents the Island Vintage Wine Bar’s achievements, in my view, combining fresh, delicious local ingredients with a fine charcuterie offering that goes great with wine.
A Braised Beef Loco Moco (reg. $24) and brie plate (reg. $19) are also available.
Wine by the glass during happy hour is $7; the choices are thoughtful, and complement the menu.
The Michel Olivier “Cremant de Limoux,’ a sparkling brut from France, was delicious with my prosciutto and papaya plate.
To stand up to the buttery, garlicky clams, Cartland recommended the M. Chapoutier ‘Belleruche,” a white blend from the French Cotes-du-Rhone. It was delightful, tasting crisp and slightly mineral on its own, and matching up with the dish like a dream.
Other choices include a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and red wine from California and Oregon.
Draft beer is also offered at $6.
I stopped in at Island Vintage first on a pau hana get-together with friends, and found that time flew by as we marveled over the food and talked wine with the gracious Cartland. Within days, I was planning a return visit, and have since been back twice. Island Vintage might need to reserve me a permanent seat soon. Try it, and you may feel the same.
ISLAND VINTAGE WINE BAR
Royal Hawaiian Center, 2201 Kalakaua Ave.
Happy Hour: 3-6 p.m. daily
>> Poke dip, $7
>> Steamed clams, $14
>> Prosciutto and papaya, $14
>> Selected wines, $7