Formaggio Grill (Kailua)
My chowdar never got a good vibe about Formaggio... but every time I meet someone from Central O'ahu they usually tell me how lucky I am to be living near Formaggio... that I decided it was time to give it a try. My instincts didn't let me down... its an okay neighborhood bistro but certainly not something to go out of your way for.
(1) Misleading name... they have no specialty regarding Cheese or Grilling... I hate when restaratuers do not think about the message they are sending with their name. What if all the Sushi places started taking names such as Luau Bistro?
(2) I started off with the Watermelon & Rocket salad... I can't remember the last time I had such an insipid purposeless dish. Either they forgot to salt it or they meant it to be a sweetish salad... if so the fruit was tasteless & out of season. This is their only interesting salad & it sucks... I can't dissaude you enough.
(1) Beer Selection... now I know its a wine bar but they are going out of their way to provide a selection of better beers... but Red Stripe on tap & Samuel Smith bottled doesn't make for a cutting edge place. Where are the Belgian beers?
(2) Escargot Appetizer. Don't get me wrong the Bleu Cheese, Butter, Basil sauce was delicious but the indifferent little snails were shucked & baked to death in one of those French style Mushroom Cap baking dishes. A perfect example of how Formaggio is a wannabe for wannabes.... if you are going to shuck the snails at least include the shells in the plating so that we can be sure of the product freshness... these were bagged & frozen sometime in the last century.
(1) Clams in spicy White Wine Sauce... the quality of Clams were good... not exceptionally fresh & bursting with ocean flavor but tender & devoid of funkiness. I can't say the addition of dried chiles to the broth is surprising or revelatory because I've had almost identical dishes in Mexico.. but it is refreshing to see a restaurant in the States prepare this version. This is a dish I would certainly go back for. Oh.. and the garlic bread for dipping was very, very good.
(2) Creamed Spinach... the cream sauce lacked a little bit of flavor but they successful delivered a grown ups version of the dish with lightly blanched fresh Spinach.. retaining its bright green color & whole texture instead of the puddle of overcooked frozen spinach served at most places.
(3) Lobster Bisque.... good version that successfully communicated the sweetness of Maine Lobster & a whole claw included in the bowl. However, the flavor is monotonous and its hard to eat the whole serving. The leftovers will be flavored with a little bit of Chipotle pepper & served with some rice.
I'm afraid you ordered the wrong dishes :) you don't go to formaggio for seafood (I prefer mitch's or hiroshi for that). In fact, one of their dish, seafood platter, is pretty abysmal, so I don't recommend anybody ordering that one. (and the first time i ordered the lobster bisque, the lobster meat that is on top came out dry, so i never ordered it again)
However, their kobe hamburger steak rivals pineapple room's as the island's best (order it rare, with an egg on top). Their ribs, on most nights, are also one of the best I've had - moist and succulent, with the fat on top of the meat ready to melt in your mouth. The sauce that goes with it is a zinfandel (?) based sauce, which has a nice kick to it.
In short, order the meat, not the seafood.
Had one experience there...we walked out 10 minutes after being seated after waiting more than an hour for the table. They bill it as a *wine bar* but selections are basically done by the wholesaler and the serving staff is clueless regarding wine. It's within a stroll for us but will get in the car to go someplace else. Its popularity speaks only to the lack of competition. Feh.