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Jun 2, 2014 07:46 AM

top fine dining restaurant on Oahu as of May 2014

I am planning on purchasing a ton of stuff for myself for some upcoming projects and I have been stressing out about that and work quite a lot. But my girlfriend has been super patient with me thankfully. She will not answer if I ask her if she wants me to get her something new like a bag or what not. But she doesn't like stuff like that. Her being quiet lets me know that I need to take her out to eat.

So, I would like to reward her as best as I can because I know she is going to brag to her friends about it afterwards. My question is what is the absolute best fine dining restaurant on O'ahu? I do not care about price a single bit. Actually, I hope it's the most expensive place too so I will not just be spending money on myself and my projects. Also, like I said, she will brag about it afterwards and I just don't want to hear about some other "best" restaurant in Hawaii that I should have taken her to.

I have been to Le Mer before without her for business so I could take her there but I just wanted to ask around first to ensure that if I do take her there then that means that Le Mer is the absolute best in fine dining in Hawaii. I think that Le Mer may be the best that Hawaii has to offer, if I remember correctly. I think that's why we had the business dinner there. Anyway, definitively please correct me if I am incorrect on this. Mahalo!

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    1. re: russkar

      This looks nice but where I am reading it mentions that only members can dine there. I was looking to make reservations to take her there tonight.

      Have you been there? I see semi-formal dress required for dinner and I really hate dressing up. I remember at Le Mer, the waiter wouldn't even let me go to the loo without him putting my jacket on for me. Would aloha attire suffice from what you have seen there if you have been before?

      1. re: bloodboy

        You don't have to be a member. Call and make a resy.

        The food is fantastic and light years ahead of La Mer which I've been to many times starting back in the days of Chef Mavro.
        Attire at Vintage C is same as La Mer or Mavro.

        If you want to go casual for fantastic Cuisine then Le Bistro would be my choice.

        1. re: russkar

          Only for a few more months though. Chris Kajioka is leaving Vintage Cave and the concept will change. Supposedly 4 chefs, each specializing in different cuisines will be replacing him.

    2. You want to spend a lot of money, take her to "...the absolute best fine dining...", but you are not willing to wear a shirt with a collar at Vintage Cave? Does not compute!

      6 Replies
      1. re: Joebob

        I always understood 'semi-formal' to mean wearing a suit. I hope I am wrong though. If it just means wearing a collared shirt with slacks then that is fine with me. But then, isn't that Aloha attire? (Aloha shirt and slacks)


        Just booked a reservation for dinner. I will let you know if she likes it. I really hope so for the amount this will cost. Should be just under $500 for both of us. There can't be anything better than that on O'ahu or anywhere in the Hawaiian islands period. They said dinner will last for at least 2-3 hours. Is a show of some sort included with the meal?

        1. re: bloodboy

          please report back. I too am looking for a nice anniversary dinner in 2 weeks.

          1. re: bloodboy

            i heard that yo have to pay when you make the reservation, and if you don't use it, they still charge you because they have to order all the ingrediments and start the prep
            is this still true?

            1. re: macsak

              They don't make you pay when you make the reservation or at least they didn't for us. I highly doubt it's an issue if someone is a no-show. Dinner is at a minimum 2-3 hours.

            2. re: bloodboy

              $500-? I think not! Try $300- per plus drinks, wine, t & t.

              More like $800- 1000- easily...aloha

              Basically French Laundry type $$$..

              1. re: russkar

                Some tasty morsels at VC...

          2. So, we tried out Vintage Cave tonight. I will write a little bit about what I thought about everything.

            Location. If you are in the parking structure and Barnes and Noble is on your left side then go down the ramp and make the immediate right and then make another immediate right to get into the basement level parking. Then drive up a bit and make a right where you will a small sign that reads "row b", I think. I don't really know how to give good directions there but if you can just get to the basement area from what I described above you can find it.

            The basement level of Ala Moana is really stinky and doesn't look nice. So, when you come upon a very nice looking square brick structure then you will have found VC.

            The restaurant's interior seems really well-done. You can google pics of it so I won't describe that. I will get to the food.

            I took pictures of all of the dishes except the "End" dish because I forgot to snap a photo of it. I am not sure where $300 per person came from but it was $195 per person tonight so that's better for my wallet. Here are all the dishes that were on the menu:

            Ocean, Roe, Mihabara Cabbage, Tako, Pasta, Egg Yolk, Onaga, White Asparagus, Melon, Plum, End

            I did not like the way the menu was listed. It did not have any nutritional or ingredient information written. Maybe that's how the fine dining restaurants do thing but I am not used to that and did not like it. I like to know what I am supposedly eating and how its made, etc.

            Chef's "gift" #1 - First, we were served a gift from the chef that was some sort of popcorn chocolate finger food together with this photo that russkar posted:

            Both of them were really delicious.

            Ocean - The sashimi here was ok to me. Nothing particularly special honestly. It was kind of warm which gave me pause because most other places that have really good sashimi usually keep fresh fish cold from what I have seen.

            Roe - The Roe was ok again. It was a new taste for me but it was ok.

            Mihabara Cabbage - I did not like this at all. I don't know who came up with this idea. There is crispy piece of cabbage on top of what looks like grilled then slightly broiled cabbage. My girlfriend kept saying, "I can make you this at home!"

            Chef's "gift" #2 - This was some kind of what seemed to pastrami meat on that brochette bread. I thought this was delicious but it seemed like something from Subway. If you have tasted their hot pastrami sub then you know what I'm talking about.

            Tako - This was really good. The tako was soft as was the okra and tomatoes. Another good thing about this dish was the plates that they served it to us in. I really loved the ceramic plate. It looked like a piece of pita bread, I liked it very much.

            Pasta - This was also delicious. As soon as I took the first bite, I could tell the pasta was homemade. I miss eating handmade pasta after eating that.

            Egg Yolk - Again, I do not know who came up with this but it was just plain nasty. It had this sudsy-like pinkish sauce with the brochette bread and truffles on top. I had to force myself to get through it and my gf was offering me hers. I said no way, I can't take anymore. We finished quickly so they could bring us more food.

            Onaga - This was pretty good when mixed with the sides that came with it but not so much when I analyzed the onaka by itself.

            Chef's "gift" #3 - Foie Grais <- This was my first time trying this and I thought that it was pretty good. I couldn't believe that it was liver after we ate it all. I thought it was some sort of dairy product since it was so rich and creamy. I eat raw pork/cow liver from time to time and I have never tasted liver from any animal like that.

            White Asparagus - This was pretty good once again and it came with steak. The steak was rare like I like it and tender.

            Melon - This was some sort of melon sorbet with jasmine tea. I thought it was delicious but then again I haven't eaten sorbet in almost 15 years.

            Plum - I did not like this at all. Perhaps it's because I don't like strawberries that much since they are acidic.

            End - This is the item I forgot to snap a pic of but a number of the offerings were very good.

            $50 glass red wine - This was surprisingly good. Also, my gf got some sort of sweet alcoholic drink and I actually enjoyed it even though I don't drink.

            Service - The service here was excellent. But it better be for that price. Anything that I needed was taken care of. But I must make mention of the two men who work right under the owner of the restaurant. I noticed that they were only personally bidding farewell to the Japanese guests as they left. But not the foreign guests ie Caucasian couple, a black couple that I saw when they left. I saw that those two guys were around but just didn't see the foreign guests off. I really don't like that when I am in Japan and it sort of pissed me when I noticed that. Nevertheless the rest of the staff were very pleasant (even if it was forced).

            Other things: At Vintage Cafe, you arrive at the cafe in a stinky smelly basement lot, when you leave it's the same thing. For such a nice restaurant, I wish they would have chosen a better location. The stinky basement ruins a nice night out at their restaurant.

            They have some VERY expensive alcohol there. They have 50yr old Scotch that is $6000 a shot. The servers told me that not a single person in Hawaii has tried it yet, not even the staff at VC. I asked why not and they told me that the alcohol will sell itself eventually. I wanted to try it but just couldn't just spending that kind of money on a type of beverage that isn't even good for me.

            They also have a $39,000 bottle of wine that they are considering selling by the ounce or shot glass if their machine ever gets fixed.

            Overall: I would give this restaurant a 3.5 out 5. The food is the main thing for me and it was just so-so most of the time with only a few dishes to really get me excited. Plus it seemed that they don't get you full on meat but rather on vegetables and sweets. I did not like this since I am an extremely heavy fatty meat eater. I didn't like the dress code requirement either.

            I will try to post pictures later but I need a new card reader.

            7 Replies
            1. re: bloodboy

              That's how tasting menus are typically listed. I've only seen references to a $295 menu so was surprised by your mention of $195. Thanks for your review.

              1. re: bloodboy

                Sounds like you had the Children't menu $195-. lol
                The only menu we've had is the VC Chef's tasting which is 14-18 courses. $295- ea

                You might like Mavro's Degestation Menu? $185- ea and one of my favorites, food wise.

                Of course there is always LE BISTRO which is light on ambiance but outstanding cuisine..

                1. re: russkar

                  I will have to ask the girlfriend where she wants to go next. Since she has been able to try the undisputed best that this particular island has to offer and was very largely unimpressed food-wise then I really hope she doesn't want to go to those expensive restaurants anymore. I hope she will start to appreciate my cooking more and just desire to cook at home more in general.

                  My flight leaves at 10:00pm tonight. I wonder if I would have enough time for a quick Le Bistro dinner with her at 6 or 6:30pm... How early do you all arrive at the airport when you take a trip?

                  1. re: bloodboy

                    Unfortunately LE BISTRO is closed on Tuesdays.
                    Dinner for 2 is $80- to $130 depending on sides..

                    I would probably go to Azure tonight at 5:30 and order Seafood Pizza (off menu), and Seared Ahi.

                    1. re: bloodboy

                      I wouldn't call Vintage Cave the "undisputed best" restaurant on Oahu. You are going to have who think La Mer is... or Alan Wong's or Mavro or Michel's or Seed or any number of places. I think VC plays on people's vanities in an Emperor's New Clothes manner.

                    2. re: russkar

                      I'm staying with friends who used to live here and are housesitting in Kailua. Wanted to take them somewhere really good but casual for dinner and came across your mention of Le Bistro. Had dinner there last night and it was just exactly what I was hoping for. The appetizer special of roasted bone marrow was especially memorable, as was the kurobuta pork chop. Nice wine list, too, most of it at accessible prices. Thanks, russkar.

                    3. Check 53 By the Sea....

                      1. With these prices for a meal you did not love, watch the fares and bring her to SF for a weekend. Aloha wear is welcome everywhere, and there are many amazing restaurant at many price points. Although sadly my favorite, Manresa, is out of commission at the moment due to a fire.