Hawai‘i Kai Thai Restaurant Owner Opens an Italian Restaurant in Ward
Bellini Bistro and Bar offers Italian eats and original cocktails.
Photos: Lennie Omalza
When we heard that Maile Sengoura of Maile’s Thai Bistro in Hawai‘i Kai was opening an Italian restaurant, we were intrigued. What would the owner of a Thai restaurant do with Italian cuisine? Plus, the “and Bar” portion of its name had us daydreaming about our next pau hana.
When we finally made it over to Ward Village, we opted for dinner and drinks. The ambience at Bellini is quite nice; its outdoor seating is cool and comfortable, and ensures the restaurant noise isn’t overpowering. Planters run adjacent to the outside tables, so it feels like you’re on a cozy patio rather than just sitting out on the sidewalk.
We started off with a Caesar salad and the fresh clams Bellini, which our server recommended. The salad is extra cheesy—which we like—but it can be a bit jarring if you’re not into it. (In fact, the group at the table next to us sent it back.) The fresh Manila clams, however, were delightful. Sautéed in garlic, onions, bacon and basil in white-wine butter sauce, they’re soft and creamy and fall right out of the shell.
Of course, we had to try a “typical” Italian dish, so we ordered the pollo alla parmigiana. Bellini gives customers the choice of pasta, potatoes or a vegetable medley with each entrée, and we went with linguine. It seems like there’s a theme going on, because, like the Caesar salad, the parmigiana was also extremely cheesy. Unfortunately, it was also a little dry. The rib-eye steak made up for it, though. Pan grilled, it came topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms and a red-wine butter reduction. Though it was a good size, we managed to devour the entire tender, juicy piece, along with the large, soft chunks of mushrooms. We also paired this entrée with linguine, which, flavored with a dab of olive oil, was an enjoyable complement.
Between bites, we sipped on a couple of original cocktails. The first was the signature Bellini, dubbed Bellini’s Bellini. According to the menu, it is “personally approved by Maile” herself. A handcrafted mix of real white-peach puree, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, seltzer and La Marea Prosecco, it’s delectably light and peachy—a great refreshment for any time of day. Our second drink, The World’s First Frozen Coconut Bellini, is described on the menu as a Hawaiian-inspired libation that’s a must-try for the tropical-cocktail lover. We agree. If you love lava flows, you’ll love this Bellini. A blend of Three Olives vodka, real coconut cream, citrus and Capasaldo Prosecco, it’s like a frothy coconut smoothie. Just drink with caution, because you really can’t taste the alcohol.
Though we were stuffed to the gills with so much food and drink, we had to get dessert because, according to our server, the cheesecakes are made offsite specifically for Bellini. Though the Kahlua cheesecake isn’t exactly memorable—it tastes just like another Kahlua something or other we’ve had before but can’t quite put our finger on it— the lilikoʻi cheesecake is heavenly. The cake itself is a burst of fruity flavor that is enhanced when scooped up with the fresh strawberry and whipped cream. Needless to say, we inhaled it—and can’t wait to go back for more. There doesn’t appear to be any Thai influence or infusion in Bellini’s dishes, but it doesn’t bother us at all. Seems like the Thai restaurant owner knows how to do Italian right.
Bellini Bistro and Bar, Ward Village, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 591-2488, open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m. on Sunday.