2009 Hale Aina Awards
Welcome to our 25th anniversary Hale Aina Awards, Hawaii’s oldest, most prestigious dining awards. In the following pages, you’ll meet this year’s winners, as voted by the subscribers of HONOLULU Magazine.
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• Best Hotel Restaurant, Silver
• Best Romantic Restaurant, Silver
• Best Service, Silver
• Best Ambiance, Finalist
For $160 a person at La Mer, you want perfection. According to its general manager Stephen Oyadomari, that’s what you get. “The ambiance is wonderful, we have constant training for our servers to provide excellent service and the food is trendy and exotic,” says Oyadomari. Exotic indeed. Yves Garnier, the chef de cuisine for 13 years, recently started cooking with iberico bellota ham, an acorn-fed pig from Spain. Spain only began exporting it this April, and La Mer is the only restaurant in Hawaii to serve it.
“Chef Garnier’s dishes have become more and more experimental,” says Oyadomari, adding that the menu changes four times a year. “[They’re] not old school French dishes with heavy creams and sauces. He’s a neoclassical chef.”
• Best New Oahu Restaurant, Gold
“Tango is a place where you can come and eat once a week, not just a special-occasion place,” says Goran Streng, the chef and owner. He attributes good food, easy access and no-hassle parking—adjacent to the Ward P.F. Chang’s in the Hokua tower— to the success of his restaurant, which won the Best New Oahu Restaurant, Gold. Tango serves an almost 100 percent local clientele, says Streng. “We get many repeat customers and ladies who lunch.”
Location helps, but the real strength of Tango is Streng, who brings to the table Finnish culinary training and has worked at the Third Floor in the old Hawaiian Regent, Halekulani and the Ritz-Carlton Mauna Lani. Streng plans to expand beyond his regular dishes— such as grilled pesto-glazed salmon for lunch, or an 8-ounce plank steak with herb butter, cooked on a cedar plank, for dinner—to incorporate more fresh greens and fruit, and, for dinner, all new dishes with curry. He also hopes to start monthly wine dinners.