Quiora Brings an Unexpected Combination of Cocktails, Rustic Italian Fare and a Killer View
Seven stories above Waikīkī, it’s ritzy business the Ritz-Carlton Residences.
It’s the shrimp that do us in. We’re at Quiora, the Ritz-Carlton Residences’ open-air Italian eatery seven floors above Waikīkī, so we’re expecting a certain level of posh. Unlike La Vie, the nearby French restaurant sandwiched between the Ritz’s lobby and Sushi Sho, Quiora is its own cocoon of casual refinement at the end of a long, meandering walkway. Muted conversations float across the lānai to the infinity pool below, over the treetops of Fort DeRussy and toward the sun setting on the horizon. At this height the Ritz-Carlton owns this view, an unexpected sight line straight to the sea. Into this scene our shrimp arrive, vibrant bursts of coral-orange nestled in a bowl, and we dredge the shelled bodies in the zesty sauce of Calabrian chiles and garlic and then, abandoning fork, knife and all decorum, we pick up the grilled heads with our fingers and rapturously chomp on their briny, umami-saturated brains.
Calabrian chile garlic shrimp
For a time after this first visit, a solid triumvirate of food, setting and cocktails will bring me back to Quiora weekly. But it’s a less tangible fourth aspect I like most—that in its balance of rustic and refined, you can go either way and feel good about both. You can do as hotel guests do, sunburned and shopped out at the end of the day, and order a glass of wine, a plate of pasta, a spread of charcuterie or cheeses. Or you can order a feast and dig in with the abandon of eating on a friend’s lānai. You get the feeling the staff likes it this way—they dropped off towelettes after our initial shrimp carnage, and on my second visit, as soon as I ordered the shrimp the towelettes appeared.
This $21 appetizer sets the tone for dishes that are focused and unfussy. The restaurant is owned by G.Lion Hawai‘i, the Osaka-based company behind Hy’s Steak House and La Vie, so we’re expecting fare similar to the Japanese-inflected Italian menus at Taormina, Bernini and Arancino at The Kāhala. Instead we find hearty pastas and an assortment of food served on wooden platters. House-made burrata ($16) comes on one such plate, a creamy mound of it flanked by a tangy tomato jam and olive oil-drizzled tapenade. As with the shrimp, you’ll want to swipe accompanying wedges of grilled focaccia through the last smears. Same with the meatballs ($18) in pecorino and marinara sauce. Get all three and call it a day.
For feasting and carnivorous groups of more than two, get the four-hour-braised osso buco ($55), a porcine shank erupting from a deep-red sea. One pass with a butter knife between the twin bones and the entire structure collapses, knobs of flesh spilling into the sauce. (This is a favorite of executive chef Shaymus Alwin; the kitchen reserves the sauce from the dish for an end-of-shift snack finished with fresh tomatoes, ricotta cheese and Calabrian chile oil and spooned over bread and pasta.) Other mains include a grilled rib-eye steak with salsa verde and a garlicky aioli ($68), and whole grilled fish (market price).
For us the biggest surprise comes last. Mushroom pappardelle ($21 regular, $34 large), like all the pastas except the orecchiette, is handmade by sous chef Miranda Eckerfield, formerly of San Francisco’s Michelin guide-rated A16 and Flour + Water. It’s the simplest of dishes: Wide ribbons of pasta, toothsome and pliant, are twined around mouthfuls of Hāmākua ali‘i and maitake mushrooms and topped with a smattering of charred kale and pecorino. There is no obscuring sauce—the only flavors enhancing pasta and mushrooms are butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Chefs say that simple dishes are the hardest to execute because there’s nothing to hide behind, but the pappardelle crowns the evening. Seven other pastas include a pumpkin-stuffed agnolotti, an uni we avoid because of multiple negative reports, and cappellacci dei brigante, or handmade soldier’s hats, tossed with Italian sausage and lemon. But we keep going back to the mushroom pappardelle.
Cocktails created by Dusty Grable—formerly of Livestock Tavern, The Tchin-Tchin! Bar and Merriman’s Honolulu—and his team are outstanding and replete with local ingredients and Italian bitters. There’s a Cynar daiquiri, a calamansi whiskey smash, a liliko‘i bellini, a Kō Hana Rum mai tai, a Manhattan with Buffalo Trace bourbon and a maple syrup finish. The plan for one of my visits is to stop in for pau hana cocktails; it falls apart with the aroma of sizzling steak and the pulse-slowing view of an uncluttered, almost idyllic Waikīkī. So much for just
cocktails. We settle in for another feast.
383 Kālaimoku St., (808) 727-9757, open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.