Arancino at The Kahala and The Signature

Fine dining is back in Honolulu. For the past few years, it’s been about pop-ups and picnic tables; now, is the dining pendulum swinging back toward formal dining rooms and white tablecloths?


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Okinawan sweet potato gnocchi and prosciutto at Arancino at the Kahala.

Photo: Steve Czerniak

Good food has never been more accessible in Honolulu, thanks in part to the new wave of casual eateries, of chefs forsaking high-end dining rooms to serve sandwiches at farmers’ markets and tasting menus at communal tables. But while those chefs are scaling down, they’re not the only ones reinventing themselves. With two new restaurants—Arancino at The Kahala and The Signature—restaurateurs previously specializing in red-and-white-checked tablecloth joints and food-court plate lunches (respectively) are moving into an arena that some, particularly the millennial generation, have been dismissing as dated and as tired as Lindsay Lohan.  

While I have suspicions that the reboot of fine dining is the conspiracy of white-tablecloth launderers, the real reason is probably less sinister. It is, perhaps, the answer to the question: Where are all the residents of the new luxury condos going to eat?

Or maybe it’s a response to the fact that people, young and old, are realizing casual does not always equal cheap. At some places, the bill dropped on your picnic table tallies up to $60 or more a person. Maybe there’s a market, after all, catering to diners who want their butts in comfortable seats and inexperienced servers to butt out.

But all that costs money. Does the money spent on the upgraded setting and service come at the cost of food quality? Is it worth it?
 

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