Dazed and Confused at Amuse Wine Bar

The creamsicle panna cotta from Amuse Wine Bar.

Photo: A. Kam Napier

Oenophiles know that Amuse Wine Bar in the Honolulu Design Center is a great place to sample a wide range of wines. It’s like a Fernandez Fun Factory for grown-ups—you load up a card with money, insert it into wine dispensing machines and serve yourself small pours from more than 80 different labels. However, it’s also a great place to eat well without breaking the bank (you’ll do that with the wine tasting.) Two of us split four dishes for a mere $32.46. First, the Stage spinach Caesar salad, with sundried tomatoes, house made croutons, bacon, parmesan reggiano crisps and Caesar dressing ($10). Then the pork quesadilla ($8), with avocado and tomato salsa, mozzarella cheese and flour tortilla. (Coulda used a little more pork!) The desserts were real stand-outs. The creamsicle panna cotta ($6) did an amazing flavor impersonation of that childhood frozen treat, the Orange Creamsicle. And then there was the fromage brownie ala mode with crème Anglaise, caramel, vanilla bean ice cream and macadamia nut brittle ($7)—delicious, but if you repeat this dessert order, have the panna cotta first. The brownie's richness will overwhelm your tongue and the creamsicle effect will be undetectable.

The dishes all come from the same kitchen powering Stage, the high-end restaurant just off the wine bar, so the flavors are bright, the presentation terrific, the ingredients fresh.

One complaint: the industrial chic aesthetic of Amuse could use some soundproofing. Though half-empty on a weeknight, the room echoed much too loudly with the ruckus from a single large group. If it’s just two of you, you might want to retreat to the adjoining ice-themed room, where you can actually have a conversation.

Amuse Wine Bar, 1250 Kapiolani Blvd, 2nd Floor Honolulu Design Center, Open Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m., 237-5428, amusewinebar.com/amuse-drink.