My 3 Favorite Dishes on Arancino Kāhala’s New Menu

Seafood appetizers plus a classic tableside pasta preparation highlight new adds at the upscale Italian eatery.



Photo: Maria Burke


Arancino Kāhala, the intimate Italian restaurant tucked next to the porte cochere of The Kāhala Hotel, is known for dishes with mindful details and skillful execution. A longtime fan of its uni pasta and since retired pizza carbonara, I jump at the opportunity when I’m invited to try its new dishes—it’s been a while since I’ve been there. All I know is that tableside cacio e pepe, a simple pasta that’s easy to get wrong, will be making an appearance, and that just ups my anticipation.



Photo: Maria Burke


During my years living in the Mediterranean, there was one thing that reminded me most of Hawai‘i—the absurdly sweet, raw flesh of crimson-shelled amaebi. Whether I encountered it sliced thin at a seaside hole-in-the-wall or from the back of the fisherman’s bike, it was all glorious. At Arancino on this night, amaebi ($40) is the first dish that arrives. A tiny jar is filled to the brim with silky chopped shrimp laced with a yuzu vinaigrette and covered with a blanket of buttery black pearls of caviar. The simplicity and succulence of the combination are beyond satisfying—sometimes a calculated show of restraint is all it takes to lift supreme ingredients. This opening dish has my heart.


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Photo: Arancino Kahala


Next up is Carpaccio di Tonno ($28). It’s stunning on the plate, but I can’t remember the last time an ‘ahi crudo preparation blew my mind. These pieces are deep red, thick and slightly marbled, surrounded by amber olive oil and whole mustard seed vinaigrette. I wrap a piece onto itself to capture all the fixin’s. The crunch and salinity of the sea asparagus play off of the sweet ‘ahi, the tangy mustard and onion adding earthiness, bite and more texture. Something else sets off the aged balsamic, and it’s an umami bomb. My eyes open wide. The tasty culprit is small dots of arrabbiata, a spicy tomato sauce. It’s at this point that I begin to plan my next reservation.



Photo: Maria Burke


Next is the pasta, and that means back to basics. A small cart holding a giant wheel of pecorino Romano is rolled to our table—one of the three ingredients necessary for cacio e pepe ($27). The dish itself goes back to ancient Rome, a creation of local shepherds. Turns out cheese, pepper and pasta is all you need to eat well.


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Caccio 2

Photo: Maria Burke


As we watch, a splash of brandy is swirled into the hollow of the cheese wheel and ignited to temper the cheese. Over a small flame on the cart, handfuls of spaghetti are tossed in a sauté pan with pasta water, parmigiano reggiano cheese and cracked black pepper and the spaghetti is poured into the wheel of pecorino. General Manager Alessandro Bolla carefully tosses the pasta with a large fork and spoon, the peppery sauce growing thicker and shinier, then twirls it into a loose nest on a plate and finishes it with more black pepper. The pasta is perfectly al dente, the luscious cheese coating the strands in a way that’s both light and decadent, producing an intoxicating balance between salt and fat, texture and spice.


There are other notable new dishes, including Spaghetti alle Vongole crowded with plump Manila clams ($34); Filetto alla Rossini ($65), a flavorful tenderloin topped with a thick lobe of foie gras and a truffle rossini reduction that had me nearly licking the plate; and a dessert of house-made vanilla gelato, strawberries and Fondo Montebello aged balsamic vinegar ($13). I’ve thought about them all. But if you ask me, the first three are what dinner date dreams are made of.


5000 Kāhala Ave., (808) 380-4400,, @arancinokahala