An Early Diner’s Delight

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 30, 2005
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Sarento’s general manager Scott Osterhout has a
wine for any occasion

When you write about food for a living you get asked to do some unusual things. Mostly it’s judging food contests with strange themes or eating weird foods that most sane people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot fork.

I’ve eaten some of the most unpalatable foods on the planet, including sheep eyes, bull testicles and pig intestines, all in the name of work. So it always comes as something of a surprise to me when people assume I only eat in fine dining restaurants.

I’m judging this corned beef and green rice eating contest the other week and a lady comes up to me and says, “Oh, I’m surprised you’re here. We thought you only ate at fancy places.”

I do eat at fancy places, but I’m just as likely to be eating dim sum in Chinatown or grabbing a bowl of saimin on South King Street as I am to be dining in style. Life in the food fast lane is not all caviar and champagne!

I remember standing and chatting with a chef at a rural food festival on the Big Island seven years ago, wondering how I was going to get rid of the mountain oyster lodged securely inside my cheek. Swallowing didn’t really seem to be the best option, although as it turned out that’s what I did.

So, before I let you in on the best-kept dining secret of the month, know that for every maitre d’ who treats me nicely, there have been at least four grotty restaurants with dirty bathrooms I’ve had to visit first. Just so I can tell you all not to bother going there.

That said, the best dining deal of the moment is coincidentally at a fine dining restaurant — but one that knows the value of offering good deals to kamaaina. At Sarento’s and sister restaurant Aaron’s, the early dining special offers a three course selection for just $26.95.

“This is something that we run for a very limited time period,” says general manager Scott Osterhout, who is well used to people leaving both restaurants raving about the food and service.

“This is the whole package,” he says, speaking about Sarento’s. “You get the great view, the harbor, the sunset over the ocean — people think it’s unbelievable for $26.95.”

You also get access to one of the city’s finest wine lists and some great recommendations to go with dinner.

What Sarento’s is all about is fine dining with a finely tuned menu that corporate chef George Gomes has been working on for the past couple of years. Pasta is homemade, breads are baked in house, sausage meat is stuffed into hand-rolled casings and sauces are made from scratch. A couple of the dishes on the menu are so good that I can hardly wait to find the time to go back to have them again.

The early evening dining offers choices that include Sarento’s house-smoked salmon, steak, veal capricciosa and a host of other dishes.

If you’re looking for somewhere special to celebrate a romantic evening or take out-oftown guests for a spectacular view of the city along with great food, then this is my recommendation for the month.

You can’t beat the value, the food or the first-class service. The only caveat is that you dine before 6:30 p.m. — just in time to catch the sunset.

Now, if I can just finish these balut samples I’ve been asked to judge, maybe I can make it over there for cocktails.

Happy eating!

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