The Changing Food Scene

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 15, 2006
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Wes Zane and Chef Almar Arcano of Formaggio
Wes Zane and Chef Almar Arcano of Formaggio

Alan Wong’s restaurant on South King Street is closing.

There, I’ll bet that got your attention!

Actually, the incredibly popular restaurant is only closing temporarily and will open again April 9. I have it on good authority that Chef Wong and his team will take the breathing space to introduce some new menu items, and you can be pretty certain to see more and more local farm produce and locally raised beef on the menu. Wong is highly committed to supporting local agriculture, and truly understands the importance of the relationship between farmers and chefs on this small island chain. He continues to get my vote as one of the most innovative and talented chefs in Hawaii. Plus he’s just one really nice guy. ...

In other restaurant news: Sunset Grill was sold a couple of weeks ago to a former Assaggio chef and his partners. Gone is GM Stu Schroeder. Hope we see him back in a worthy restaurant soon.

Just around the corner at Restaurant Row,Yanni Trainedes has opened Yanni’s, specializing in authentic Greek fare. I met Yanni a couple of weeks ago and respectfully haven’t written about him.

“We’re not quite ready for the foodies,” he told me.

I think they’re ready now. The place is beginning to rock on weekends with traditional Greek food - and dancing. Yanni himself brings a decidedly sophisticated air to Restaurant Row. He is handsome, talented and an award-winning restaurateur who really seems to know what customers want. His Greek Taverna in Cairns, Australia, won many awards, despite being located far from the inner-city action. Looks like that location in Restaurant Row may have met its match ...

Mexican food is heating up in this town. As well as the incredibly good El Charro (Sand Island Access Road) and El Charro II (Pearlridge), a couple of new restaurants have opened. Perhaps the competition might finally make Mexican restaurants in Honolulu step it up. El Mariachi in Kaneohe is getting good reports for its homestyle food, and BC Burrito on Waialae Avenue is serving a variety of wraps - with a choice of fillings. Potato is one of them. Starch on starch, just the thing as we head into St Patrick’s Day ... Bailey’s will have its own little pub this year on the McClain Auction site at South King Street and Nuuanu Avenue. Head down between 6 and 9 p.m. on March 17 to try this quaint idea - and to taste some excellent Bailey’s and Guinness cocktails. The wonderful old building with its creaky wooden floors should make a fabulous Irish bar for the evening ... And great news for Kailua residents. The owners of Honolulu’s popular wine bar Formaggio will open Formaggio Grill later this summer. Owners Wes Zane and Chef Almar Arcano are taking their award-winning theme to the Windward side, where residents should be jumping for joy.

“We’re going to have a full-service kitchen at Formaggio Grill,” says Zane, “and we’ll be able to make more use of Almar’s talents.”

Arcano was, until recently, the longtime executive chef at Hy’s Steak House. Formaggio Grill will serve steaks, chops, seafood and a selection of the kind of food that has made Formaggio an award-winning Honolulu favorite.

“We’ll still be doing panini sandwiches and pizza, along with the new grill items,” says Zane, “but the emphasis is to keep quality high and prices low.”

Initial price point for the grill looks to be between $7.95 and $29.

Happy eating!

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