The Tastes Of The Season

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - December 14, 2005
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Chef Guillaume Burlion of the Diamolnd Head Grill
Chef Guillaume Burlion of the Diamolnd Head Grill

I hate to admit this, but most of my Christmas plans revolve entirely around food, and the smells associated with this holiday. When I think of those on my gift list, I immediately think of things they might like for the kitchen. When I think of spending the weekend at home, I’m imagining pots of homemade soup, a roast in the oven, trifle in the fridge and a Bailey’s on ice at the end of the day. Throughout the holiday I keep a pan simmering cloves, cinnamon sticks and orange peel on the go, filling the house with the scent of the season. It wouldn’t be Christmas to me without all of these familiar smells.

So, I have huge expectations of restaurants over the holidays. Not for me some greasy all-you-can-eat buffet or turkey with all the trimmings. Give me goose! Or at least tempt me with something I’m not likely to see the rest of the year. On Christmas Eve I want twinkling lights, carols and action.

Finding those things in one place, though, can be difficult.

Donato does it well. His Italian restaurant in Manoa Marketplace is a lovely place to spend a night before Christmas, and he always has a traditional Italian menu that includes lots of seafood.

Someone whose love of food and sense of occasion are in perfect harmony is Chef Guillaume Burlion, the executive chef at Diamond Head Grill. DHG is a great place to be if you want atmosphere. Christmas candlelight and cool Yule music are all a part of an evening here, but it’s Burlion’s menu that should have serious foodies calling in their reservations now. This year he has Scottish partridge (in a “pear tree,” no less), on the menu along with bison in a Bordeaux reduction and Busche de Noel (the traditional French Yule log) on a pool of white Godiva chocolate. It’s an inspired menu, and you can bet that it will look as beautiful as it sounds. Burlion trained as a pastry chef originally, and believes that diners eat first with their eyes. The Christmas Eve menu here has just one seating and then diners are treated to a Christmas soiree following the feast.

Another highly creative menu this year appears at Bali By The Sea, where the newly installed executive chef, Adam Hightower, is offering Island bisque made with clams, shrimp, mahi mahi and Kahuku corn, quail with foie gras and local mushrooms, and a host of delicious entrees, including beef tenderloin with a butter poached lobster tail scented with Hawaiian vanilla beans.

And d.k Steakhouse has all of the holiday appeal you could wish for this year. The dark interior of the restaurant, with its booths and Riedel crystal-filled bar, lends itself perfectly to the twinkling lights, “snow” and miniature trees that now adorn the room. With tiki torch flames reflected in the windows, it has the look of a European steakhouse with flickering fires. Not bad for a “hotel” restaurant on the beach in Waikiki! Stop in for a visit - oh, and try the Kobe steak if you can. It’s outrageously good. I’m not sure I’ve had a better steak in my life.

And finally, if you really want to get into the spirit of Christmas and food - then head over to Sheraton Moana Surfrider where the gingerbread village is a treat for all ages. It may not be edible (chef starts making the gingerbread pieces in September), but it is full of the spirit of the season.

Happy eating!

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