Five-diamond Dining At La Mer

Jo McGarry
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Friday - December 29, 2006
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Anyone who’s eaten at La Mer knows that the restaurant is serious about food, wine and service. But no one knows it more than the people who matter. The Halekulani’s signature restaurant has just been awarded the AAA Five Diamond Award, making it the only restaurant in Hawaii to receive the honor.

There are thousands of restaurants in Hawaii - hundreds of really good ones, and at least a few dozen that I’d call fine dining of the highest quality. But none meets the incredibly strict standards set out by AAA.

“The standards are extremely high,” says Richard Valquez, AAA Hawaii regional manager, “and it takes considerable time and dedication on the part of our 65 full-time assessors to make sure that each hotel and restaurant is compliant in every area.”

Hotel and restaurant visits are anonymous, and the identity of the assessor is revealed only after the stay is complete. Only three hotels earned the award this year in Hawaii: The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua and The Four Seasons Resort, Maui at Wailea.

“This is an extremely valuable tool for more than 49 million traveling AAA members around the world,” says Valquez, “and for the more than 100,000 members who travel each year to Hawaii.”

But at La Mer, though the award is nice, it’s just another part of doing business in a first-class way. “Of course it’s fabulous to be recognized,” says food and beverage director Sabine Glissmann. “The Five Diamond Award is extremely prestigious, and it definitely draws clientele who travel and pay attention to these kinds of details.”

But for Glissmann and the staff at La Mer, the everyday details are what make the restaurant great. “The way we see it is, if you have a fine-dining restaurant, then these are the standards you should keep up on a daily basis,” she says, “whether anyone is grading you or not.”

Still, it’s nice to have 17 years of awards that say you’re doing everything right. The exhaustive list of AAA criteria includes everything from curb appeal to floor coverings and, of course, the menu. What makes La Mer’s consistent rating so exceptional is that more than 180 restaurants in Hawaii were surveyed last year with no other restaurants reaching Five Diamond status.

For Glissmann, the daily work continues. Have lunch with her and she’s adjusting the tablecloth, rearranging the flowers and subtly signaling to the wait staff when she feels something needs attention. But just like the service, it’s all done in an incredibly unobtrusive manner. But even the very cool Glissmann breathes a sigh of relief each year when the awards come out. “Absolutely it’s a relief,” she says, laughing. “It’s always good to know that you’ve achieved what you set out to.”

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