Let’s Talk Food: A foodie at Vintage Cave Cafe

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Pasta al pomodoro

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Caesar salad with prosciutto

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Formaggi misti appetizer (cheese sampler)

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Caprese di amera tomato

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Chicken brasato salad

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Chef’s special uni pasta

Spending a night in Honolulu and finding a nice place to dine with a 3-year-old grandson is a challenge. We walked from one end of Ala Moana Center to the other end, trying to decide where we should eat.

I heard about Vintage Cave Club from Allan Ikawa, who raved about it. In 2012, Vintage Cave Club was formed by Takeshi Sekiguchi, a real estate developer. Ko Olina Resort on Oahu, Wailea Resort on Maui and Kaloko Commercial Center near Ellison Onizuka International Airport in Kona are just some of Sekiguchi’s developments.

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There is now Vintage Cave Cafe for those of us who have grandchildren, more casual than the club.

Chef Hide Yamamoto is the director of Vintage Cage Club and the Cafe. He served former presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Yamamoto earned the world’s first Six Stars by the American Academy of Hospitality Science while at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo.

It was nice to walk in and be taken away from the hustle and bustle of Ala Moana Center, like taking a bubble bath.

The staff was attentive and service was excellent. There were some reviews on Yelp that might make you think twice about going in, but we did not experience any poor service. Obviously, management took the comments seriously and fixed the problems they might have had in the past.

There is a children’s menu, so Quentin got to eat his red noodles, or Pasta al pomodoro, or spaghetti in tomato sauce, topped with salsa verde and Grana Padano cheese. The tomato sauce was made from excellent tomatoes, with no hint of sourness, probably made from Japanese amera tomatoes.

Son Reid had the formaggi misti appetizer, or fine assorted cheese plate, with housemade truffle honey and baguette and the chicken brasato salad, which is a steamed free-range chicken breast served with green olive dressing.

Son Dean had the caprese di amera tomato, which is Japanese amera tomato with burata cheese and balsamic glaze, and the chef’s special uni pasta, which is fresh sea urchin and bottarga in spaghetti with a non-dairy, housemade sauce.

Our daughter-in-law, Ariana, had eaten earlier and opted to watch us.

I ordered the $45 prix fixe menu. My choices were Caesar salad with prosciutto, which is Romaine hearts, Parmesan cheese and prosciutto with a house Caesar dressing; chicken pate and toast, which is chicken liver spread and berry jam; or cold tomato soup with burrata cheese and sweet tomato topped with honey drizzle. I choose the Caesar salad.

For the main course, my choices were pasta al pomodora; margherita bufala pizza; bianchetti; traditional Italian fish pasta, caprino, black and Kalamata olive, bacon and cherry tomato pizza; chef’s special uni pasta ($18 more); or chef’s special truffle pizza, which is a pizza topped with house special mushroom cream sauce and a poached egg.

I opted for the special uni pasta.

I had memories of the uni donburi that I enjoyed in Sapporo, Japan, last year and would have to say that uni works very well with rice and is just OK with spaghetti.

I had a glass of Plungerhead Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 from Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, California, with my dinner. The wine was smooth as silk and absolutely luscious.

Dessert was panna cotta served with a lilikoi sauce and fresh fruit.

There were other prix fixe menus.

For $65 per person, you get an appetizer, zuppa, or soup, of carmelized onion soup topped with Grana Padano cheese, a main course and dessert. The entrees include Jidori chicken diavolo, which is a free-range chicken thigh sauteed in a diavolo sauce; cotoletta alla milanese, which is a Milano-style veal cutlet with a mustard seed sauce; sauteed local fish, which is sauteed Hawaiian fish with tapenade; or the upgraded options: roasted rack of lamb, which is Australian roasted lamb served with housemade green pepper sauce; Wagyu striploin tagliata, which is Wagyu steak served with mushroom marsala sauce; or grilled Wagyu filet with red wine beet sauce.

The $90 prix fixe menu included a single bite appetizer of frittata di vedura, which is a vegetable omelette with tomato sauce; caprese di amera tomato; prosciutto crudo con la frutta, proscuitto with seasonal fruit; or carpaccio, which is carpaccio with Hokkaido scallops, ahi and sea scallops.

The zuppa is minestrone soup, which is vegetable soup served with applewood smoked bacon.

The primo piatto, or pasta, was conchiglie with truffle cream sauce, which is shell pasta topped with truffles in a mushroom cream sauce. The secondo piatto choices were roasted rack of lamb or Wagyu striploin tagliata; upgrade options of Wagyu filet mignon or the cafe’s signature cartoccio-style braised beef, which is beef ragout in a red wine and balsamic vinegar sauce (limited to only 20 orders a day).

Foodie bites

Hawaii Community College is on spring break this week. The Cafeteria and Bamboo Hale are closed.

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Happy Easter on Sunday, April 1. I hope you all have a wonderful celebration with family and friends.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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