It’s been a while since I last dined at the trendy Stage Restaurant. When they first opened in 2007 at the Honolulu Design Center, Jon Matsubara was executive chef and George W. Bush was president of the United States. Seven years later, Chef Matsubara is now the man at Japengo and George W. Bush is painting somewhere in a barn in Texas. Former executive sous chef, Ron de Guzman, moved into the executive chef position and revamped the menu. The restaurant decor also received a facelift. Artwork of fanciful genetilia no longer dominate the walls. Now they’ve got Louis Vuitton lips.
Decor aside, what matters the most is whether or not the food has improved. The last time around, I remember leaving Stage unimpressed. Hence the seven year gap before returning once again. My worries, though, were unwarranted.This time around, they’ve got stylish food that tastes really good. The current menu is innovative, the dishes have great presentation appeal, and the food is, well, ono.
Dinner started with Chef’s choice amuse-bouche, on the house.
No ordinary bread roll here. Pastry chef Cainan Sabey is well known for his pumpkin rolls that are made in house. On the side, hummus to spread. These pumpkin rolls are so good.
To start, we each ordered appetizers, because, why wouldn’t you? I ordered the Grilled Octopus, which featured sea asparagus, Ho Farms tomato, Maui onions, sesame oil, baby arugula.
This is the Stage Sashimi. I was expecting a small portion of hamachi. Nope. Nice large chunks of Japanese hamachi with wasabi, shiso, radish salad, orange and wasabi tobiko, crispy won ton pi, and shoyu gelée.
Stage’s rich Kona Lobster Bisque with velvet lobster cream with crème fraîche, black truffle, and herb oil.
For my entree, I decided on the Fennel Crusted Ahi with asian-ratatouille, extra virgin olive oil, mini Thai basil, Kahuku sea asparagus, and nori. I was pleasantly surprised by the generous portions of ahi chunks.
New Zealand King Salmon with Ho Farms “nishime”, kinpira root vegetables, and crispy salmon skin.
The Seafood Étouffée was a popular choice at our table. It featured mussels, Manila clams, calamari, opah (Hawaiian moonfish), Creole rice, sea asparagus, and Ho Farms tomatoes.
Misoyaki Butterfish with watercress namul, housemade hariharizuke relish, tsukudani, kabayaki, Kahuku corn, edamame, and kizami nori.
Pastry chef Cainan Sabey has developed an eclectic dessert menu that features familiar flavors.
Dessert started with a palate cleanser to remove any lingering flavors from previous dishes.
This is the popular Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup featuring TCHO milk chocolate panna cotta, strawberry banana sherbert, açai-mixed berry coulis, whipped cream, and crunchy caramel milk chocolate tuile.
I highly recommend the Very Decadent Cake, with chocolate ganache, Nutella powder, fleur de sel caramel, and chocolate salt. On the side was a hefty scoop of Brown Butter Popcorn Ice Cream. So good it’s evil.
Of course, the treat of the evening was the Cotton Candy Du Jour. It was humungous. Please see photos below and compare with Sheryl’s head for reference.
And to finish our meal, forget hard peppermint candy. Stage ended the evening with bitesize macadamia nut tart squares. An indulgent way to end a fabulous evening of dining. I won’t be awaiting another seven years to eat here again, that’s for sure.