Afterthoughts – Exquisite Italian at Arancino, Waikiki / Hawaii
We were recommended Arancino by a friend, who raved highly of this tiny Italian diner nestled in a quiet side street off of busy Kalakaua Avenue. It was Christmas Eve, and we had bookings to Nobu on Waikiki, but we thought to swing by Arancino on our way just to see how long the wait is. Because of the high volume of visitors during the holiday season, this popular neighbourhood favourite has a “no reservation” policy, so loyal diners can only wait in line for a chance at a table.
We arrived at 6:30pm and the wait list was about 30 minutes. I was originally looking for something more extravagant to celebrate Christmas Eve (aka Nobu) but was instantly charmed by the cozy warm ambiance of Arancino, complete with red checkered tablecloth! Since we were going to Tokyo the following day, where there will be plenty of opportunities for authentic sushi (we are not fans of nouveau “American” sushi), we opted to forgo our Nobu reservation for a taste of Italy, and were royally rewarded for our ingenuity!
After a somewhat quick 30 minutes wait, we were ushered to a cozy little table for 2 in the heart of the restaurant. We started the evening with fresh hibiscus Kir Royale and a bottle of Italian red.
My flute of ruby Kir Royale had a hibiscus blossom in it.
We started off light with insalata alla caprese, a fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil salad. The defining factor here is really the quality of ingredients as good produce is what makes this classic dish sing. Arancino’s rendition was superb – simple clean flavours with not an ounce of pretentious froufrou, but brimming with wholesome goodness.
Next, we dialled up the volume and went with melanzane alla parmigiana, a cozy eggplant parmesan baked to perfection. This was classic comfort food at its finest – hot, gooey and oozing with melted cheese. The portion was pretty big, and almost felt like a main course.
Our first main came in the form of spaghetti ai ricci di mare, pasta tossed in an uni and sweet garlic white wine cream sauce. AMAZING!!!!!!! The sauce was packed with huge chunks of fresh uni, and resonated sweet umami flavour. Because the flavours were so clean and sweet, I feel that they used Japanese uni instead of the heavier North American uni. The gooey sauce coated each strand of spaghetti perfectly, and I still drool thinking about this dish. I’ve had several versions of this elsewhere, but this has been the best representation so far.
Our other main was the restaurant’s most popular selection - spaghetti alla pescatora, a seafood pasta medley with langoustine, calamari, mussels, clams, and shrimp. It came tossed in a white wine garlic sauce with a whisper of tomato, and was delicious. However, it paled in comparison to the golden uni pasta.
After polishing off all that, plus a bottle of wine, we were pretty full but made room for one more dessert! I’m obsessed with panna cotta, and Arancino did not disappoint. The dessert was creamy and velvety, although on the runny side. Nonetheless, it was the perfect way to conclude a magnificent meal. There were other equally enticing options, such as the crema catalans, a soft frozen orange custard drizzled with Grand Marnier, or vivace, a vanilla ice cream and marscapone cheese dessert drizzled with Baileys and cinnamon. I guess we’ll have to try these on our next visit!
Verdict: Exquisite. Although the restaurant is Japanese-owned, it definitely serves up superb Italian food with authenticity. I think the Japanese part just adds to the meticulousness of preparation and ingredient selection. This little diner is a true gem in glittery Waikiki, and shines not in flashy decor or celebrity following, but in quality food. If you are looking for a quiet evening with great food in a cozy, relaxed setting, then Arancino takes the cake!
255 Beach Walk
(808) 923 5557