Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet.”
When the original Vintage Cave opened over three years ago in the basement of Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center, it was heralded as the one restaurant in the 50th that would put Hawai‘i on the global culinary map. Why? For starters, Japanese developer Takeshi Sekiguchi had only one objective: to create the best restaurant in the world, bar none. He promptly enlisted the talents of a local boy, Chef Chris Kajioka, and gave him one simple directive: No compromises; purchase the best and create the best. Here’s a blank check.
Vintage Cave was originally envisioned as a private club; however, because it involved obtaining a liquor license from the City and County of Honolulu, it had to be open to the public for at least 30 days. At $295 per person (which, including libations for a couple, could easily turn into a four-figure dinner bill), Sekiguchi did not anticipate much local interest. Boy, was he ever wrong! Hordes of local foodies managed to find some “special occasion” to secure a reservation at Vintage Cave, so the exclusive restaurant did manage to keep its doors open to the public for more than the original 30-day requirement.
As the times changed, however, and wallets got thinner, the Cave’s personnel changed. Chef Kajioka (now co-owner of Senia) departed and was replaced in the kitchen by Chef Jonathan Mizukami, who eventually returned to The French Laundry in Napa Valley. Their departures left the restaurant having to make some important changes.
Vintage Cave is now in its third iteration as the Vintage Cave Club. The rebranding of the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk also led to the creation of the Vintage Cave Café.
Vintage Cave Café
For the record, I did manage to come up with a “special occasion” to indulge in one of those extravagant Vintage Cave meals, courtesy of my Mrs. The occasion was a birthday meal — and we knew that in all likelihood we wouldn’t be returning due to the price. But then Sekiguchi-san decided to also create a restaurant for the masses — someplace folks could go after a busy day of shopping at Ala Moana Center . . . and that became Vintage Cave Café.
Chef Taiki Oda currently heads the kitchen. He apprenticed under Chef Marco Parizzi of the Michelin-starred Ristorante Parizzi in Parma, Italy, so the menu theme is Italian, obviously. The café’s décor is pretty close to that of the exclusive club, with stone floors and apparently the same type of brick walls as the original restaurant. It also has three private rooms — two with seating for up to eight people, and a larger area with seating for up to 20 people. In fact, the only difference seems to be the lighting, which is brighter than that of the club. And, there’s live music during the dinner service. The dress code is “casual,” but it almost seems sacrilege to dress down in shorts, T-shirt and rubber slippers, as I observed during our dinnertime visit.
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