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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

Applause-worthy Fare On Stage Menu

For an eatery viewed as slightly “different” when it first opened, Stage Restaurant has dealt its critics the best revenge – a successful wine bar, a busy dining room and a place with a growing reputation for excellence and value.

Go any weeknight for a pau hana glass of wine and you’ll find the after-work office crowd enjoying some of the best wine and pupu values in town. From a happy hour that runs week nights from 5 to 7 and offers signature cocktails and appetizers at $5, to live music and beer specials Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Amuse, the Wine Bar, fronting Stage, has become a popular destination on the Honolulu imbibing scene.

What was first considered curious – a wine bar where you buy a card and serve yourself from a chilled bottle system that delivers a measured pour – is now thought of as an excellent way to enjoy more than 80 different wines without breaking the bank or popping a cork. You can buy a $50 wine card Monday or Wednesday evenings and pay just $30. Replenish an existing card and you pay only $28.

A few steps forward at Stage, chef de cuisine Tim Petersen has been in charge of the kitchen since the departure of Ron DeGuzman a few months ago, and the restaurant appears to be flourishing. When I went for lunch last week, the dining room was busy, the wait staff attentive to a fault (I had my Diet Coke invisibly refilled so many times I was shaking by the time I left), and the menu an impressive mix of usual lunch fare (salads, soups, sandwiches, specials) with occasional inspired twists – all prepared with a comforting level of confidence.

A Chinese Style Steamed Fish ($19), a fresh catch served with lup cheong, ginger, green onions, cilantro, soy sauce and shiitake mushrooms, is not a revolutionary dish, but its soothing broth and bright flavors are perfect at lunch. An excellent Caesar salad has a perfectly balanced dressing, and Misoyaki New Zealand King Salmon ($18), served with green tea soba noodles, kaiware sprouts, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, bubu arare, wasabi and Tsuyu sauce, speaks to local roots.

A hint from a frequent diner: Ask for ponzu sauce on the side. It complements the salmon and its attendant seasoning perfectly.

I’m a big fan of the prix fixe lunch because I don’t have to think too hard about ordering, and I’ve never had anything that wasn’t first rate from the simple menu offered at Stage. There are three courses daily: a soup or salad and entrée (meatloaf, catch of the day or king salmon were recent choices). Dessert is included in the $26 price. I avoid dessert at lunchtime and I especially avoid it here, because the only thing that should follow a sumptuous portion of the house special Brownie ala mode is a nap, and I don’t have time to sleep during the day.

A list of current events, wine dinners, prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner are available at stagerestauranthawaii.com.

And, yes, it does have the best dining room chairs in town.

Happy eating!

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