When Stage Restaurant executive chef Ron de Guzman goes out to eat, he says he often ends up just ordering a bunch of various appetizers.
“Usually I order too many,” de Guzman says. “I just like to try a bunch of dishes from the menu.”
Stage recently has unveiled a new offering to reflect such dining habits: a tapas menu. A hallmark of Spanish cuisine, tapas are small plates, often eaten in more casual settings. Served in the adjacent Amuse Wine Bar and in a new portioned-off section toward the back of Stage, the tapas range from $8 to $20. As in the Spanish tradition, these plates are designed to be shared, though you could polish a few off on your own, if you wanted.
“It’s kind of like toning it down from fine-dining; it’s a more casual feel,” de Guzman says.
“This way,” he continues, “you can get a good amount of food for pretty cheap. And you get more to taste, and you share it with friends.”
The menu is comprised of more than 20 items spanning three categories: vegetables, seafood and meat. While some dishes call upon Spanish origins distinctly, Stage has put its own spin on everything, bringing in local and Asian flavors as well. This, at times, lends to unexpected combinations, like in the Patatas Bravas, for instance. It’s a common tapas dish, but here has been revamped to include togarashi mayo (just like you might find in a spicy ahi bowl), tobiko, and furikake atop poached-then-quickly-fried red potatoes.
The Garlic Ahi is a familiar-yet-elevated dish, which features a thin, tender slice of ahi topped with a light, creamy garlic aioli — and then torched for a delicate smokiness. It’s finished off with crispy garlic and green onions. (It might sound like a lot of garlic, but it’s just the right amount to let the flavors of the fish still shine through.)
In addition to incorporating Asian flavors, you’ll also find locally produced foods sprinkled throughout the menu — Ho Farms eggplant, Kamuela tomatoes, Peterson’s Farm eggs and Big Island hearts of palms all make appearances. One highlight is the Garlic Kauai Shrimp Toast, which de Guzman explains is Stage’s take on shrimp scampi. The dish features huge, succulent Kauai shrimp mixed with capers, garlic, lemon, parsley, white wine, butter and Parmesan Reggiano — all of which is soaked up with a generous slice of garlic bread.
“I like to eat scampi and sop up the sauce with some bread, so we did a garlic toast on the bottom,” de Guzman says.
The chef also wanted to bring in some Filipino dishes — like the Ho Farms Eggplant “Torta,” which he says is one of his personal favorites. It’s an omelet made from eggplant — it’s reminiscent of an eggplant jun — complemented by a light Sweet Land Farms goat cheese and a spicy finadene.
If you’ve got any room for more sampling, there’s also new tapas-style dessert offerings. Alissa’s Ice Cream Bar (named after its creator, pastry cook Alissa Balmoja) is a trio of different ice cream flavors that change regularly. Pictured here (bottom left photo, from left) is cookie butter, raspberry guava hibiscus sorbet and blueberry lavender ice cream — each accompanied with garnishes like lilikoi foam, dehydrated chocolate mousse and marshmallows.
Then there’s the Chocolate Four Play with four chocolate desserts that vary daily. (Protip: If the white chocolate tiramisu is on the list when you stop in, order this dish immediately.)
“We wanted to wow the customers with big platters that they can share,” says pastry chef Cainan Sabey. “These are more fun, interactive (dishes). That is the whole thing with tapas — it can be for multiple people and there are so many flavors.”
STAGE RESTAURANT & AMUSE WINE BAR
1250 Kapiolani Blvd. Honolulu, HI
Phone number (808) 237-5429