Restaurant Review – Le Bistro

By: Kevin McQuarrie
Oahu Island News

When one thinks of romantic dining establishments on Oahu, restaurants such as La Mer, Indigo, and Michel’s come to mind. With their spectacular views or Balinese gardens, these restaurants seem to be the classics of romantic dining in Honolulu. However, Le Bistro is a surprising bastion of romanticism tucked right into a nondescript strip mall along Kalanianaole Highway in Niu Valley.

After being seated we were greeted almost immediately by Lance, our server for the evening. He expertly ran through a list of specials, and informed us that the Thursday special of Roasted Long Island Duckling with Grand Mar-nier Sauce was sold out. However, we were offered the Wednesday special of Veal with Wild Mushrooms and Cognac Sauce.

Even though Le Bistro offers a full bar with a premium well, my dinner companion and I each opted for a glass of wine to complement our hors d’oeuvres and entrees. We started with a glass of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay ($7.95). This was the perfect complement to the Escargot De Bourgogne ($7.80) and the Salade of Gorgonzola, Greens & Fresh Pears ($7.80).

I have been a fan of escargot since the first time I was introduced to it after drinking too much champagne in Paris. The snails were plump and tender in an herb infused garlic butter brought bubbling to the table with a crusty baguette, perfect for dunking into the pools of hot garlic butter left behind. There is a specific flavor in Chef Takasaki’s version that I couldn’t identify. Wanting to know the secret to this special flavor I asked Lance if he could tell me, I was told that it was one of the chef’s secrets.

Our salad arrived as we were savoring the last bites of our escargot. The salad of Gorgonzola, greens and fresh pears included a generous portion of what appeared to be Waimanalo greens tossed in a light vinaigrette loaded with rich Gorgonzola cheese and fresh, ripe pears. This was the perfect palate freshener prior to the arrival of our entrees.

My companion chose the full order of New Orleans Miro Street style Scallops ($18.80 full order, $15.80 petit order). The scallops were large and skillfully sautéed without being over- cooked, and were delicately placed in a pool of clarified butter seasoned in Louisiana spices. The accompanying grilled vegetables and silky smooth garlic mashed potatoes completed the simple yet flavorsome entrée.

The Veal with Wild Mushroom & Cognac Sauce was right out of a Parisian bistro. The fork tender medallions of sautéed veal in a sauce of demi-glace, richly laden with an assortment of wild mushrooms, had just the right amount of cognac, and was finished with cream. The same grilled veggies and mashed potatoes accompanied the veal causing me to wonder if all dishes are served in this fashion. My Amberhill Cabernet Sauvignon ($6.95) complemented the veal perfectly.

Some of the other entrée options were a trio of pastas including a Gorgonzola Spaghettini with Slivered Almonds & Cracked Black Pepper. Another version of Spaghettini was served with Mushrooms, Herbs and Crème as well as a Penne with Italian Sausage, Spinach, Tomatoes, Garlic and Chili Flakes ($13.80 for each entrée).

From the grill, there are several choices. A classic French bistro Black Angus rib eye steak is served with cognac-Roquefort butter (petit $19.80 and regular $23.80). Lamb chops are also part of the selection glazed with balsamic vinegar and honey. Adding a local touch is a Takohana grilled breast of chicken served with the obligatory white rice ($12.80 petit and $14.80 regular). Black Angus beef makes an appearance again as a version of Yakitori ($14.80 petit and $17.80 regular) brushed with red wine sauce and served with the same white rice.

With no room left for dessert, we reluctantly ordered the Chocolate Bread Pudding and what was described as an Apple Crisp. Upon their arrival, I immediately recognized the apple tart as a classic Apple Tart Tartin with thinly sliced caramelized apples topping a buttery puff pastry crust. This was served with some of the best vanilla bean ice cream I’ve tasted. The bread pudding, while good, wasn’t rich or chocolaty enough to please my deep dark chocolate cravings. I just wanted MORE chocolate from this dessert.

Chef/Owner Alan Takasaki, who was born and raised in Hawaii, has quietly created a charming bistro in the Niu Valley Center. With its white linen tablecloths, candlelit dining room adorned with Guy Buffet prints and polished but friendly service, Le Bistro is an extremely welcome addition to Oahu’s dining scene.

French restaurants seem to be few and far between in Hawaii, and are mostly stuffy starched-shirt affairs. Le Bistro takes French food and makes it available to the masses without sacrificing a bit of the quality or creativity. If you’re planning a romantic interlude for Valentine’s Day, I’d recommend making your reservations soon.

Le Bistro
Niu Valley Shopping Center
5730 Kalanianaole Highway
Honolulu, HI 96821  Phone 373-7990
Open Daily (except Tuesday) 5:30-9:3
Reservations Recommended