New Restaurant Debuts With Biggest Wine List in Hawaii

Jan 8, 1999

Philippe Padovani, one of the original 12 chefs responsible for developing Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, opened his long-awaited Padovani's Bistro in Honolulu on Dec. 28 with the biggest wine list in Hawaii.

The 10,000-bottle cellar, offering 600 selections, is unusual for Hawaii, which has limited access to many of the best and rarest wines due to high shipping costs, high taxes and the small number of distributors in the state. Padovani's relies on sources other than normal channels, said Kevin Toyama, one of three sommeliers at the restaurant.

One of those sources is Honolulu businessman John Damon, a major investor in the restaurant. "Mr. Damon has been on mailing lists for years to get those hard-to-find California wines," Koyama added. "He has a contact in the San Francisco Bay area who uses purveyors on the West Coast to clear the wines through to us."

The list mixes more hot wineries and older vintages into the range of mostly current-vintage wines that other Hawaiian restaurants offer. Opening week, Marcassin Chardonnay Alexander Valley Gauer Vineyard 1993 was available by the glass, and the wine list included Kistler Chardonnays from 1990 and 1992, Stony Hill Chardonnays back to 1978, Coche-Dury Meursault to 1989, Jermann Chardonnay Dreams to 1989, 17 Turley Zinfandels, several first-growth Bordeaux reds from 1966 and Penfolds Grange Hermitage from 1980 to 1982.

For his part, Padovani has geared his menu to wine, avoiding most of the hot peppers and aggressive Asian spices found on many modern Hawaiian menus. "I can do spicy food," Padovani said with a shrug. "But the key to the restaurant is this wine list."

His menu uses traditional Hawaiian ingredients, such as fresh hearts of palm and green papaya in salads and poi (a taro paste) in an otherwise classic French baguette-style bread. Hawaiian fish are used exclusively, and ogo (an edible seaweed) flavors clam chowder.

Padovani, born in France but reared in Australia, came to Hawaii in 1986 and made his reputation at La Mer in the Halekulani Hotel. Subsequently, he earned applause at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and the Ihilani restaurant at The Manele Bay Hotel before returning to Honolulu earlier this year. Padovani is the second star chef to open a new restaurant in Honolulu in December, following the Dec. 19 opening of Chef Mavro.

An upstairs wine bar and a cigar bar are scheduled to open in late January with a 50-bottle Cruvinet wine-dispensing system and hors d'oeuvres available from carts.

Padovani's Bistro
1956 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96815
Phone (808) 946-3456
Fax (808) 947-1138
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

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