New Ritz-Carlton Restaurants Seduce And Satiate Waikīkī Diners

Food & Drink

Black town cars and Lamborghinis slide up to The Ritz-Carlton Residences in Waikīkī. 

Warm trade winds waft through the open-air foyer as it buzzes quietly with high-fashion couples tossing their car keys to men in pressed suits. 

A man who looks as if he just flew in from the Amalfi Coast with his fedora and British designer swim shorts sprawls out on a leather sofa with cushy pillows as he scrolls through his iPhone.

The elevator whisks guests up to the eighth floor where they must face one of the toughest decisions of the day here in paradise: Which of the hotel’s sleek, new restaurants to dine at – the lavish La Vie or the comforting Quiora? 

The French-inspired La Vie, which means “The Life,” opened in August 2019. It tempts guests with three- and five-course, build-your-own tasting menus.

Quiora, which means “Here, Now,” opened in September 2019. This Italian trattoria services the pool and a large, outdoor dining room that provides a front-row seat for the Friday-night fireworks.

Chef Shaymus Alwin oversees both menus with his eclectic culinary prowess from two decades of cooking in fine-dining establishments such as Chef Chai and Azure Restaurant in Hawaiʻi. His chef de cuisine, Patrick Collins, hails from the acclaimed Senia restaurant.

The watchful eye of general manager Dusty Grable, formerly of Stage Restaurant, Lucky Belly and Livestock Tavern, ensures opulent service. He hopes to underpromise and to overdeliver at both restaurants, prompting guests to exclaim and to wonder, “That was amazing, but it was even better than I thought – for reasons I can’t put my finger on.” 

The combination of this trio’s talents makes both of these restaurants competitive counterparts at The Ritz-Carlton and premier dining destinations in Waikīkī.

G.Lion Hawaii restaurant group operates both establishments as well as Hy’s Steakhouse down the street.

Dusk curates a seductive scene at La Vie. Candles flicker, producing an amber glow that illuminates the dining room and copper bar. Grand piano keys tinkle in the background. 

A view of the Waikīkī skyline, unobstructed by walls or windows, boasts sunsets the color of papaya. The kind lovers stop time for, watching in awe as they interlace fingers and plunge toes into soft, cold sand. 

As darkness descends upon the neighborhood, lights twinkle in the distance, and high heels flash in the restaurant doorway. A glass of champagne can get you in the mood alongside complimentary bottled sparkling or still water. 

Grable’s time working at Gary Danko in San Francisco inspired the customized tasting menu concept at La Vie. 

A simple salad is plated whimsically with puffy, white clouds of whipped, local goat cheese, golden beets and licoricey leaves of fresh tarragon entangled in a barbwire of Chartreuse-colored frisee and lightly dressed with a suggestive yet subtle raspberry vinaigrette. 

Just when you think that it is going to be an early night, a cocktail glass appears holding a glistening orb of Kona abalone dripping with tiny, black pearls of osetra caviar underneath a shimmering, gold leaf. At the base of the dish trembles a cube of sunchoke tofu, made of pureed sunchokes, silken tofu and macadamia nuts. 

Undress the tofu, carefully removing the spaghetti-strap strands of salt-kissed limu, raw slivers of sunchoke and toasty inamona crumbs, to taste it first in its purest form. The tofu will slide down your tongue like bare legs between satin sheets. 

For a main course, try the 21-day-aged duck breast. Pink pillows enclosed in layers of luminous fat and crispy, golden skin lie glistening on a bed of Le Puy green lentils, orange-scented duck demi-glace and watercress puree. 

A favorite dessert at La Vie is the Gateau Savarin, a soft spongecake soaked in Kō Hana rum and fresh orange juice topped with whipped creme fraiche. 

If you desire luxury, then opt for La Vie.

But, if you want comfort, then go with Quiora. 

Hotel guests cozy up with afternoon cocktails by the pool under a clear, blue sky. Libations include the Paradise Cidy – a refreshing concoction of local Paradise cider, lime and banana liqueur – and the dangerously delicious Chi Chi – an icy blend of vodka, coconut and pineapple.

As hunger sets in, sink your teeth into a softball-sized burger sandwiched in between buttery brioche coated in truffle scented beef drippings. Tart tomato jam and caramelized sweet onions ooze with every bite, while crunchy, fresh leaves of peppery arugula offset the decadence.  

Or, order the market fish sandwich – seared branzino bathed in lemon and cilantro yogurt and wrapped in soft, warm naan bread – with a side of salad or french fries. 

Dinner at Quiora only improves.

Slurp down candy-red, chamomile-infused aperol spritzes with head-on prawns coated in fragrant lemon zest and Calabrian chiles. Next, slather some creamy burrata on grilled, house-made focaccia bread with Kalamata olive tapenade and more tart tomato jam. Finally, find comfort in a bowl of pork meatballs fortified with pecorino cheese and fennel seed that any Italian grandmother would appreciate.

Also don’t miss the house-made pastas curated by Alwin’s sous-chef, Miranda Eckerfield, an alum of San Francisco’s A16 and Flour + Water. For the pappardelle, large ribbons of golden pasta arrive intertwined with milk-braised pork shoulder, soft chunks of house-made ricotta cheese, and a fairy dusting of wispy parsley, garlic and lemon. 

As fireworks explode in front of you on Fridays, tear into slabs of crispy-skin porchetta – roasted pork tenderloin wrapped in fatty pork belly marinated with fennel pollen, Calabrian chiles, honey and black pepper and served with garlicky salsa verde. The creamy, buttery polenta and spicy, roasted broccolini that you can order on the side complement each other like an old married couple who never could imagine parting. 

For dessert, linger over a cool, thick, dark-chocolate budino with olive-oil ice cream adorned with shortbread crumbles and crunchy sea salt.

Quiora leaves diners completely satisfied. After it quietly opened without any announcement, it is a wonder that many locals even know that this restaurant exists.

With attentive, friendly service and menus that strive for excellence, both establishments achieve the allure that Grable hopes for. They seduce you to return again and again, each time presenting that gut-wrenching decision: La Vie or Quiora?

La Vie Open for breakfast 6:30 a.m.-11 a.m. and dinner 5 p.m.-9 p.m. daily, (808) 729-9729

Quiora Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, (808) 729-9757

Both Restaurants are located inside The Ritz-Carlton Residences, 383 Kalaimoku St, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, 96815, 

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