Stage Restaurant
Honolulu Design Center
1250 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, HI
Phone number (808) 237-5429

A few months ago, Metro staff writer Paige Takeya and I realized something: We’ve been friends now for 10 years — a whole damn decade.

We first met at Mililani High School when we both worked on the school newspaper. Later, when we both attended University of Hawaii at Manoa, and I was working at Ka Leo O Hawaii (the student newspaper there), I recruited her to the copy-editing team. A couple of years later, we both ended up here at Metro, so our friendship now spans three publications.

We decided it was worth celebrating — with excellent food, naturally — and headed to Stage Restaurant, located within Honolulu Design Center.

If you’ve never been, first, shame on you. Walking through HDC en route to a restaurant might feel a little odd at first. To get there, you have to walk through INspiration Interiors, which means a couple of floors and rows of furniture. Personally, I think it’s kind of fun to stop along the way and look around and pretend I need something.

Having all that furniture around really benefitted Stage, though. It’s modern and fun, with bold décor and large sculptures.

And then there’s the food — some of it is playful, a lot of it is regional and Asian-fusion cuisine, and all of it is delicious.

Also, fun fact: If you are a Marukai member, show your card to the waiter for a free appetizer or dessert. Seriously.

It certainly was an incentive to start with Duck Wraps. It was very much like eating Peking duck, but with lettuce instead of a steamed bun. The duck confit was tender and flavorful, probably my favorite component of the dish. Eating it with lettuce was less filling than a bun would have been, and also lent an extra crunch with each bite.

Honestly, the appetizer left me feeling a bit full, but shortly after, our entrees arrived. I would, in a heartbeat and without a doubt, order the Potato Crusted Island Monchong again. Every bite was a combination of soft fish and crunchy potato shreds. A soubise (onion-based) sauce, Applewood smoked bacon and a morel mushroom medley made the entire dish more than just another interpretation of fish.

(Paige ate the Seafood Arrangement, which was a combination of monchong, Kauai shrimp, caramelized diver scallop and Kona lobster, with a lemon potato puree, sofrito and tomato-saffron butter sauce.)

Earlier in the evening, we made bold claims of each ordering a dessert so that we could sample more than one thing. It was a lofty goal that ultimately proved impossible because we were so full.

Instead, we opted to share something: Deconstructed S’mores. It was a contemporary take on the campfire classic, and I loved it. It had everything — dark chocolate ganache, toasted marshmallow ice cream, graham cracker crumbles, dehydrated chocolate mousse and marshmallows. OK, it was a bit fancier than the usual stuff-smashed-between-graham-crackers version. My favorite item on the visually appealing plate were the marshmallows. They were smoky, lightly spiced and tasted as though they’d actually been held over a fire.

And that’s kind of the thing about Stage. I’m never quite sure what to expect, even after having been there before. Each meal is slightly different and really engages all senses.

Oh, something else to look forward to: a couple of amuse-bouches between courses that cleanse the palate and also are just straight up fun.

P.S. Stop in soon if you want to sample the Duck Wraps and Potato Crusted Island Monchong. Chef Ron de Guzman plans on making a few changes to the menu soon.