One Great Night
By: George Balling
Mary and I had the rare opportunity to get away for a week at this time of year. It is quite unusual for us to go anywhere during November with the holiday shopping season upon us and in the midst of a wine club month, but some dear friends offered a free place to stay in Oahu, and the pending weather of winter overruled the need to be in town.
We had not been to Hawaii for about 3 years, and while Mary had been to Honolulu many years ago, I had never visited the island, or Hawaii’s most populous city. The trip was wonderful and a whole week with special friends was the best. Any trip like this affords us the chance to also check out the wine scene far from home. We found it to be vibrant and diverse. We dined out much of the time and also squeezed in a couple of meals at our friend’s condo. Both the wines available in retail outlets and on restaurant wine lists were refreshing.
In restaurants from Honolulu to the area we were staying in, Ko’Olina, it was so great to find unique by the glass selections in nearly every different establishment. It is something I think could be better at restaurants around our home market here in North Idaho. Also, it was fun to find some old winery friends represented on the bottle lists while there. Scherrer, Peju, Frank Family and others are names we haven’t had the chance to try in some time, and we found many on bottle lists around the island.
While the entirety of our wine experience on Oahu was really special and fun, it all culminated in one great night. Just down the beach, a short ten-minute walk from our condo was a Four Seasons resort. The entire resort was fabulous as you might expect from Four Seasons. One night though we decided to wander in and have dinner at Mina’s Fish House, a restaurant owned and designed by renowned chef Michael Mina. We have known of Michael Mina since our time in San Francisco prior to opening The Dinner Party. We have always been fans, and Mina’s Fish House is no exception.
Without reservations that night we took up a seat at the bar, one of our favorite ways to dine impromptu. If you ever have the chance to travel to this area and decide to go to Mina’s for dinner, we highly recommend a seat at the bar, in the hopes that Eddie is working that night. He was there for our meal and as servers/bartenders go, he is nothing short of exceptional. His attention to every detail of our meal and our whole experience was expertly professional, and delivered with warmth and genuine hospitality.
The by the glass list covered every varietal and profile you could ask for, from multiple choices of delicious bubbly, to a full spectrum of white wines from crisp and clean to rich and full bodied and a full offering of reds both domestic and international. We had a look at their bottle list too, which was beyond impressive, but with the number of choices by the glass and it being just the two of us we happily bounced around from glass to glass enjoying the variety. As a sidenote the bar also boasts a great assortment of small batch tequilas including the nearly impossible to find Casa Dragones from San Miguel, Mexico.
The offering of fish at Mina’s was the best by far that we found on this trip with great variety, all so fresh it is what we love to eat when in Hawaii. The unique part of the dinner that night though, is that Mina’s actually has a “fish sommelier”! This was a first for us and Ryan, the “fish somm” that night was a wealth of knowledge and did an expert job describing the flavor profile, texture, fat content, preparation, and the date each offering was plucked from the local waters. While we could have made our choices on our own, this additional knowledge led to great selections that were expertly prepared and presented, swordfish for me and an endive crab Cesar for Mary that was one of the most innovative selections we have found.
As we enjoyed each bite and sip Eddie was there whenever we needed him and discreet while we enjoyed our meal and conversation. While we could go into great detail on the wines we choose, for us it was one of those nights that transcended the wines. It was all about the fabulous and creative food and expert service that made for one great night.