Pau Hana Patrol: Fresco serves up variety
I like hanging out in Waikiki; it creates the festive illusion that I’m on vacation, with all my cares on hold.
I also like saving money.
If I can hang out in Waikiki and save money at the same time, that’s a win!
Hilton Hawaiian Village, 2005 Kalia Road
4-7 and 9-11 p.m. daily
» Specialty cocktails, $6
» Calina Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon (Italy), $5
» Small plates, $8
Fresco, an Italian restaurant at Hilton Hawaiian Village, offers a happy hour that lets me do just that.
As the name suggests, the restaurant and its offerings are straightforward and relatively simple, but Fresco still provides satisfying service.
During pau hana, small plates are $8 each, with drinks available at $4 (Bud and Bud Light) to $6 (festive cocktails). I’d call that a happy hour win, offering the experience of dining at this location and enjoying a cocktail while saving a pretty penny. (Dinner entrees can set you back upward of $25 here.)
It’s also nice that Fresco extends its happy hour through 7 p.m. This gives Honolulu commuters a chance to take part. Fresco is also an option if you have guests in town or just want a change of pace.
The restaurant opened its doors during the summer, taking over the location formerly occupied by Sergio’s and serving Italian fusion cuisine. Fresco launched its happy hour in August.
YOU CAN sit at the bar, on couches or low chairs in a small seating area where cocktails are served, or outside on the lanai to order from the happy hour menu at Fresco. I enjoyed eating outside, where I could see the sky changing color during sunset and hear snatches of the sounds of the busy resort complex surrounding us.
There are only a few tables outside, along what is really an outdoor walkway and landing, so the setting is a bit odd; doors to other offices adjoin some tables, giving the placement a temporary feel. But there was no through traffic when we went.
Our friendly server, who’s also a bartender for Fresco, told me that on Fridays you can see the Hilton’s fireworks above. It could make sense to make a late happy hour order and nurse your drink long enough to check that out.
The design and atmosphere at the restaurant are soothing — I’d call it basic contemporary, with comfortable but not over-embellished furniture and accents.
That turns your attention to the food and drink, competently prepared and pleasantly served.
Cocktails are a highlight. The Hawaii Three-O hit the spot, made with Three Olives Vanilla Vodka, coconut rum, pineapple juice and a dash of fresh sour.
My dining partner’s Cherry Collins, with cherry vodka, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda, was sweetly tart and refreshing.
Other options include a Raspberry Lemon Drop, dirty martini and Smore-Tini, with vodka, vanilla and Bailey’s. Sounds like dessert to me!
Happy hour appetizers are small plates, but the ingredients are rich. They are more satisfying than you might originally anticipate when you see the serving size, but if you’re a big eater, you might want to order one plate for each person, rather than share.
We liked the bacon-wrapped shrimp, served with creole mustard, and the frutti di mare, seasoned with lime, cilantro and chili pepper.
The foie gras truffle fries were addictive: shoestring fries with earthy foie gras and truffle bits, and shaved Grana Padano cheese.
The beef tartare bruschetta was not accurately named; this beef was not tartare, but rather lightly cooked strips of beef tenderloin on ciabatta. With its fusion flavoring of onion, ginger, cilantro and chili pepper, I’m sure it will appeal to some, but I had classic tartare in mind.
The appetizers don’t replicate the experience of having a full dinner here, but they will let you sample different tastes.
For about $21 per person, you can enjoy an evening out in tourist heaven. I enjoyed the change of scenery and the attention received from the good-natured crew. You might, too.
–Elizabeth Kieszkowski / email@example.com