Aaron's Atop the Ala Moana restaurant to close March 15 | The Honolulu Advertiser

Aaron's Atop the Ala Moana announced today that it will not renew its lease after 25 years at the Ala Moana Hotel. The restaurant, which is owned and managed by Tri Star Restaurant Group LLC, will have its last day of service March 15.


"Aaron's Atop the Ala Moana has enjoyed 25 terrific years serving the people and visitors of Hawai'i," said Tri Star Restaurant Group President and CEO Aaron Placourakis. "Due to the softening economy, we have made the difficult decision to not renew our lease."


Employees at Aaron's Atop the Ala Moana wil be offered employment at Tri Star Restaurant Group's other operations. The restaurant employed 30 full-time staff.


Gift certificates to Aaron's Atop the Ala Moana will be honored at the company's remaining restaurants: Sarento's Top of the I in Waikiki; Nick's Fishmarket Maui; Sarento's on the Beach, and Son'z Maui at Swan Court on Maui.

Another one bites the dust! It's sad. Plaourakis knows the business. If he can't make it work then it's a fair bet that no one can.

How to Make a Pink Tiki Drink in Hawaii

How to Make a Pink Tiki Drink in Hawaii

The dynamic duo over at Honolulu City Dates have posted another adventure, this time to the fine confines of Tiki's Bar and Grill, the faux tiki bar in Waikiki that is over-the-top and totally fun -- big frou frou drinks and big pupu platters. Sunset views, and loud island music means don't bring the delicate of hearts or tummies. Here's a killer video they shot of a Tiki's bartender doing the pink thing, Hawaii-style, plus running commentary.


UH Centennial Reunites Student Leaders

Michael Miller and state Rep. Sylvia Luke recalled their days as ASUH senators -- "back in the '90s," as Miller put it. Miller retired from politics after graduation and is now director of sales and marketing for Tiki's Grill & Bar and the Holokai Grill in Waikiki. Luke and the other members of the Legislature start the 2008 session tomorrow.



Newly opened Tiki's gets it right from the start | The Honolulu Advertiser

Newly opened Tiki's gets it right from the start

By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic

Culinary adventures and retro South Pacific décor can be found at the new Tiki's Grill & Bar.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Tiki's Grill & Bar

Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel

2570 Kalakaua Ave.

10:30 a.m.-midnight daily


Free valet parking with validation

Very Good

Our policy generally is to let a new restaurant work out the kinks before publishing a review, waiting at least a couple of months. But this unwritten law was altered recently when we heard that celebrated chef Fred DeAngelo (of Palomino fame) was opening the much-anticipated Tiki's Grill & Bar at the newly remodeled Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel.

I didn't think he'd need much time to get this spot, on the pool deck of the hotel, off the ground.

Retro South Pacific décor takes you back to another era. An attractive bar and lanai overlook Waikiki beach, a view that is softly lit in the evening.

A souvenir shop behind the hostess area and a lei-selling operation at the entrance might suggest this operation is all about grabbing the tourist buck. But that first impression is off-base. Foodies (local or visiting) soon find much that's of interest in DeAngelo's playful, palate-pleasing and delightful touch.

The appetizers are good enough to make this a top grazing spot for finger-food enthusiasts. The grilled ribs ($8.95) appetizer was incredible, better than most barbecue spots. The ribs are dry-rubbed with spices, grilled to bring some natural smoke flavor, and finally braised slowly until the moist meat falls away from the bone. The sauce is guava- and lime-based, with a sweet-sharp flavor that's irresistible.

Baked oysters ($6.95) are topped with a blue-crab crust and draped with lobster hollandaise sauce, giving this rich sea treat an addictive quality. Island nachos ($8.95) combine ripe, locally grown tomato, guacamole, sweet Maui onions, and melted cheese over crunchy tortilla chips, with either grilled chicken or kalua pig (which is what I tasted). Crab cakes ($7.95) are made from Dungeness crab, bound with a cream-based reduction and accompanied by a sweet chili butter sauce.

Other appetizer choices include Korean-style garlic chicken wings ($5.95), grilled beef tenderloin and vegetable skewers ($6.95), steamed Manila clams ($8.95) in saffron-enhanced coconut cream, and several others that could keep you happy for three or four visits.

The clam chowder ($4.95 for a huge bowl) is silky and intensely clam-flavored, with chunks of clam, potato and crabmeat adding texture, and shreds of red pepper and parsley for color. Definitely order this.

Entrees are simply prepared. Braised beef short ribs ($16.95) offer no resistance whatsoever, the meat collapsing seemingly at a glance. The hoisin brown sauce (thankfully not too sweet) works well here; the entirety is served over fresh Kunia corn mashed potatoes.

DeAngelo has a fine hand with fresh fish. Many of the flavoring components and techniques used here fall into the Pacific Rim style. His signature king salmon ($15.95) is glazed before being sauced with lemongrass beurre blanc; mahi-mahi ($15.95) is grilled and given a spicy finish with a seafood salsa; pan-seared 'ahi ($16.95) is appropriately fried quickly and offered with a wasabi-mushroom and soy beurre blanc.

I saw a hunk of what appeared to be perfectly grilled New York-cut Omaha steak ($20.95) pass by my table, along with an oven-roasted half chicken ($12.95) stuffed with herbs and Maui onion, with a soy-ginger glaze. I'll order those on future visits.

Créme brulée ($5.95) came in three ramekins; Kahlua, ginger-lime and vanilla bean were the trio of flavors in question, with fanned and sugared strawberries as the colorful and edible garnish. Pastry chef Ron Villoria also makes chocolate bread pudding and a fabulous lilikoi cheesecake with basil syrup served in a white chocolate cylinder.

After a couple of visits, I spoke with DeAngelo. He reflected upon his emotional departure from Palomino's after five years, but said he couldn't miss the opportunity to become chef/partner in the Tiki's venture. "I want to bring fun, along with an approachable level of sophistication to our menu," he said.

Looks like he's right on target.

Reach Matthew Gray at mgray@honoluluadvertiser.com.

BLAST from the Past A crème brûlée ménage à trois - Ronald Viloria, 33, the energetic pastry chefTiki's Grill & Bar at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel

Posted on: Wednesday, October 30, 2002 via http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2002/Oct/30/il/il12a.html

hef shares his secrets for pastry with panache

 •  A crème brûlée ménage à trois 

By Wanda A. Adams 
Advertiser Food Editor

Pastry chef Ron Viloria's recipes appear dramatic, but this cookie-sorbet concoction can be made at home.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

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What can a pastry chef give the home cook?

Tips on tools, for one. And advice on staples — that is, items and concoctions that are kept on hand at all times to use in building a show-stopping dessert.

Ronald Viloria, 33, the energetic pastry chef at the new Tiki's Grill & Bar at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, wears an instant-read thermometer in a pocket on the sleeve of his chef's whites. He keeps a granite floor tile in the ice-cream freezer. He lines his ovens with unglazed, unleaded ceramic tiles. He's got an arsenal of miniature ice-cream scoops, ladles, squeeze bottles, sharp little knives, graters and parers, spoons and whisks, long flexible spatulas and about a mile of parchment paper. He even has his own butane torch for caramelizing sugar.

His staples include candied fruits, fresh sorbets, good quality chocolate, fragrant vanilla beans buried in sugar and steeped in rum or brandy, bottles of various fruit purees, crisp little cookies called tuiles (too-eels) and pastry rounds.

"I just love standing there in front of the fridge and looking in and thinking, 'What can I do with this today?' " he said.

None of these things is mysterious, none unavailable to the home cook, none prohibitively expensive, he points out. And though he doesn't say it, you can buy high-quality versions of some of this stuff (sorbets, for instance) or make do with shortcut versions (jam melted with a little water or liquor can take the place of a fresh fruit puree).

An investment in time

The greatest cost is in the time it takes to learn your way around these tools and ingredients. Yet in the course of a morning's visit, Viloria shows off some lighting-quick desserts that will hardly tax the home cook's skills, but have the potential to wow a dinner party.

Viloria has been a pastry chef for more than a dozen years, having trained in the Hilton Hotels system in his native Guam, and later in Japan. He is fully capable of producing the most elaborate confections.

But he'd rather make an intensely flavored fruit sorbet and serve it with a perfect, thin, crisp cookie, some fresh fruit and a sugary homemade meringue. He'd rather present a trio of variously flavored cream puddings, each garnished differently with some of his pantry staples.

"You have to think about flavors," he says. "The most important factor is knowing the ingredients and knowing the flavors you're going for, knowing how to build on that."

His pastry menu for the new restaurant begins with homey ideas: a brownie, cheesecake, sorbets, chocolate cake. But then he starts to talk garnishes, and you know you've left the home planet.

The brownie has a macadamia crust, and it's wrapped in a tuile nest. The chocolate cake is drizzled with red wine jelly infused with vanilla, cinnamon and lemon and served with a Chambord anglaise sauce. The cheesecake involves a lemon lilikoi curd, a topping of oven-dried pineapple, a sweet basil syrup and lemon sauce.

The accumulation of recipes and preparations can sound pretty intimidating to the home chef.

But a home cook can learn to oven-dry or candy fruit, and keep some in the refrigerator. We can make a cheesecake or custard. We can puree fruit and fill a few squeeze bottles. We can melt chocolate and make a chocolate collar or bow. (Yes, you can, we'll show you!)

To cheat or not to cheat?

Now here's a harsh truth: A lot of pastry chefs cheat. They use canned glazes, mixes that mock whipped cream but will stay frothy until the next ice age and many other commercial products.

Viloria won't have it. "It's not necessary," he said. He doesn't even use artificial vanilla: "You might as well just pour grain alcohol into your cake. I forbid it," he added excitedly.

He gets excited a lot. "That's what keeps me here 16 hours a day," said Viloria, who, when he was serving his three-year apprenticeship at the Guam Hilton, used to clock out and then go back in the kitchen to hang with his mentor, the pastry chef, and learn more.

Although he insists on the real thing, Viloria is parsimonious with ingredients. He stores whole vanilla pods in crocks of sugar to flavor the sweetener, then recycles the vanilla to use for an infusion and may even recycle it again after that, scraping the seeds into a custard. He pares the skins from citrus and candies them, and uses the juice for flavoring and the pulp in macerated fruit mixtures.

He's also parsimonious with time, taking the most direct route he can. In making a custard sauce, for example, he dispenses with the double boiler and makes the sauce directly on the stove top in five minutes. He can do this because he knows to keep the heat low, to stir constantly with a paddle and to be patient. He doesn't bother to temper chocolate most of the time, just using a good-quality 65 percent cocoa butter chocolate and melting it gently before using.

Viloria tells his staff that studies have shown that, in any performance — and a meal can be considered a performance — people remember what came first and what what came last.

Since his group makes all the breads that are put on the table first, and the desserts that come last, they have a considerable responsibility.

The young chef got into cooking because he always loved food preparation — would spend the days indoors with his grandmother cooking instead of out playing. He wishes she were here now to see him. But also because he loved art (his hobby is airbrushing paintings on cars), and pastry allowed him to be creative in a visual way.

"You can really blow people's minds with desserts — the presentation and the flavors," he said. "I like that."

A crème brûlée ménage à trois

 •  Chef shares his secrets for pastry with panache

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Chef Ron Viloria, above, sculpts chocolate at Tiki's Grill & Bar at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel. He spreads melted chocolate on chilled granite, then removes it with a spatula and shapes it.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Here's the procedure for making Viloria's trio of crèmes brûlée.

Start by making three batches of custard in different flavors. You can do this up to 24 hours ahead of time. Make garnishes the morning of your dinner party. Compose the dessert just before serving.

To create the crunchy, crusty top that is the hallmark of burnt cream, you can use one of the petite, hand-held butane kitchen torches (or a larger propane torch from a hardware store). Or you can broil the sugar in the oven. The torches do a better job but broiling is acceptable; just be watchful.

This crèmes brûlée is the one tested and found true in the November/ December 2001 issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine. Viloria's variations are below. You can use ramekins (deep, round mini-casserole dishes) or shallow, fluted burnt-cream dishes.

Crème brûlée

4 cups chilled very heavy cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
12 large egg yolks
8-12 teaspoons sugar

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine 2 cups cream, sugar and salt in saucepan; scrape vanilla bean seeds into pan, submerge pod and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that sugar dissolves. Take pan off heat and let steep 15 minutes to infuse flavors.

Meanwhile, line a large baking dish or roasting pan with a folded kitchen towel and arrange eight ramekins or dishes on towel. Bring kettle or large saucepan of water to boil.

Stir remaining cream into sugar mixture to cool it down. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl until broken up and combined. Whisk about 1 cup cream mixture into yolks until loosened and combined; add remaining cream mixture and whisk until evenly colored and thoroughly combined. Strain through fine-mesh strainer into clean bowl or measuring cup or pitcher. Pour or ladle mixture into ramekins, dividing evenly.

Carefully place baking dish with ramekins in the oven; pour boiling water into dish, being careful not splash into ramekins. Bake until centers of custards are barely set and no longer sloshy; 30 to 35 minutes in deep ramekins or 25 to 30 minutes if you're using shallow, fluted dishes. An instant-read thermometer should read 170 to 175 degrees when custard is done.

Kahlua variation: Stir together 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder and 3 tablespoons of kahlua liqueur. Make custard up to the point where you stir in the remaining cream. Add kahlua mixture along with remaining cream.

Ginger-lime variation: Make ginger-lime syrup by blending 1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of julienned fresh ginger and the zest of 1 lime. Simmer 15 minutes. Cool and strain. Make custard up to the point where you stir in the remaining cream. Add ginger-lime syrup along with remaining cream.

Presentation: Place a doily on a large dinner plate. Place one ramekin of each flavor of crème brûlée on the dish. Garnish the kahlua custard with a chocolate fan (see directions below). Garnish the ginger-lime with candied lime zest (see directions below). Garnish the vanilla with a strawberry fan or just leave this one plain.

Candied lime zest: Make a simple syrup (half sugar, half water; simmered until sugar melts). With a very sharp knife, peel the skin from a lime in strips; cut or scrape away the bitter white inner part. Cut the zest into long, narrow strips. Simmer gently over low heat in simple syrup until the zest is soft-textured and sweet; 30 minutes or longer. (The longer you immerse the peel in the warm liquid, the softer it will be). Refrigerate and use as needed.

Chocolate fan: For this, you need a tool used by many pastry chefs — a square of glazed, sealed marble or granite; the floor tiles available in any hardware store will work. Freeze the stone. Melt good-quality semi-sweet or unsweetened chocolate gently over a simmering water bath. Viloria prefers a chocolate with 65 percent cocoa butter, rich and smooth-textured. Place the frozen tile on a flat work surface. Pour the melted chocolate into a small pitcher or cup measure with spout. Have ready a long, narrow, flexible spatula, such as the kind used in frosting cakes.

Pour a thick rope of chocolate about a foot long onto the frozen tile. With two quick motions of the spatula, spread the chocolate into a flattened rectangle about 2 inches wide and 1/8 inch thick. Lift the end of the chocolate strip with spatula and slide spatula underneath to free the chocolate from the tile. Quickly pick it up and shape into a fan by pleating one long end. These fans can be refrigerated for a short period before use. This technique can be used to make strips of chocolate (white, milk or dark) for wrapping a cake or forming a bow.

Sorbet cookie sandwich

This is Viloria's technique for making a dramatic but quite easy dessert — a trio of flavored sorbets sandwiched between crisp sweet cookies called tuiles, and topped with fruit and a crunchy meringue.

You can buy the sorbets; for the best presentation, you'll need a an ice cream mini-scoop, or use a melon baller. The meringues can be made the night ahead, as can the tuiles. All you need do before serving is compose the presentation (see below).

Meringues are just egg white, sugar and flavoring beaten stiff and baked in a low oven until dry and crisp. Try to avoid baking them in very humid weather; make sure they're fully cooled before storing them in an airtight container. Meringues make a wonderful low-fat dessert with just the addition of some fresh fruit or fruit puree. This recipe is from the 1964 edition of "The Joy of Cooking."


4 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sifted powdered sugar or 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sifted granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or cut squares from brown paper bags).

In an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy; add vanilla. Add sugar while beating, 1 teaspoon at a time. Beat until the egg white forms stiff peaks on the beater.

Drop heaping spoons of meringue onto paper and spread with the back of a spoon to form a round. Or pipe into circles or other shapes, using a pastry bag.

Bake for 1 hour; turn off oven, open door and allow to cool completely.

Tuile (too-weel) is just a fancy name for what we used to call lace cookies: sugary, crunchy cookies made from a very loose dough that melts as it bakes, spreading out to thin rounds. (The ones that are sometimes rolled while they're still warm and pliable.)

For these, you really ought to buy a piece of equipment that you will come to love if you invest in it: a Silpat mat, silicone sheets that are used to keep baked goods from sticking. If you don't use Silpat, line the baking sheet with parchment.

To make mango puree, peel and seed a ripe mango and puree in food processor.

Mango Lace Tuile

1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons mango puree
1/2 cup melted butter

Mix. Spoon by the rounded teaspoonful onto Silpat mat on a baking sheet or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-6 minutes. Allow to cool briefly. With a thin, flexible spatula, carefully lift the cookies out of the pan and store between layers of parchment in an airtight container.

Compose the dessert: Gather tuiles, sorbet or ice cream, 3 even-sized strawberries per serving, meringues and strawberry puree or chocolate sauce, if desired.

On a dessert plate, place a tuile. Scoop three small rounds of different sorbets or ice creams onto the cookie. Top with another tuile. Top with three whole strawberries. Top with a meringue round. Drizzle chocolate sauce or strawberry puree, if desired.