The pandemic has changed the landscape of dining in Hawaii, giving rise to creative pivots at restaurants that have stayed open. That's why DK Restaurants' Waikiki-based Sansei and DK Steak House have been operating out of Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar in Waterfront Plaza, with some good deals.
See also: Vino's new (more) Italian menu
Vino has a $58 takeout special for two that includes some of its most popular dishes. We sampled the August menu at a recent media event, along with an order of chef Keith Endo's housemade bread. The menu will change monthly, so check DK Steak House's website for the latest.
The Italian chop salad for two has locally farmed greens, salami, kalamata olives, fingerling potatoes, haricot verts and Boursin cheese. This dish is as flavorful as it is colorful, and plentiful salami bits and potatoes make this a hearty starter.
Since Vino is known for its housemade pastas, I'm happy to see two pasta dishes on the menu. The Bolognese pasta is comforting and flavorful, with chunks of veal and pork in the ragu, with San Marzano tomatoes and basil.
Shrimp scampi pasta is cooked with lemon-garlic butter, jumbo prawns, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. There are only two jumbo prawns, but the noodles are well coated in butter and garlic.
The red wine-braised Natures Natural short ribs is my favorite dish. They come with mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, Dijon-truffle aioli and bay leaf chimichurri, with a gently fried egg on top. The short ribs are so tender I barely need a knife to cut them. The poached egg on top adds umami, especially when I break the yolk and let it flow over the velvety mashed potatoes and crispy brussels sprouts.
Dessert is Vino apple tarts with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. You get two desserts and tarts are easy to reheat at home. After all that pasta, it's nice to have something that's hot, cold, fruity and sweet.
Other specials are for dine-in and come from the Sansei side of the kitchen. Tuesday or Wednesday there's a fresh ahi and koji-cured marlin sashimi special for $4.95. This one is so popular the restaurant has had to cap it at two orders per customer.
The $19.95 chirashi bowl is another Tuesday special. It's a must-get for sushi lovers and is available for dine-in and takeout. Here, sushi rice is topped with assorted sashimi like ahi, hamachi, salmon, koji-cured kajiki, spicy tuna, masago and tamago. Besides Vino's $58 dinner for two, this is one of the best deals.
Dining in at Vino/Sansei/DK Steak House now means you'll get a quick temperature check and be asked to sanitize your hands. Tables are spaced at least 6 feet apart, there's alcohol but no bar seating for now, and workers are wearing masks at all times. A private room can seat parties of 10 and there's a small patio for outdoor seating. You'll need to make reservations for dine-in and takeout at DK Restaurants' website.
Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar
500 Ala Moana Blvd.
Takeout Tue-Sun 4-7:30 p.m.
Dine-in Tue-Sun 5-8 p.m.