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The Weekly Eater

Nadine Kam

Sunday, July 27, 2003


Popular Phillip Paolo’s
caters to all but
the purist palate


OK, OK, I hear ya. Ever since Phillip Paolo's opened at Restaurant Row, the restaurant's fans have been calling, e-mailing and writing, asking me, "Where's the review?" If ever a restaurant has captured the popular vote, this is it.

Well, I've needed the time to keep up with everything this restaurant has to offer. It's a good thing I work in the building!

Obviously, no restaurant can be all things to all people, but Phillip Paolo's certainly tries to cater to every type of diner. Busy office workers can pick up a quick take-out lunch at Phillip Paolo's "Out Back," a window up the stairs behind the restaurant; those with much time but little money can sit down to a $8.95 buffet lunch; those with a carpe diem approach to life can opt for an a la carte lunch or dinner. On the weekend, there's Sunday brunch.

Paolo and wife Connie Ortiz-Sarubbi have a long history that involved restaurants on King Street, Kailua, Hawaii Kai and the Big Isle. After giving a local-style menu a try with McCully's Kama'aina Grill, they've returned to the Italian format, with a nod to local tastes. You might find pork cutlets on the buffet line, and broccoli shows up a lot, tossed into the mix as if this were a Chinese restaurant. Purists might frown, but they should go elsewhere. As I said before, the restaurant has a whole lotta fans and they're the ones the restaurant needs to keep fed and happy.

Offering a buffet is one way to draw a crowd. The menu changes daily so call in the morning if you must know what's being offered, but you can generally count on three pasta dishes (you'll be tempted to try each one so this is no place for someone on the carb-conscious Atkins diet), a few meat dishes and a seafood dish, along with salad and bread, for $8.95. Fridays introduces a seafood buffet, with the addition of three more dishes such as the frutti di mare fish and shellfish medley, crab legs and calamari.

Items on the regular buffet have ranged from simple lasagna to chicken marsala low on the wine aspect, to the luxury of mussels steamed with garlic.

If you're selecting off the main menu, options include a 3/4-pound burger ($8.95) built thick so it looks like a chocolate souffle. Open wide. There's also a broiled filet mignon ($16.95) and tiger shrimp ($14.95) sauteed in garlic and layered atop penne baked with a thick coating of Parmesan.

Don't despair if you don't see what you want. The staff is very accommodating, and I've seen them offer to prepare a dinner specialty at lunchtime for a guest who could not make up his mind.

Being in the little time and little money category of diners, you're most likely to find me out back at the take-out window. Here, you can pick up sandwiches and entrees such as lasagna, chicken cacciatore or a mix of sausage and peppers, accompanied by mesclun or pasta salads, with a soft drink, for about $4 to $5.50. The smoked chicken is divine.

art
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lei-bedecked Amy Chun celebrated her birthday at Philip Paolo's lunch buffet at Restaurant Row earlier this week with family and friends.



LOCAL TOUCHES on the dinner menu include appetizers of seared poke ($14.95), sashimi ($14.95) and egg rolls ($8.95) accompanied by a chili-mango-ginger sauce.

Pizza is also on the appetizer menu. Even these are meals in themselves, not your standard thin-crust number. Instead, toppings are heaped on herbed foccaccia. Flavors on a seafood pizza ($14.95) were mild, seemingly devoid of the usual pizza herbs such as oregano. In many other dishes cheeses were tame and tomato sauces were flattened out -- neither too sugary nor too tangy -- to be as inoffensive as possible.

Given Phillip Paolo's renown for large portions, it may be best to pass on the appetizers and skip to the main attractions. Even without the appetizer you may have to take home leftovers.

There is a full range of pasta dishes, from simple spaghetti marinara ($12.95) to lobster fra diavalo ($29.95), twin lobster tails sauteed in marinara sauce and tossed with linguini. You can also opt for garlic rib eye "La Casa" ($21.95) or classic veal marsala ($21.95) or Milanese ($19.95).

Fish doesn't come any lighter. Pesce Pescatore ($19.95), for instance, has a bonus of shrimp and scallops layered atop creamy tomato garlic sauce. You'll probably worry about the calorie content with each bite, but you'll be rendered powerless to stop eating.

As full as I was, I had to have the dessert of Kaka'ako Baker's chocolate truffle cake. Worth hazarding weight gain with every delectable bite.


PHILLIP PAOLO'S

Restaurant Row, 500 Ala Moana Boulevard / 585-8142

Food Star Star 1/2

Service Star Star Star 1/2

Ambience Star Star Star 1/2

Value Day Star Star Star Star
Evening Star Star 1/2

Hours: Lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays with lunch buffet running 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays; Sunday brunch offered 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; dinner runs 4 to 9 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and 4 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cost: Plate lunches about $5; lunch buffet $8.95 per person; ala carte lunch about $25 for two; dinner for two about $40 to $60





See some past restaurant reviews in the
Columnists section.




Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

excellent;
very good, exceeds expectations;
average;
below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to nkam@starbulletin.com

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