The opening of Vintage Cave Honolulu in December 2012 was the most exciting culinary thing to happen on the island in almost a decade. Billionaire Japanese developer Takeshi Sekiguchi gave rising star chef Chris Kajioka, an alum of New York's Per Se and San Francisco's Aziza, carte blanche to create his dream kitchen and menu in a dark, brick-lined space that was once the storage basement of the Japanese department store Shiryokiya, which Sekiguchi also owns. (The space
is also a private wine club—hence the name.) Today chefs from across the country and Japan clamor to be a part of Kajioka's "collaboration dinner" program. He turns out the most progressive, enchanting food in the state, each plate in a progressive multicourse dinner a jewel-like composition that dazzles with color, texture, and, most important, flavor. Strong Japanese and French influences converge in his food, which mixes grade-A international ingredients (osetra caviar, foie gras, dry-aged organic beef, Tsukiji Market fish) from around the world with the freshest local produce (such as sea beans plucked from the banks of an ancient Hawaiian fishpond). Signature creations include a "seafood platter" of bite-size raw-fish constructions, a maple-glazed rectangle of brioche topped with caviar, and charred caraflex cabbage (grown specially for Kajioka on the Big Island) stacked in a dainty square and served in a resonant kombu-anchovy broth with a dollop of miso-crème fraîche. It's prix-fixe tasting menu only, and worth every cent of the considerable price.