Chef Hiro Mimura derives great pleasure from cooking. This is evident in his ear-to-ear grin as he tosses spaghetti from a pan in the neatly tucked open kitchen at Taormina Sicilian Cuisine. It’s a weekday afternoon, moments before the nightly crowd descends upon the restaurant, and Mimura appears to love every minute of the hustle — sprinkling basil and other herbs onto his dishes while directing his staff. This devotion to his craft is incorporated into each and every menu item and is the primary reason why this little eatery is the perfect place to bring your amore.
You are bound to impress your date with an evening of ophistication and exquisite Sicilian cuisine at this quaint Waikiki Beach Walk establishment. Not only will Mimura’s food win over your loved one, the atmosphere is a bonus. Sleek, wooden tones and minimalist European rustic décor, designed by Peter Vincent Architects, provide an intimate ambience. Patrons may dine inside under the dim, romantic lights or outside on the patio where cool, tropical breezes accompany the background bustle of the city. No matter what area you dine in, the service is flawless and staff are accommodating, polite and efficient.
The top-notch food, crafted with love, however, is truly the main event. Mimura has done an impeccable job presenting a Southern Sicily menu to the Pacific. Sicilian food is akin to Italian but incorporates other cultural flavors such as Greek and Spanish. Originally from Tokyo, Mimura gained inspiration for this contemporary cuisine with an “old school” Western Europe essence working at Trattoria Marumo in Japan and also from his adventures in Italy. He traveled to the country at the age of 21 and worked at various fine dining rooms as a sous chef in Florence.
In 2007, he joined WDI International Inc., and assisted in the opening and creation of Taormina Sicilian Cuisine, one of the company’s many eateries. Three years later, Mimura moved to the Islands and became the restaurant’s executive chef, a position he has held ever since.
Mimura uses only high quality meats and seafood, and blends as many seasonal and local ingredients into his dishes as possible. Entrées and appetizers range from featuring the fresh, local catch of the day to vegetables plucked straight from Hawai‘i farms. All dishes have top-of-the-line flavor and are accompanied with light sauces rather than rich, heavy toppings, so every detailed ingredient stands out.
Pomodoro con burrata is Mimura’s favorite dish and one that he recommends for any romantic occasion. The spaghetti is steeped with juicy ripe tomato sauce, basil and creamy, semi-soft cheese, and bursts with a fresh, springtime flavor. It is the most popular dish on the menu and also happens to be the first meal Mimura learned to prepare during his time in Italy.
“Very simple, but reminds me of Italian life,” he says of his beloved dish.
Among Mimura’s other recommendations for an amorous evening of edibles are the Burrata Caprese for starters. This appetizer is another dish that features the smooth, velvety burrata cheese made with mozzarella and cream. A scoop of the hearty cheese, from the region of Puglia, sits on a bed of spicy arugula, local bright red and yellow cherry tomatoes and is finished off with a light drizzle of balsamic reduction to further enhance the crisp taste.
Main courses in addition to the tastefully uncomplicated pomodoro include Sarde e finochetti, a spaghetti with sautéed sardine, tomato paste, fennel for zest, anchovy, olives and capers for salty finesse and seasoned bread crumbs. Or Bolognese Siciliana, another classic entrée made with spaghetti expertly crafted with homemade beef ragu, blended with spinach and garlic, and spiced with red chili pepper.
As for dessert, Taormina, which was named after a seaside village in Sicily, has a range of gratifying sweets to share with your sweetheart. Try any dessert on the menu, such as a slice of traditional tiramisu or a warm, chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice gelato. Or, order something custom like a parfait made with local seasonal fruits such as pineapple and liliko‘i, housemade coconut jelly and tapioca and paired with dragon fruit sorbet—a combination that will bring joy to your taste buds.
This cozy spot, open for lunch and dinner, is made even more exceptional by its specialized wine list, created by master sommelier Roberto Viernes. Over 125 selections are offered here, making it one of the most diverse selections of Italian vino in the state.
All of these factors combine to make Taormina an extraordinary place to take someone near and dear to your heart and spoil them with some of the best Sicilian flavors you will find in Hawai‘i.
Call 808-926-5050 or visit taorminarestaurant.com.