Pacific edition, Thursday, May 15, 2008

KITANAKAGUSUKU, Okinawa — A classy wooden door was a gateway to a vintage evening at this cozy Italian restaurant/wine bar. A waitress and waiter greeted us with welcoming smiles. Hoku’s is a place where diners can enjoy meals in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere.

The menu varies from full-course meals to a la carte fare, such as pasta and pizza. We ordered full dinners of roasted chicken in tomato and mushroom sauce, and potato-wrapped fried prawns in tomato and basil sauce. Each course — appetizer, salad, soup, main dish and dessert — were artfully arranged and the taste was light and refined. I have to admit that the minestrone soup was the best I’ve ever had.

Hoku’s also provides a special course for vegetarians, said the owner, Tomonori Goeku. With his wife, Rika, he opened the restaurant seven years ago after working in Hawaii for three years as an assistant manager at one of the resort hotels on Oahu. He named his restaurant Hoku’s, meaning star in Hawaiian, as a way to keep his emotional tie with the island he fell in love with, he said.

The restaurant becomes a bar at 10 p.m. — last call for a meal.

Hoku’s offers more than 80 selections of wine from around the world, including Opus One, the legendary and pricy California wine.

The portion of each course was rather small, but at the end of the meal, we were filled to satisfaction without having the guilty sense of overeating. Hoku’s treated us with quality food, good service and a good time.

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