Sarento’s, or “Top of the I” has long been a Waikiki fine dining fixture. However, soon the restaurant will be no more. At the end of the month, the top of the Ilikai restaurant closing will mark the end of an era.
Tri-Star Restaurant Group in Honolulu
The Top of the I has been located at the very top of the Ilikai Hotel for the past 25 years. Part of the Tri-Star Restaurant Group LLC., Sarento’s is the group’s last remaining Oahu-based restaurant. The two others, Nick’s Fishmarket and Aaron’s, both closed nine years ago, casualties of the then weak economy. Aaron’s was most similar to Sorento’s, in that it occupied the top floor of the Ala Moana Hotel. And today, that space is now occupied by Signature Prime Steak & Seafood, who’s sister restaurants include the Yummy’s BBQ chain of food court takeout counters and Liliha Bakery. Nick’s Fishmarket, on the other hand, was located on the ground floor of the Waikiki Gateway Hotel.
Aaron’s was most similar to Sorento’s, in that it occupied the top floor of the Ala Moana Hotel. And today, that space is now occupied by Signature Prime Steak & Seafood, who’s sister restaurants include the Yummy’s BBQ chain of food court takeout counters and Liliha Bakery. Nick’s Fishmarket, on the other hand, was located on the ground floor of the Waikiki Gateway Hotel.
Each of the Tri-Star Restaurant Group’s restaurants had a different dining concept. Aaron’s was a Hawaii Regional-ish fine dining restaurant, while Nick’s Fishmarket was a seafood restaurant. But Sarento’s is an Italian restaurant, which, like Aaron’s had, boasts some impressive views. However, come September 30, 2017, the restaurant will be no more, though a specific reason for the closure has not been provided by the restaurant’s owner. Rather, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser quotes Tri-Star Restaurant Group’s CEO, “we had been negotiating to extend (the lease) but then we decided to move on.”
Um, ok. That sounds like a different way of saying that the restaurant is closing due to poor performance. And if that’s the case, that isn’t surprising. Mrs. Island Miler and I had gone to Sarento’s years ago for one of our first ventures into fine dining. And even then the restaurant felt a date, though the service and food were both good.
Fast forward to today, and it doesn’t seem like has changed. The menu looks largely the same, though now there are some gimmicky items like filet mignon meatballs. But, when looking through reviews of the restaurant, it looks as if the service level has declined a bit. But it’s not hard to believe that the restaurant simply couldn’t adapt, either. Competition, especially for Italian restaurants, has substantially increased over the past few years, with great, authentic Italian food now readily accessible in Honolulu at a variety of price points.
Top of the Ilikai Restaurant Closing Final Thoughts
Is it sad to see a classic restaurant go? Yes. Mrs. Island Miler and I have fond memories of the place. It is, after all, the first time I ever had a proper osso buco with the bone marrow spoon and all! But as I said before times change, and if a business can’t keep pace with changes, then it becomes irrelevant. I believe that’s precisely what happened here, and what happened at Aaron’s and Nick’s Fishmarket as well.
So while I’ll miss Sarento’s, it isn’t necessarily a restaurant I’d dine at today. And while this may sound harsh, I’m looking forward to seeing what will take its place. Afterall, Honolulu has been undergoing a dining renaissance of sorts over the past few years. And while there are often quite a few misses, there has also been quite a few hits too.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a great, Italian meal, here are some of my recommendations (in no particular order):