Ravissant Shower Tree III by Shayne Stambler will be featured in the upcoming show Ravissant Flora & Oceania at Café Che Pasta (photo courtesy Shayne Stambler)

if these walls Could Talk

by Lynn Cook

Restaurants where the art, like the food, are a matter of taste.

“Color Saturated” describes not only Hawai’i’s creative cuisine-it’s alSo a delicious description of tHe restaurants serving up art, both gourmet and grab-a-bite. eateries on all islands support their local artists by turning walls into galleries, expanding the options for artists and for collectors. Reservations often come with a meet-the-artist exhibit opening. Themed shows combine fish prints with a sushi bar, bucolic landscapes with fine dining or surfboards as art for the beach burger shack. it’s all a matter of taste.

Head to chinatown in Honolulu. first stop: nu’uanu avenue and Hanks café (1038 nu’uanu ave., 526-1410). So the story goes, owner Hank taufaasau was a painter first and proprietor second. He opened the café to have a place to hang his stunning paintings of palm trees, outrigger canoes and scenes of Hawaiian life. He added the bar to pay the rent. The continued popularity of his art puts the tilt to the art sales side. Only a few steps away, lucky belly (50 n. Hotel St., 531-1888) is a traditional noodle shop gone trendy. oversized white bowls filled with gourmet fare, deep blue walls and wood tables make a peek in the window a don’t-miss stop. on the walls, a revolving art exhibition with artist contact info if the art collectors’ bug bites. An invitation to show art at café che Pasta, at Bishop Square (1001 Bishop St., 524-0004), in the center of Downtown Honolulu, puts Hawai’i artists on the top of the menu for success. Owner Marc Cohen says, “when I opened the café, in 1985, I made a commitment to keep the walls filled with the work of local artists.” Happily for patrons and artists, many of those artists are now collected nationally and many other restaurants have followed his lead with monthly art shows. Cohen says he thinks art adds an element of change beyond what’s new on the menu. His eatery is packed for lunch, dinner and the Friday night artful music of the Hot Club of Hulaville. Through the end of March, Café Che Pasta will feature photographs by Shayne Stampler.

Moving on to Maui, dining art, both contemporary and classic, animates the experience. At Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (3850 Wailea Alanui Drive), the newest “art gallery” creation is Alan Wong’s Amasia (891-3954), with works by Dale Chihuly, Vicky Chock, Lindy Duncan, Kim Mosley, Jan Welda and Linda Whittemore. Here, fine dining, family-style, includes fine viewing with some pieces designated “collection art” and others available for purchase.

Pure island fun includes the surfboards by three of Hawai’i’s finest surfboard shapers, on display at Wailea’s Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman (10 Wailea Ike Drive, 891-2322). Monkeypod’s Ryan Schooley says, “These shapers still make their boards by hand the old fashioned way. They demonstrate the same ‘hand crafted’ quality we strive for daily in our kitchen.” The boards may not be for sale but the renowned Peter Merriman recipe hand tossed pizza is.

On Hawai’i Island, Rays on the Bay (930-4949) at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay (78-128 Ehukai St.) features the work of designer and cultural advisor, Sig Zane, and his son Kuha’o. The duo wove the elements of the place to create a cultural embrace. Ray’s is the spot to glimpse the giant manta rays swimming just off the terrace. Zane says their design inspiration was the visual impact of the manta ray.

Look one way to the ocean, look the other to life-size photo images of rays. Zane points out that every element, from menu to light fixtures, is a design specific to the place.

On the other side of the island, high up in Volcano Village, Café Ono in Volcano Garden Arts Café Ono (19-3834 Old Volcano Road, 985-8979) sits in the center of a fine art gallery. Artist, award-winning garden designer and vegetarian chef Ira Ono invites guests to select a made-to-order dish, and then browse until it is served. Famous for his own ceramic masks and garden art, Ono includes fine artists from Volcano to exhibit. All art is for sale.

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