Date Night: Spring 2015

PHOTOGRAPHY: AMBER SCHONIWITZ

When it’s spring in Hawaii, love is more than “in the air,” it’s in the food too! Home to an array of Hawaii’s top restaurants, Waikiki has everything two hearts could desire. From spectacular sunset dinners, to secluded tables for private moments, we explore some of Waikiki’s best-kept secrets and renowned venues for the perfect date night. Whether your relationship is exciting and new or a celebration of enduring love, these destinations definitely know how to set the mood. Don’t wait too long to make that decision though, because now that the word is out you may run into a little competition… for a table, that is.

Buho Cocina y Cantina

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Island fresh Mexican cuisine at Buho Cocina y Cantina, rooftop of the Waikiki Shopping Plaza on Kalakaua Avenue.

Buho Cocina y Cantina is Waikiki’s stylish, brand new rooftop restaurant, serving up lively craft cocktails alongside south-of-the-border favorites. True to their tag line, “refined, not refried,” Buho puts an inventive twist on Mexican dishes by utilizing Hawaii’s local ingredients. The restaurant’s chic design offers intimate alcoves as well as open-air seating for large parties beneath an erupting fireball torch. Friday nights offer a special treat, as Waikiki’s weekly fireworks show lights up the sky, and maybe ignites a few sparks for you, too.

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Beachhouse at the Moana

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Prime filet mignon with Alaskan King Crab legs served beach side at the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa.

The Beachhouse at the Moana is an oceanfront oasis of culinary sophistication set in the “First Lady of Waikiki’s” timeless Victorian décor. Enjoy both indoor and outdoor veranda seating right on Waikiki Beach, and a menu of thoughtfully prepared prime steaks, seafood, and signature entrées. Beyond steakhouse expectations, the chefs take pride incorporating locally inspired recipes and highlighting “super-food” ingredients. With award-winning cuisine, a picture perfect view, and outstanding service, a truly memorable evening is only awaiting your arrival at the Beachhouse.

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Roy’s Waikiki

photo courtesy Roy's
Decadent Chocolate Soufflé and cozy table for two at Roy’s Waikiki. Photo courtesy Roy’s

Chef-owner Roy Yamaguchi continues to amaze guests with exciting new flavors and creations combining local ingredients and expert culinary precision. A well-known destination for the romantic at heart, every dish here, from appetizers to desserts, will intrigue and captivate your senses. All love stories deserve a happy ending, and the ultimate sweet finale at Roy’s is the famous melting hot Chocolate Soufflé. Oozing perfection with each bite, this flourless cake is paired with a swirl of raspberry-strawberry coulis and locally made Lappert’s vanilla bean ice cream. Experience signature dishes as well as unique seasonal creations at one of three Roy’s restaurants on Oahu.

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Miyako

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The Rainbow Roll and Ponzu Sukiyaki Mini Pot, oceanfront at Miyako.

Just outside the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, Miyako offers a uniquely traditional Japanese dinner, complete with servers in kimonos, and a serene tearoom atmosphere overlooking the ocean. Perched atop the second floor of the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, guests enjoy an unimpeded view of Waikiki’s stunning sunsets and nighttime city lights. Reserve one of the exclusive open-air lanai cabanas for an intimate evening of expertly prepared tempura, sukiyaki, and sushi. Find your zen, on and off the plate, at one of Waikiki’s hidden gems.

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Taormina Sicilian Cuisine

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Taormina’s specialties, Grilled Lamb Chops “Luca Pecorini” and Pasta Nero Frutti di Mare.

Amidst the lively action of Waikiki Beach Walk, find the comforting aromas of Southern Italian pasta, chops, and seafood. A perfect place for a special evening, this charming corner restaurant has the demeanor of a modern, sophisticated bistro, similar to what you would find in the quaint city of Taormina, Sicily. Here, Taormina is known for its “old world” Italian dishes, prepared with both imported ingredients and Hawaii’s local fish and produce. However, the Chef will insist, there is no Americanized fusion involved in their recipes. From freshly made “Pasta Nero Frutti di Mare” (squid ink pasta with seafood), to “Grilled Lamb Chops ‘Luca Pecorini’” (the name of the Italian chef from whom this succulent dish was inspired), share a true taste of Southern Italian cooking right in the heart of Waikiki.

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Azure Restaurant

 

 
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Azure Ocean Risotto and cabana seating, oceanfront at the Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort. Photos courtesy Azure Restaurant.

Azure 2626For eighty-five years the “Pink Palace” has been the standard of style and luxury in Waikiki. Today the Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort, redefines that role through its flagship restaurant, Azure. Offered are ‘small plates’ to taste, ‘large plates’ to indulge, and today’s selection of fresh fish straight from the morning auction. Azure’s chefs have a knack for reinventing contemporary dishes with intricate flare as local ingredients shine throughout the menu in beautiful presentations, with the keenest attention to detail. Dine inside the elegant restaurant or reserve an oceanfront cabana for a more exclusive and private affair. Pair with a glass from Azure’s extensive wine list, and savor an island experience that is beyond compare.

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Hy’s Steak House

Chocolate Lovers flambé, prepared tableside at Hy's Steak House.
Chocolate Lovers flambé, prepared tableside at Hy’s Steak House.

_MG_9573Hy’s Steak House is a Waikiki tradition for celebrating and turning any night into a special occasion. The classic décor, USDA prime beef selection, and exceptional service have kept locals and visitors returning for decades. Indulge in aromatic steaks grilled over local kiawe wood amidst the comfort of a top-notch gentleman’s club, or in the newly redesigned executive suite. Finish off your evening sharing one of Hy’s decadent flambé desserts, like the Bananas Foster, Cherries Jubilee, or the award-winning Chocolate Lovers and allow your senses to be dazzled as they are expertly prepared tableside for your enjoyment.

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New to Town: Chef Chai Opens in Waikiki

Photography by Amber Schoniwitz
Chef Chai Chaowasaree. Photo courtesy Chef Chai.
Chef Chai Chaowasaree. Photo courtesy Chef Chai.

 The world-class Chef Chai Chaowasaree is famous for his unique gift of blending Hawaii’s freshest ingredients with the exotic flavors of Asia. His dishes reflect Hawaii’s diverse people, history, and culture. This hard working chef is best known for his flagship restaurant, Chef Chai at the Pacifica Honolulu, which was named Honolulu’s “Hottest Restaurant” by Zagat, and the winner of multiple awards as the “Best New Restaurant” in Honolulu. If that wasn’t enough to keep his plate full, “Chef Chai” is also the executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines, and recently opened a brand new restaurant concept, Chai’s Waikiki Café & Market. We tracked him down at his Waikiki location to see what we can look forward to on and off the menu.

WM: Congratulations on the opening! What’s the inspiration behind the new concept for Chai’s Waikiki Café & Market?

CC: Waikiki has quite a few fine dining restaurants to choose from, but I noticed there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to having an affordable meal without going the fast food route. That’s how I came up with the idea. I wanted to offer “local-style” recipes made with the island’s freshest ingredients and flavors. You’ll get gourmet quality food, but at a reasonable price. The café’s menu features a variety of local favorites along with healthy choices like fresh salads and vegetarian options. I really wanted it to have a casual atmosphere… a place where you can come in from the beach and pick up a ready-to-eat snack, or order a meal from the counter for lunch or dinner. Enjoy your food at one of the tables in the café or take it “to-go” for your day’s activities.

Kobe Beef Loco Moco - grilled Kobe beef patty with steamed rice, topped with gravy and sunny side up eggs.
Kobe Beef Loco Moco – grilled Kobe beef patty with steamed rice, topped with gravy and sunny side up eggs.
Ahi Poke Bowl - Hawaiian-style fresh, seasoned, yellowfin tuna, served raw over steamed rice.
Ahi Poke Bowl – fresh Hawaiian-style seasoned ahi (yellowfin tuna), served raw over steamed rice.
Garlic Chicken Bahn Mi Sandwich - garlic chicken, pickled daikon, carrots, cilantro, and soy gochujang aioli in a french baguette.
Garlic Chicken Bahn Mi in a Toasted French Baguette – garlic chicken, pickled daikon, carrots, cilantro, and soy gochujang aioli.

WM: Can you tell us more about the “market” in the café, and what we can find there?

CC: I enjoy going to the neighborhood farmer’s markets for all of those unique local products you can’t find anywhere else, and wanted to bring some of my favorites to Waikiki, available everyday. In my market you’ll find premium quality, all natural, made in Hawaii products, from assorted flavors of 100% Hawaiian raw organic honey to my signature Golden Pineapple Cake Bars made with local pineapple. It’s a great way to share a taste of Hawaii with friends and family back home.

Chai's Market delights: 100% Hawaiian Organic Honey, Golden Pineapple Cake Bars, locally made chocolate, dried fruit, and more.
Chai’s Market delights: 100% Hawaiian Organic Honey, Golden Pineapple Cake Bars, locally made chocolate, dried fruit, and more.

WM: Your Pineapple Cake Bars are pretty irresistible. Are they sold elsewhere, and what’s the secret behind them?

CC: When I was young, my mother used to make the absolute best pineapple filled cookies. I started tinkering with her recipe and added local ingredients, and that’s how the Golden Pineapple Cake Bars came to be. Maybe the fresh local pineapple and honey are the secrets, but if you want to try them, you’ll have to come visit me across the street from the Hilton Hawaiian Village!

Open Daily from 11:00am – 9:30pm

For more info, visit:

  Chai’s Waikiki Café & Market

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Movers & Shakers: Executive Chef Matt Young

Hula Grill Waikiki introduces their new Chef and the Aloha Friday lunch

Photography by Amber Schoniwitz
Executive Chef Matt Young of Hula Grill Waikiki
Executive Chef Matt Young of Hula Grill Waikiki

Hula Grill Waikiki offers the quintessential oceanfront experience along with excellent food, welcoming service, and fair prices. The vibe is family-friendly, but also “date night” worthy, and uniquely local. This may have something to do with the fact that the team at Hula Grill is serious about food sourcing; they have also been known to visit, volunteer, and donate to many small farms on the Island.

New to the culinary team is Executive Chef Matt Young, who has been with the parent company TS Restaurants for six years, and is familiar with its core values and goals. One of the primary tasks on Chef Young’s plate is introducing Hula Grill Waikiki’s first lunch offering, the Aloha Friday Hawaiian Luau Plate. As part of the only lunch service at the restaurant (it’s normally only open for breakfast, dinner, and weekend brunch), you can catch this new dish on Fridays, 12pm – 3pm. We took a minute to sit down and “talk story” with Chef Young to see what’s happening, and what we can look forward to at Hula Grill Waikiki.

WM: Congratulations on the launch of the new Aloha Friday Hawaiian Luau Plate. What makes this dish, and the day, so special?

MY: This is an opportunity for guests from out of town to try some traditional Hawaiian food right on the beach in the heart of Waikiki. It’s also a killer Hawaiian lunch on Fridays for locals working in Waikiki. There’s live music and hula dancers, even lei making lessons in front of the restaurant… it’s really a fun afternoon.

WM: Hula Grill has always been at the forefront of working with and showcasing local farmers, ranchers, and fisheries.  What does this relationship mean to you as a chef?

MY: This is the number one priority for me when writing new menu items, or adjusting current recipes. Farm to table has recently become the popular “thing-to-do” over the last few years, but Hula Grill has been committed to it from the beginning because it’s important for our environment, community and economy. That is the backbone of our concept and we take it seriously. We recently started working with Makaweli Meat Company on Kauai, and are buying whole cows direct from their farm and using the whole animal for many applications in the restaurant. This is just an example of how we want to buy local and not create waste.

The Hula Grill Waikiki Aloha Friday Hawaiian Luau Plate - Lau lau, kalua pig, pipikaula, lomi tomato, ahi poke, Okinawan sweet potato, poi, rice with furikake, li hing mui pineapple, and a haupia-sweet potato pie dessert.
The Hula Grill Waikiki Aloha Friday Hawaiian Luau Plate – Lau lau, kalua pig, pipikaula, lomi tomato, ahi poke, Okinawan sweet potato, poi, rice with furikake, li hing mui pineapple, and a haupia-sweet potato pie dessert.

WM: What is your absolute favorite dish on the menu at Hula Grill?

MY: Oh man… tough question. We are known for our fresh fish and we always have nightly specials so the options are always changing. But I would say our Ahi dish right now is pretty great it’s served with coconut black rice, spicy hearts of palm and mustard miso sauce.

WM: Are there any other new plans in the works for Hula Grill in the near future? 

MY: There are always new things on the horizon for us. We do a few special dinner pairings throughout the year featuring local brewers and artisans, with one in the works as we speak. Besides that, we are constantly introducing new dishes through three to four menu updates a year, which is a great way to give our return guests something new and exciting to try.

For more information, visit:  Hula Grill Waikiki

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