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.
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.
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!
Hula Grill Waikiki introduces their new Chef and the Aloha Friday lunch
Photography by Amber Schoniwitz
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.
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.
A look into dishes worth savoring this winter season, and what inspires the chefs who create them
Photography by Amber Schoniwitz
The concept of comfort food is universal, yet its definition is unique to each and every one of us. Geography, culture, family, and age all play a part in shaping our palates. While we may consider the American diners from yesteryear nostalgic, young people today are growing up in a culinary world like never before, with wider diversity and greater emphasis on farm-to-fork movements. In the spirit of the holiday season, we asked a handful of talented chefs from Waikiki’s top restaurants to show off some of their very own comfort-style cuisine. Take a peek into what this concept means to them, and how it translates into their cooking. If there’s one thing we all can agree on, when it comes to comfort food, there can never be too much!
After twenty years in the restaurant business, Chef-Owner Bill Granger’s newest Bills Sydney location in Waikiki is his first venture into the U.S. Impeccably designed with modern form, natural wood accents, and an atmosphere of comfortable sophistication, the two-story building offers a beach bar cafe downstairs, and a casually elegant restaurant upstairs. While the menu is inspired by tropical produce and a fusion of international cuisines, all of Granger’s dishes reflect a quality that is intentionally simple, but executed with the greatest attention to detail. Renowned for their signature Ricotta Hotcakes, Granger explains, “The ricotta hotcakes were my vision to create the perfect pancake. The addition of ricotta adds lightness and good hit of protein while beaten egg whites bring an almost soufflé like quality to the pancake. We serve the hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter which melts to create a sauce.” Garnering praise from The New York Times as the ‘egg master of Sydney,’ Granger hints that the secret is “utilizing fresh local organic eggs with very little done to them, they are creamy and sublime.” Besides breakfast, Bills Sydney offers a variety of unique salads, refreshing pastas and flatbreads, and heartier dishes like pork ribs and yellow fish curry for lunch and dinner. There are no boundaries when it comes to ingredients, but the unifying idea that “Bills is all about comfort food,” Granger says, “casual food of the home that reassures but with a fresh twist to also excite.”
The Hilton Hawaiian Village’s premier restaurant, Bali Steak & Seafood, offers guests the highest quality steaks and seafood along with an uncompromising view of Waikiki Beach. Enjoy a sunset in the relaxed South Pacific décor with cocktail in hand and one of Executive Chef Joseph “JJ” Reinhart’s signature dishes. When asked about “comfort food,” Reinhart has a menu of options, since this notion speaks to who he is as a chef. His signature style incorporates the simplest, quality ingredients prepared with heartfelt elegance. Take the Diver Scallop appetizer, for example, where the citrus-salted scallops are presented over ginger rice porridge, topped with a Hamakua mushroom ragout and heart of palm salad, and surrounded by house made chili oil. “Every culture in the world has some sort of porridge dish,” explains Reinhart, but this one leaves an unforgettable impression. The aromatic rice offers an explosion of flavor, paired perfectly with the delicate scallops, achieving both depth and balance of flavor and texture. For Reinhart, “Comfort food is something that takes you back to being a kid, like something that made you feel better no matter what… but personally, I always like it when it’s given some sort of twist.” With such an appreciation for the intricate details that make every bite one to savor, enjoy a truly memorable culinary experience, and be sure to make a reservation at Bali Steak & Seafood.
When it comes to Chinese-American cuisine with an upbeat, modern attitude, there’s no better place than P.F. Chang’s Waikiki at the Royal Hawaiian Center. Featuring a refreshing menu filled with new and classic favorites, P.F. Chang’s prepares each dish to order, stressing quality and style. While Chinese food is somewhat of an American past time, Executive Chef Ron Vasquez explains, “The perfect comfort dish is uncomplicated, yet filled with lots of flavor.” The Salt & Pepper Prawns are both sweet and spicy, seasoned with salt and pepper, ginger, black beans, whole red chili peppers, and served with a mustard vinaigrette dipping sauce. Choose your weapon (chopsticks, fork, or fingers), and attack these crispy sensations for lunch or dinner. If your comfort is of the five-o-clock variety, check out P.F. Chang’s happy hour from 4pm to 6pm daily for discounted small plates and specialty drinks like the famous Waikiki Chang’s Mai Tai.
Favorite Dish: Ribeye Steak with a slice of thick cut sizzling Canadian bacon
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse offers a no-frills attitude about what to expect from this celebrated American restaurant, which may explain the constant line of customers at the door. Without question, the star of the show is the phenomenal Porterhouse Steak for Two, Three, or Four. This enormous cut of USDA Prime beef features both filet mignon and New York strip steaks, and is dry aged in-house to achieve peak flavor and tenderness. Executive Chef Diego Pacuruco hails from the original Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in New York, and moved to Hawaii five years ago to open the Royal Hawaiian Center location. His knowledge and passion for the craft of fine steaks is clearly apparent in each dish, because for Chef Pacuruco, “there’s nothing more comforting than a simple, juicy, high quality steak,” and after tasting the Porterhouse, we would have to agree.
Perched on the second floor of the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s historic Rainbow Bazaar, Fresco Italian Restaurant welcomes guests into an atmosphere of relaxed, clean modern design with the familiar aromas of a hearty Italian kitchen. Known for utilizing fresh ingredients whenever possible, Fresco fuses old-world recipes with Hawaii’s local produce. Executive Chef Rodhel Ibay explains, “In Italy, what you’ll find on dinner tables is a reflection of the ingredients available at the market, at the dock, and at the butcher. Comfort food is about cooking with what’s a part of your culture.” He adds, “If you ask me, basically all Italian food is comfort food!” Letting flavors simply stand out is key in Ibay’s mouth-watering Linguine All’ Aragosta e Granchio. The rich lobster and crab are slowly cooked into the thick tomato sauce, made from both local and D.O.P. tomatoes imported from Tuscany, and served with linguine prepared al dente. Simple, savory, and unmistakably “Fresco.”
With unique music, jaw-dropping memorabilia, and Waikiki’s only giant guitar wave, there’s no place in town quite like Hard Rock Cafe. If there’s a special place in your heart for a juicy burger stacked high with all the fixings, then be prepared to fall in love with the Original Legendary Burger. This two-hander is made with a ten ounce beef patty topped with smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, a crispy fried onion ring, lettuce, vine-ripened tomato, and pickles, all on a brioche bun. According to Executive Chef Rey Baysa, this all-American classic embodies what is essential to comfort food. “It’s not simply a particular dish or cuisine, but also the memories and nostalgia associated with it. Comfort food should bring you back to your youth, no matter your age.” So go ahead, and let your inner child rock out with this truly legendary burger, a side of hot fries, and maybe that decadent hot fudge brownie sundae for dessert.
Favorite Dish: Poke Bar (Tuesdays) & Ceviche Bar (Wednesdays)
Kuhio Beach Grill is well known for excellent buffet selections, especially the succulent, four hour roasted, tender prime rib. Working Sous Chef Richard Arakaki who has been with the restaurant for 32 years claims, “we have the best prime rib in town.” It is cut to order every night, and paired with a live chef action station that varies depending on the day of the week, allowing guests to have a new and unique experience each time they visit. Thursday’s dinner selections are themed around a traditional American spread, including irresistibly sweet and savory, fork-tender mango BBQ pork ribs, boneless, skinless fried chicken, bacon baked beans, corn on the cob, and all the accompaniments you’d expect from a backyard barbecue. “Our American theme is all about comfort food,” Chef Arakaki adds, “to me, comfort food is home-style cooking, just like a Sunday night dinner with family and friends.” And what’s a family dinner without dessert? Top off your Thursday night at Kuhio Beach Grill with their Sundae Station and build your very own sweet creation starting with a fresh made waffle cone.
Favorite Dish: Shrimp Bao, Curry Banh Mi, Korean Fried Chicken, Thai Tacos (He couldn’t choose just one)
One of Waikiki’s most iconic oceanfront hot spots is getting a makeover this November. RumFire Waikiki will undergo a complete renovation, while remaining open and fully operational. Look forward to brand new high-end-chic design concepts, the addition of a second bar with a full ocean view, and private cabanas with VIP service. The new menu will focus on Executive Chef Danny Chew’s unique take on contemporary street food. “The vision is to take street food from around the world and rework it into a casual restaurant environment,” says Chew, who has a knack for fusing traditional American comfort foods with an unexpected twist of Asian influence. His succulent Kalua Pork Nachos are topped with melted cheese sauce made from pepper jack, Maui onion, habaneros, Sambal, and fish sauce. The in-house pickled Serrano chilies add both a sweet and hot kick. Also tempting, the “KFC,” or Korean Fried Chicken, is first brined in buttermilk over night, then steamed, chilled, floured, deep fried, and finished in the wok with a spicy gochujang vinaigrette. The rich, piquant chicken falls right off the bone. Pair with a cold beer or a fiery rum cocktail, and be sure to catch a sneak peek during renovations, and don’t miss RumFire’s big reveal by 2015.
Football season is here, and Giovanni Pastrami has exactly what you need to cheer on your team. Waikiki’s best sports bar offers each guest the best seat in the house with wall-to-wall high definition TVs, and all-star American classics like the #1 selling Pastrami Ruben Sandwich. Sink your teeth into the thinly sliced hot pastrami, sauerkraut, and melted Swiss on grilled rye, and discover how to tailgate gourmet-style. Chef Richard Inay explains that “Giovanni Pastrami is much more than a typical sports bar,” as the entire menu features high quality ingredients, without compromising on quantity. For example, “Our pastrami comes from the same purveyors that supply many top delis in New York, Chicago, and California,” says Inay, and the restaurant serves over two thousand pounds of the prized meat each month. Have your pastrami in an eggs benedict, as a topping on a burger, in sliders or sandwiches, or mixed with fried rice. As if the pastrami wasn’t enough, Inay also serves up a ten-page menu filled with a huge selection of breakfasts, sky-high deli sandwiches, half-pound burgers, as well as fresh pastas, Round Table Pizza, and other stadium favorites.
Along bustling Kapahulu Avenue, there’s a small, unassuming yellow building that’s home to one of Oahu’s favorite hidden gems, Uncle Bo’s. Boasting an eclectic menu packed-full of local favorites, we wanted to sit down and “talk-story” with the man behind the menu, Chef-owner “Uncle” Bo Pathammavong.
WM: This winter, we explored the concept of “comfort food” quite a bit and how it has shaped different chefs and their menus. Can you give us some insight about what comfort food means to you?
UB: It’s such a universal concept that regardless of where you’re from, you can appreciate comfort food! Whether you’re brought up on mac and cheese, chicken soup, or Hamachi sashimi, we all have those certain triggers that bring us a wonderful sense of well being and nostalgia. For me, it’s a great big hot bowl of pho, which is basically a hot broth made from soup bones, various spices, herbs, combined with rice noodles and assorted local veggies. I grew up in Laos and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand before I became a U.S. citizen as a teenager. Most people think pho is purely a Vietnamese dish, but it’s very popular throughout Southeast Asia. As a child my mother would make us pho almost daily… and I hated it growing up. I guess knowing we were eating pho because we had to (it’s relatively inexpensive to make), instead of because we wanted to, made me unappreciative of my mother’s hard work. But as the years passed by and my culinary world expanded, I have come to deeply appreciate the simplicity of a dish that culturally was so important to so many people. It provided warmth and sustenance to my family during the hardships of enduring our refugee camp, and now every time I have a bowl of pho, I enjoy every slurp!
WM: You’ve told us that the “S.O.S.” is one of your favorite comfort dishes at Uncle Bo’s. We’ve heard a few rumors about where the name comes from, but can you tell us what it really stands for?
UB: S.O.S. stands for “Soup Or Stew.” Our guests often ask, “Is this a soup or stew?” and our answer is simply that it’s a little bit of both… It’s thicker and more hearty than a soup, but still soothing, rich and comforting.
WM: What’s the inspiration behind the dish?
UB: I was in New Orleans for a layover and had an opportunity to try some fantastic Cajun cooking. I loved the different spices and aromas; so unique, yet flavorful and delicious. So when I got back home, I decided to play around with some recipes to recreate some of the fun unique flavors from New Orleans, but with my own spin. What we came up with is the “S.O.S.!!!” It’s loaded with lots of seafood; chunks of lobster meat, shrimp, crab, scallop, and fresh clams. It’s a combination of savory, velvety, and decadent all in one. If you’re a seafood lover like me, THIS is your dish!
WM: What is your personal, hands-down, favorite dish on the menu?
UB: Hands down my favorite dish is our Thai Steamer Clams… It’s what put Uncle Bo’s onto the map! We use a whole pound of fresh sweet Manila clams sautéed with choy sum and tomatoes. It’s one of the original dishes that we had on our menu 8 years ago when we opened Uncle Bo’s on Kapahulu Avenue, and to this day it is still one of our most popular dishes.
WM: Uncle Bo’s is eight years in, congratulations! What new things can we look forward to in the near future?
UB: We are incredibly excited to announce the future opening of Uncle Bo’s Haleiwa in the beautiful north shore of Oahu! We are hoping to open within the next few months. The grand opening date hasn’t been set yet, so until then you can always check us out right here at the original Uncle Bo’s on Kapahualu!
Locally sourced dishes from the island’s top chefs
Photography by Amber Schoniwitz
The Hawaiian Islands have long been known for luaus and the Pacific Ocean’s freshest catch, but it wasn’t until a couple of decades ago that a handful of visionary chefs began shaping what is know today as Hawaii Regional Cuisine. It started slowly; with a single farm supplying gourmet leafy greens to a single restaurant, and has grown into a statewide network of sustainable farmers, ranchers, and fishermen providing island-fresh ingredients to Hawaii kitchens. Here’s a taste of a few creations from Waikiki’s top restaurants and their talented chefs, featuring the best of Hawaii’s unique local fare.
Sous Vide of Big Island Kulana Beef Strip Loin
Executive Chef Albert Balbas, D.K Steak House
The revival of the American steak house takes a local turn at D.k Steak House in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Executive Chef Albert Balbas is committed to incorporating sustainable ingredients, whenever and wherever possible. His mouthwatering Sous Vide of Big Island Kulana Beef Strip Loin is a perfect example. This juicy, Hawaii Island strip loin steak is slow cooked to tender perfection and is presented pupu-style (sliced into bite size portions) with roasted fingerling potato ragout and herbed Naked Cow Dairy butter. Featuring an array of farm to table appetizers, side dishes, and entrees alongside their premium, in-house dry-aged Vintage Natural steaks, D.k Steak House offers a refreshing, innovative, and locally inspired, steak house experience.
Executive Chef Frederick Pittman, Tropics Bar & Grill
Tropics Bar & Grill is a hotspot for locals and visitors alike, and it’s not hard to figure out why. Nestled right up against the sands of Waikiki Beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, this place hums with live local music, tropical drinks, and a vibrant dining experience. The beauty of the Islands has truly inspired Executive Chef Frederick Pittman’s signature dinner entree, the Opah Dynamite. This light dish delivers a full-flavor experience as fresh caught Opah (moonfish) is topped with a spicy-citrus tobiko dynamite sauce, and complimented by an Alii mushroom and spinach jasmine couscous. This is just one of Chef Pittman’s many inviting island specialties, and a perfect choice for an enjoyable beachside evening at Tropics Bar & Grill.
Stunning presentation, quality, and flavor don’t usually describe an around-the-clock eatery, but then again most restaurants don’t have a Food Network award-winning chef in the kitchen. Executive Chef James Aptakin’s menu at MAC 24/7 is a combination of both American and Island comfort-food-favorites, with a dedication to using locally sourced ingredients from across the Hawaiian Islands. His colorful creations range from hearty entrees to elegantly styled tapas and share plates. The Molokai Gnocchi, for example, consists of house made Molokai sweet potato pasta dumplings with local braised kale, local kabocha, and an island basil pesto sauce. Satisfy any cravings with an unforgettable foodie experience, day or night, at MAC 24/7.
Executive Chef Mariano Lalica, Oceanarium Restaurant
The Oceanarium Restaurant is the only place on Oahu where you can enjoy an abundant selection of fresh local seafood and regional cuisine, while being captivated by the Pacific Beach Hotel’s three-story tall aquarium filled with more than seventy different species of marine life… and the occasional mermaid. Executive Chef Mariano Lalica utilizes the island’s fresh catch, local farms, and the hotel’s own rooftop herb garden to create exciting specialties like the tempting Pan Seared Shutome (broadbill swordfish) with tropical fruit salsa. Chef Lalica prepares meticulously to offer both quality and variety, and his nightly themed buffet is a tradition for generations of local families.
Chef-owner Roy Yamaguchi is one of the forefathers of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, and his distinctive style of cooking has paved the way for many of today’s local chefs. Continuing in this tradition of excellence is Roy’s Waikiki Executive Chef Jason Ichiki. Along with Roy’s classic signature dishes, Chef Ichiki designs a seasonal menu based upon the freshest ingredients at hand. One of Chef Ichiki’s most recent creations is the Kampachi Crudo. Thinly sliced, sashimi grade Kona Kampachi (almaco jack) is flavored with a yuzu kosho emulsion, white soy sauce, and a touch of garlic aioli. Adding a zesty crunch to each mouth-watering bite are sliced jalapeños, Nalo Farms watermelon radish, Kahuku sea asparagus, and Nursery Farms micro-greens. Chef Ichiki updates his seasonal menu regularly, so be sure to discover all of his newest inspirations exclusively at Roy’s Waikiki.
Catch a stunning Waikiki sunset from Hula Grill and taste Executive Chef Paul Rivera’s newest combinations of flavors and traditions. Hula Grill’s team makes it a top priority to visit, volunteer, donate, and support Hawaii’s small farmers and their gourmet produce. This effort shines in Chef Rivera’s Localicious Salad. Fresh Nalo greens, sweet Ewa onion, Kahuku sea asparagus, hoio fern, Big Island heart of palm and Ho Farms tomatoes are tossed together in a sweet citrus lime miso vinaigrette. The salad and its exotic ingredients are a very popular conversation starter, and just one of the many Hawaii regional delights to be found at Hula Grill Waikiki.
The Sheraton Waikiki’s signature restaurant, Kai Market, sources over seventy percent of their ingredients from local producers. Executive Chef Darren Demaya believes that this is the best way for his guests to truly experience a taste of the islands. On Fridays and Saturdays Chef Demaya hosts “Seafood Nights,” a celebration of the island’s fresh seafood favorites. Local highlights from the buffet selections include the Hawaiian style seafood paella, steamed snow crab legs with Big Island meyer lemon infused drawn butter, premium sashimi, steamed island market fresh fish, and the always-popular Chinese Salt and Pepper Kahuku Prawns. These extra large, head-on prawns are raised on Oahu’s north shore and are an island delicacy not to be missed. Make your reservation to feast on all of Chef Demaya’s island inspired cuisine at Kai Market.
Tiki’s Grill & Bar is always fun, exciting, and delicious. Daily happy hours and nightly live music may rule the open-air lanai bar, but in the kitchen award-winning Executive Chef Ronnie Nasuti steals the show. Continually searching for new and exciting local ingredients, Chef Nasuti’s off-the-menu specials allow him to introduce the freshest seasonal flavors to his guests. His colorful Grilled Hawaiian Swordfish is a “special of the moment,” and a locavore dream. The Hawaiian waters grilled swordfish is served with Kahuku corn succotash, Hauula haricot vert, kabocha puree, and is surrounded by a purple Molokai potato yuzu essence. Whether it’s on or off the menu, Chef Nasuti’s award winning cuisine and the lively atmosphere at Tiki’s Grill & Bar make for a fun and memorable meal.
Olive Oil Confit of Big Island Abalone & Shinsato Farms Pork
Chef de Cuisine “Shaymus” Alwin, Azure
Expect nothing less than the highest quality local catch and exquisitely intricate presentations at Azure Restaurant. Located in an elegant beachfront setting at the Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Chef “Shaymus” Alwin has a knack for reinventing contemporary dishes with intricate flare. One of Chef Alwin’s newest menu additions is his Olive Oil confit of Big Island Abalone and Shinsato Farms Pork. As part of the new Papa Aina (Hawaiian dining table) offerings at Azure, the dish features Kona Gold abalone, tonkatsu-style Shinsato Farms pork, Hirabata Farms greens, and Big Island heart of palm. Pair with a glass from Azure’s extensive wine list, and savor an island experience that is beyond compare.
The First Lady of Waikiki elevates her culinary creativity with new local talent
Photography by Amber Schoniwitz
When Ryan Loo found out that his friend and former culinary associate, Brooke Tadena, had recently joined the Moana Surfrider, the opportunity to return to Oahu and work with a strong team was too tempting to resist. Since the two chefs first met in the kitchens of the Kahala Mandarin hotel, each has spent more than a decade leading notable food and beverage operations here and across the Pacific. Most recently, Loo held the position of Executive Chef at the W Seattle, and Tadena was the Executive Banquet Chef at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Today, Executive Chef Loo and Executive Sous Chef Tadena take pride in designing meals that demonstrate Westin’s core value, “feeling better when you leave than when you arrived.” They utilize local ingredients and offer superfood-inspired dishes at each of the Moana Surfrider’s outlets, from in-room dining to the resort’s signature steak house and sea grill, Beachhouse at the Moana.
Being committed to using locally-sourced products whenever possible means both incorporating these ingredients into traditional recipes, as well as creating menu items that are elegantly local-style. Chef Loo explains, “visitors come to Hawaii to taste Hawaii, and what makes Hawaii special are the different people, cultures, and cuisine.” Beachhouse’s prime steaks may be the focus of the restaurant, but look for items like “oxtail” dumplings, luau (coconut creamed) spinach, Okinawan sweet potato fries, and Pacific oysters and seafood for a touch of what makes Beachhouse unique. Chef Loo highly recommends the ‘poke’ and the ‘catch of the day,’ suggesting, “even if everyone at the table is having a steak, I encourage guests to share a local fish done in a preparation that is always changing.”
Next on their plate, Chef Loo says we can look forward to some new twists at the hotel’s piano bar, Bin1901. Currently offering a variety of eclectic wines, specialty cocktails, and small plates, the team plans to unveil a new menu with bourbon-friendly foods and suggested pairings this summer.
Hawaii enjoys a rich history of welcoming people and cultures from around the globe in the spirit of Aloha. Nowhere is this more evident than in local cooking. From family kitchens to five-star restaurants, find an eclectic mix of cuisines, flavors, and ingredients that make Hawaii a one-of-a-kind foodie destination. Waikiki is home to the Island’s top chefs, serving up a variety of dishes and dining experiences unique to Hawaii. We hope you enjoy everything Waikiki has to offer, and make memories in the sun and especially at the dinner table.
The Burger, Executive Chef Danny Chew
RumFire offers panoramic oceanfront views, fiery drinks, and Executive Chef Danny Chew’s “street-food-chic” creations at Sheraton Waikiki. Chef Chew, originally from Taiwan, fuses traditional American food with Asian influences. His street-style Korean fried chicken is done with a sweet and spicy “kochujang” vinaigrette and “namul” (Korean vegetables, in this case, watercress, bean sprouts, and sesame oil). On the chic side, sink your teeth into The Burger’s truffle boschetto cheese melted over a charbroiled Black Angus patty, topped with Nalo Farms’ spicy greens and carmalized Maui onions. Rediscover local comfort food at its finest at RumFire.
Executive Chef Rodhel Ibay’ssignature Cacciucco di Mare is a seafood lover’s dream come true. Live Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp, Manila clams, scallops, and the fish of the day are brought together with a spicy local tomato broth. Bold flavors and spices compliment the fresh seafood with ease, showcasing Chef Ibay’s passion for introducing local ingredients and character to old-world Italian cuisine. Indulge in all of the unique specialties at Fresco Italian Restaurant, overlooking Duke’s Lagoon from the second floor of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Rainbow Bazaar.
Prosciutto al Papaya, Executive Chef James Donahue
Stroll through the Royal Hawaiian Center to experience restaurateur Wolfgang Zweiner’s Italian trattoria, Il Lupino. Executive Chef James Donahue adds his personal touch to new and old favorites throughout the menu. The new Prosciutto al Papaya is paper-thin, house-cut Parma prosciutto surrounded by locally grown papaya, and drizzled with candied Marcona almonds and Big Island honey. This sweet and savory starter is a local play on the classic Italian prosciutto and melon combination, and just a taste of what you’ll find at Il Lupino.
Kiawe Grilled Steaks, Executive Chef Erwin Manzano
The unmistakable aroma of sweet, smoky kiawe wood meets every guest as they enter through the ornate doors at Hy’s Steak House. The centerpiece of the dining room is a custom built, glass-enclosed, brass and copper cauldron, where Executive Chef Erwin Manzano broils each entree over native Hawaiian kiawe wood flames. Although famous for outstanding USDA Prime steaks, Chef Manzano also prepares house specialties, from chops to fresh seafood, with the kiawe fire adding its unique local flavor to each dish. Take a bite of that juicy steak, sip your cognac, and savor the traditional gentlemen’s club atmosphere that is Hy’s Steak House.
>> Pictured: Hy’s kiawe grilled Porterhouse t-bone, Delmonico, New York strip, and filet mignon.
One look at Executive Chef Daisuke Hamamoto’s beautiful Bagna Cauda, and you might begin to wonder what other culinary creations await at Arancino at the Kahala. The flowerpot arrangement is a clever disguise for a base of fresh bread beneath an assortment of fresh vegetables, which are planted into a layer of baked and ground cremini mushrooms. The Bagna Cauda, or “hot bath” in Italian, refers to the heated bowl of anchovy, garlic, and olive oil provided for dipping. Relax in the bistro-chic atmosphere of Arancino’s newest location, and design your very own three or four-course meal with beautiful and innovative Italian dishes like this one.
Awabi and Uni Gelee Martini, Executive Chef Hideaki Kishishita
Kaiwa, a dining experience designed to engage the senses, combines traditional cooking methods with local ingredients to create exquisite and modern Japanese cuisine. From teppan to sushi, Executive Chef Hideaki Kishishita presents layers of flare, a taste for fusion, and attention to every detail. His Awabi and Uni Gelee Martini features a Hawaiian seafood delight alongside a classic delicacy from Japan. Steamed whole Big Island abalone and fresh Uni sit atop a light daishi gelee, and are complimented with red ginger, wasabi, shiso leaf, and fresh lemon. Enjoy the best of Japan with a touch of Hawaii, in a style and sophistication that is uniquely Kaiwa.
Make your summer, and your dinner, sizzle at Tanaka of Tokyo. Teppanyaki Chef Anson Ikehara dazzles guests with knife juggling, shrimp tail acrobatics, and a fire breathing onion volcano, all while expertly preparing your selected entree to perfection. Choose the “Matsu” and enjoy a complete meal highlighted by Premium Angus Beef sirloin, chicken, and lobster tail hot off the grill. The food is excellent, but the show and the atmosphere make for one of the best Japanese teppan experiences in the world. Check out any of Tanaka of Tokyo’s three locations, all in the Waikiki area, for a dining experience filled with fun, excitement, laughter, and amazing flavors.
>> Pictured: Tanaka of Tokyo’s Matsu entree includes Teppanyaki grilled Premium Angus Beef sirloin, chicken, and lobster tail with tossed green salad, grilled shrimp appetizer, teppanyaki vegetables, steamed rice, pickled vegetables, miso soup, Japanese green tea, and dessert.