My friend Amber and I have a game we play every time we’re in Waikiki. While shopping or dining at any of the myriad locations available along the white sand shores, we keep a quiet tally, adding up how many brides we see.
Waikiki is implicitly romantic. As the former playground for Hawaiian royalty, it still holds an aura of beauty and grandeur that attracts couples from around the world. Every year thousands of lovebirds flock to Waikiki for elopements or honeymoons and it’s always a pleasure to see beautiful brides in elaborate gowns parading through the area with their grooms.
If you’ve come to Waikiki with your beloved for a wedding, honeymoon, anniversary, or just because, here are a few of the restaurants you may want to try for the best in food and romance.
Miyako sits on the second story of the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. It looks out over Kaimana Beach, a local favorite for its calm water and relative lack of crowds. As the sun sets, diners at Miyako are treated to a spectacular view as they enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine.
The food at Miyako has impeccable presentation to accompany the ocean views. The five types of sashimi, pictured here, are among the restaurant’s “locally grown” specials, featuring exclusively fresh caught Hawaiian seafood. The sampler includes Kana abalone, Kahuku shrimp, yellowfin ahi, kampachi (yellowtail) and uku (blue green snapper).
Niihau, or the Forbidden Island, has its own mystique after being privately owned for over a century. It acts almost like a time capsule, where a handful of Native Niihauans live largely as pre-European contact Hawaiians did. Although not native to Hawaii, the island has a large sheep population that is cultivated by Niihau Ranch.
d.k Steak House in Waikiki is one of the few fine dining restaurants that serves Niihau Ranch Lamb. Its lamb shank is served with creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes, baby spinach and mushrooms. This unique delicacy is not only robust in flavor, it’s also only found in Hawaii.
Good things come in a martini glass. At Kaiwa, a teppan and sushi restaurant in Waikiki Beach Walk, martini glasses come filled with savory appetizers, such as ahi poke with garlic and ogo seaweed. The restaurant serves wine and spirits to accompany its appetizer cocktails, but the bar is best known for its extensive sake list.
The sushi and teppan are divine, but veering into the entree section of the menu can also be a delight. The Black Angus filet mignon comes grilled to order and has a fine-grain texture. For an optimum dining experience, request a sunken table in the back room, where twinkle lights provide a light glow.
As a California native, I grew up with a certain fast food chain that has a notorious secret menu. Newcomers would often discover the undocumented menu after months in the area then gleefully ask with a wink and a nudge if I knew about it. I’d always known through cultural osmosis about that particular secret menu, but it never occured to me that other establishments might do the same.
I was pleasantly surprised to find recently that Wolfgang’s Steakhouse at the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki also has at least one hidden menu item: the surf ‘n turf. This dish pairs an 8-10-ounce prime filet tenderloin and a whole pound of cold-water lobster. It’s just the right amount of food for a loving couple to share during a memorable night out.
Taormina in Waikiki Beach Walk specializes in Sicilian fare and has the right ambiance for a romantic dinner. Seating options include a dining room, an outdoor terrace, and second-story tables overlooking the Beach Walk. Reservations are recommended at Taormina, but specific table requests cannot be guaranteed.
A typical dinner at Taormina may take hours between relishing different courses and sipping an appropriately paired Italian wine. The menu at Taormina is extensive, which can make for a difficult decision. One dining option is to pick from different sections and share. T he bolognese “classica” and the pesce del giorno are two disparate dishes that display the range of entrees available.
The Moana Surfrider, the first hotel to grace Waikiki Beach, is affectionately known as the First Lady of Waikiki. Its open verandas, wooden rocking chairs, and luxurious design, are the perfect blend of modern comfort and historic stateliness. it’s long been a favorite wedding venue as couples are practically guaranteed gorgeous photos.
Beachhouse, the hotel’s signature restaurant, has an airy lanai that sits right on the beach. it’s a pristine location for afternoon tea, something the restaurant specializes in. For an evening meal, the dining room can host large parties or intimate tables for a tete-a-tete. Try the ahi au poivre, a new menu item with local ahi, parmesan potatoes, grilled ratatouille and sauce au poivre.
Seafood in Hawaii is world-renowned. Fish and other sea creatures have fed the islands’ population for centuries and today locals and visitors alike enjoy seafood medleys in Waikiki’s top restaurants. Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar, located in the Waikiki Beach Marriott is another Japanese-style restaurant that serves only fresh, high-quality fish.
The quality of Sansei’s seafood is evident in the number of award-winning dishes it serves. Three of those dishes, pictured here, highlight the array of options available at Sansei, such as the crab ramen with Asian truffle broth, the Asian shrimp cake, and the popular panko-crusted fresh ahi sashimi.