CONTEMPORARY COLORS mix with subtle geometric patterns to adorn what could arguably be one of Waikiki’s most on-trend dining establishments. Tucked inside the Millennial-inspired Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club on Lewers Street, visitors and kama‘aina alike have been flocking to the fashionable Mahina & Sun’s since it opened in 2016. It’s hard to beat the restaurant’s relaxing beachy, poolside atmosphere with walls decorated by a number of modern local artists. Not to mention nightly activities and live music from some of Hawai‘i’s most cherished musicians, including Na Hoku Hanohano award-winners. But what’s really got people raving are the restaurant’s unbeatable flavors in every one of the dishes and cocktails.
The food, which is described as “elevated home cooking,” is based on the Hawaiian cultural “sense of place.” In other words, the menu is filled with ingredients centered around Hawai‘i’s seasonal bounty that journey straight from farms across the Islands onto every plate. Moreover, the culinary team at Mahina & Sun’s represents ethnicities from around the world and each cultural background has an influence in the recipes. This meld of culinary talent is in alignment with a mom-and-pop sense of nostalgia the owner, celebrated chef and restaurateur Ed Kenney, wanted to evoke in guests.
It helps that Executive Chef Erik Leong is at the kitchen’s helm. Born and raised on O‘ahu, he knows just what it takes to create comfort food with memorable mixes of cultural seasonings that once flourished in small businesses on the Islands. Prior to joining Mahina & Sun’s, he worked at Kenney’s Town Restaurant for almost a decade and moved up the ranks from a night cook to sous chef. His passion for food struck at an early age. After graduating from Kapi‘olani Community College with a degree in culinary arts, Leong worked for Sodexo, a sustainable dining program for students at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.
Now he has formed the ultimate dream team with Kenney at Mahina & Sun’s to create breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings, as well as a special brunch menu on Sundays. Locally sourced ingredients are a prerequisite for every dish, including one of the most popular, called Mahina’s Family Feast. The meal is made for several people to enjoy, and features an “ocean-friendly” mochiko fried or steamed whole deep-sea snapper that comes with exquisite homemade dipping sauces, such as green chutney.
The restaurant goes above and beyond with this dish, not only by providing unparalleled, robust flavors in the main fish course, but in each of the sides that accompany it. From buttered ‘ulu (breadfruit) with chili-pepper-water aioli to Kualoa Ranch oysters, there’s something everyone can savor in this meal. Moreover, the feast’s grand finale is the Salted Mac Nut Pavlova (Australian for meringue-a sensationally sweet dessert that comes with local, seasonal fruit such as papaya and pineapple, a lemon-‘olena (Hawaiian turmeric) curd and vanilla cream.
Cocktails are equally as satisfying as the edibles at Mahina & Sun’s, including simple libations decorated with fresh herbs served during happy hour, as well as drinks with more gusto presented during Sunday brunch, such as the Bella Matina made with Prairie vodka, espresso, lemon and vanilla gelato.
Only the finest ingredients, many of which are gathered from local farmers and ranchers, are used at Mahina & Sun’s, where the atmosphere is avant-garde and the food evokes the flavors and feel of yesteryear.
“My ultimate goal is and has been to cook great food, and from my past that feeds my present that makes me hungry for the future,” says Leong.
Visit mahinaandsuns.com for more information.