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Rockin' to the Beat of RumFire
Cover Story

Rockin’ to the Beat of RumFire

Story By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
September 25 - October 1, 2011

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With five star ambitions, RumFire at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel presents locals and visitors from across the globe with an unforgettable dining experience and a mesmerizing view to match. Escape into oblivion and marvel in the scenic landscape of the Helumoa playground set against iconic Diamond Head crater while relaxing in an intimate dining room punctuated with dark wood accents, fire pits and a vast bar that, in fact, features 101 bottles of rum.

  • Sticky Chicken Wings ($12)
  • Grilled Rib Steak "Pupu" Style ($28)
  • "Angry" Mac n Cheese ($8)
  • Spicy Ahi "Poke" ($16)
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Dining Out recently paid a visit to the famed Waikiki eatery originally known for its “Bahawaiian” cuisine, which showcases a taste of unique Hawaiian fusion. It was there that we obtained an exclusive interview with RumFire executive chef Brett Villarmia and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Waikiki public relations manager Diana Su who, for the first time ever, gave us a sneak peek into RumFire’s new and improved Pacific Rim-inspired menu set to be presented to the public later this week. So, turn up the heat and get ready to feast on immaculate cuisine that emphasizes sustainable local products and the signature zesty spice of RumFire that we’ve all come to love — some amazing things are in store!

DO: So, before we dish about the new menu here at RumFire, tell us what this establishment is known for.

Villarmia: RumFire is known for its contemporary tapas that are designed to be shared and enjoyed by everyone — there’s a lot of spice in our cuisine.

DO: Chef Brett, you came on board in August, just in time to work on this new menu. What can people expect?

Villarmia: We’ve created a new concept with our new menu and we’re calling it social comfort food. Our menu highlights global influences with a distinct Hawaiian focus, and we display this by utilizing local products whenever possible. And since we are RumFire, there’s a lot of fire and spice infused into our food, so it’ll make you enjoy your drink a little more.

Su: We really wanted to bring back a lot of the local favorites while also putting a twist on it. You can find local products anywhere, but it’s rare to find a place that serves up to 70 percent of locally sourced produce in that local recipe, and that’s really what we’re trying to capture. RumFire is a local favorite — it’s a local bar that everyone hangs out at — it’s known for its cocktails and ambiance, so it’s only natural for us to really take a more local approach to the food and steer away from the “Bahawaiian” and just go for the local favorites. We also want to give our visitors a genuine taste of Hawaii.

DO: How does this new menu differ from the previous menu?

Villarmia: The previous menu concentrated on “Bahawaiian” cuisine, with a local, island, Tex-Mex flair, and now we’re going into another phase of the cuisine, really making use of the fresh, local ingredients that our islands have to offer.

Su: It’s now a lot easier for the local farmers here to become certified to sell to the larger hotels and we’re able to then purchase more produce, and that’s why today we’re able to come up with this locally sourced menu, whereas three years ago all of our products would have been shipped in from California or any other state.

If you’re to compare Hamakua tomatoes to tomatoes from California, you can literally taste the difference in the juiciness and the sweetness of the tomato. You take a vine-ripened tomato that was picked yesterday and a vine-ripened tomato that was picked a week ago, there’s a huge difference.

DO: Great! So, what inspired this change to the menu?

Villarmia: The changes came because we’re trying to keep up with the culinary trends, and we’re doing our best to stay current. The previous menu was in place for two years, and we knew it was just time to make a change — to give RumFire a new life.

DO: What are some dishes on the new menu that patrons from all over the world can look forward to?

Villarmia: Well, first off we have the Sticky Chicken Wings ($12). The chicken wings are brined in buttermilk, brown sugar and a little bit of garlic, served with a macadamia nut Hawaiian chili pepper honey on a baby waffle that’s spread with some honey butter.

Then there’s the Spicy Ahi Poke ($16) with caramelized Maui onion sambar, habanero peppers, slowly simmered and mixed with the ahi poke. It’s then finished with a poke water and sesame wonton. Also, we’re now featuring a Grilled Rib Steak “Pupu” Style ($28), with a Kau coffee spice rub served with smoked Kahuku corn puree and local garlic confit. And our “Angry” Mac n Cheese ($8) is something special here at RumFire — it’s like your traditional mac n cheese, only we utilize pepper Jack cheese and smoked jalapeno. We basically make it RumFire-style and kick it up a little by adding chipotle and other spices to it, and it also comes complete with a tomato-powder crust. It’s very hip.

DO: In addition to all these wonderful new items, can loyal diners be on the lookout for any RumFire originals as well?

Villarmia: We’ve changed 90 percent of the menu, but we’ve kept some RumFire classics. For instance, we’re sticking with the Kim Chee Fried Rice and the Chipotle BBQ Rum Baby Back Ribs, which are really popular among the local guests. Another classic that we’ve kept on the menu is the edamame that a lot of people seem to return for.

DO: What specific local ingredients are utilized in RumFire’s new creations?

Villarmia: Our goal is serve as much locally sourced produce as possible and to be as sustainable as possible. The ribeye that we’re featuring utilizes sweet corn from the North Shore, the ahi poke also consists of the ogo from the North Shore, as well as the Kahuku sweet asparagus and Maui onions. The chicken used in our sweet chicken wings is from State Poultry and the honey itself is from the Big Island.

DO: Chef Brett, where do you find your culinary inspiration?

Villarmia: Well, I spend a lot of time in Chinatown, and every Sunday I walk around checking out the new fruits and vegetables they have, and I’m always watching Food Network and the Cooking Channel — those type of things really inspire me.

DO: What is your overall goal for this establishment? What do you want your customers to walk away with besides a full belly?

Villarmia: I want our guests to want to come back and eat more. I want them to have such a good time with the food and drink that they can’t wait to return.

DO: Chef Brett, you have an impressive culinary background. What brought you to RumFire?

Villarmia: Just the chance to redesign the menu. And although there’s been some stress in obtaining local products, the reward is that everyone will eventually be able to enjoy the food. It’s great to see my idea on a plate, which in turn puts smiles on the faces of many.

Su: Brett is very well known for his creativity and his local boy roots, and when you pair those two together that’s exactly where we want our menu here at RumFire to be — we want it to stay local and we want it to be creative, and Brett has done an amazing job.

RumFire

  • Where
    • Sheraton Waikiki
    • 2255 Kalakaua Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Call
    • (808) 921-4600
  • Hours
    • Open daily
    • 10 a.m. – midnight