Creative, Flavorful Fusion Puts Top of Waikiki Above the Rest

Digest Foodie Fare

March 3, 2012

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Top of Waikiki has everything locals and tourists alike could ask from fine island dining — creative cuisine that they’re unlikely to find anywhere else, along with stunning views of the ocean. The view offered at Top of Waikiki is unparalleled. As Hawaii’s only revolving the restaurant, it makes a 360-degree rotation every hour. And while the view offers a great visual tour of Waikiki, the restaurant’s menu provides a flavorful tour of cuisines from around the world.

  • Top of Waikiki boasts a variety of outstanding dishes.
  • Blue Moon Braised Pork Osso Buco ($33)
  • Day Boat Scallops ($17)
  • Executive Chef John Neff with Day Boat Scallops
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Executive chef John Neff — who was raised in the Islands and cultivated his culinary talents on the Mainland — describes Top Of Waikiki’s cuisine as “globally inspired fusion.”

Popular dishes include appetizers Day Boat Scallops ($17), which features pan-seared day boat scallops, Ewa sweet corn pudding, braised pancetta, Kamuela tomato and Maui onion relish, and Anise Braised Pork Belly ($14) with Fuji apple and parsnip puree, jalapeno kumquat chutney and balsamic sweet chili gastrique. Another tasty appetizer is Camembert En Croute ($15), which is camembert cheese wrapped in puff pastry, with candied Cajun walnuts, Granny Smith apples, grapes and pomegranate balsamic reduction.

“This dish is meant to be eaten by taking a little piece of the puff pastry and cheese and pairing it with whatever you think tastes right,” Neff explains.

Popular entrees include Filet Mignon ($39), which Neff says is the top-selling entree. Another customer favorite is Blue Moon Braised Pork Osso Buco ($33).

“For this, I take Blue Moon beer, and I braise the pork in the beer with vegetables,” Neff says. “It gives it a nice citrus flavor.” The dish also has smoked bacon lentils, apple confit, roasted baby carrots, orange gremolata and pork jus.

A shining example of the kind of combinations of various types of foods and flavors that Top Of Waikiki brings to its dishes is Tea Smoked Duck Duo ($37).

“I take the duck and I smoke it with black tea,” Neff says, adding that the dish is one of his personal favorites. “It is kind of like a traditional duck a l’orange, but I add ginger and li hing powder. That is served with a Thai-style green papaya salad with a Thai vinaigrette … And then on the other side, I have a duck confit spring roll that is done Moo Shu style with a hoisin barbecue sauce.”

Top Of Waikiki offers Happy Hour from 5 to 7 p.m. and from 9 to 11 p.m. nightly. Happy Hour customers can enjoy $7 pupus and discounted cocktails.

The restaurant also offers two tasting menus. The Prix Fixe Tasting Menu features a five-course meal for $75 that includes Spicy Ahi Poke Stack, Day Bay Scallop, Crab Louie, Kalani’s Kalbi Short Ribs and Candy Bar. The second option is a seven-course meal ($110) with Coconut Shrimp, Seared Scallop and Foie Gras, Ewa Sweet Corn Chowder, Simple Greens Salad, Macadamia Nut Crusted Fresh Island Fish, Filet Mignon and Mango Creme Brulee.

“For the two tasting menus, diners can come in and taste a little bit of a lot of different dishes,” Neff says.

On the Side

While John Neff has only been executive chef at Top Of Waikiki since 2009, he brings an impressive display of experience, training and travel to the position — all of which add to the restaurant’s creative fusion flavors.

Neff was raised in the Islands and got his start in the industry as a manager at a local restaurant. After moving to the Mainland, he worked as a chef in Idaho, then attended culinary school in Seattle. After graduation, he moved to Las Vegas, where he was instrumental in the opening of Nobhill and also worked at Fiamma, both located in the MGM Grand.

After a few years, he left Vegas and travelled to various places throughout the country trying to decide where he wanted to settle down next. Eventually, he found himself back in the Islands, where his experience quickly earned him a spot in Oahu’s fine dining scene. He joined Top Of Waikiki as chef de cuisine in 2006 and was promoted to executive chef in 2009.

Top Of Waikiki’s menu showcases a flavorful array of dishes that seam-lessly fuse together different types of cuisine from around the world.

“My brain is always going,” Neff says. “I wake up in the morning and I am already thinking about work … I would say that my biggest influences are going out to eat and traveling. I learn best that way.

“When you look at the menu, you can see where I’ve been,” Neff says. “I take Italian food, I take French food, I take every different kind of cuisine you can think of and put it together. I take what I have learned on the Mainland and I take what I have learned growing up in Hawaii — and knowing the local flavors, I put a twist on it.”

Top of Waikiki

  • Where
    • Waikiki Business Plaza
    • 2270 Kalakaua Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Call
    • (808) 923-3877
  • Hours
    • Open daily
    • 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
  • Notes
    • Reservations are recommended.