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Inside Feature

Tropics Keeps It Local

By Nicole Kato Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
August 5, 2012

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Within the perimeter of Hilton Hawaiian Village, there are many hidden wonders, but Tropics Bar & Grill in the Alii Tower probably tops them all (yes, even the penguins). Head chef Kapo Kealoha serves up great meals for all your breakfast, lunch and dinner needs, and with an extensive menu of classic and local favorites you’re sure to find something to satisfy your appetite.

“From beginning to end, this is our three-a-day restaurant on property,” Kealoha says. “We roll anywhere from 1,100 to 1,300 people through here a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

It’s obvious that the dishes at Tropics, along with the friendly wait staff and beautiful ocean view, bring in customers in droves, and diners can be sure they’re getting good food for a great price.

“We’re in a hotel, so the first thing customers need to be absolutely positive about is that it’s going to be worth every penny. Looks, taste, from top to bottom it has to be worth the money. That’s what we’re shooting for,” adds Kealoha.

And in a time of health-conscious eating and counting calories, patrons can be sure that their food will not only be tasty, but

also healthy and locally grown.

“You either get on board or shut down and get out of the way,” he says.

Kealoha commented that Tropics likes to get as many things locally as possible in order to promote local farmers. According to the head chef, the fish and tomatoes are local, and most of the veggies that Tropics brings in are locally grown, as well. “It just makes sense,” Kealoha says with a smile. “If we can get it fresher here, why not get it?”

His attention to detail and desire to create dishes that will please every customer shine through in every meal. Furikake Beer-battered Fish & Chips ($18) puts a local spin on a classic dish. “We make our own tempura batter with beer and furikake flakes, and the fish in the dish is usually the fish of the day,” Kealoha says. “Most of the time we change it up, so don’t be surprised if you ask your server what the fish is and they tell you hebi, or opah or mahi.”

And Kealoha never uses frozen fish. “I don’t like it at all,” he says adamantly. “So we don’t bring it in for any fish dish on our menu. Everything is brought in fresh.”

One of the most popular dishes at Tropics is Pepper Seared Rare Ahi Tuna Salad ($18), and according to Kealoha, it’s the closest thing to a signature dish at the restaurant. The salad comes with an amazing (and addicting) wasabi ponzu vinaigrette, and you just might find yourself struggling to get every last drop. Also, the ahi is flown in fresh daily and seared and sliced by the well-equipped

chefs in the kitchen.

If you want a pizza that’s a break from the norm, Tropics’ Grilled Chicken and Mushroom Pizza ($16; $14 during happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m.) is a must-try. “As far as our pizzas go, this is one of our most popular pizzas,” Kealoha says. And it’s no wonder why it’s so popular. The dough is hand-rolled, covered in a basil pesto sauce and topped with fresh goat cheese, grilled chicken and mushrooms from the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island.

For a heartier meal, there also is a 10-ounce hand-cut New York Steak ($34), and the Citrus Crusted Island Fish ($28) will definitely fill you up. While the previous three dishes are served on the lunch and dinner menus, the steak and island fish are available only on the dinner menu.

Upon ordering the Citrus Crusted Island Fish, you’ll notice the array of colors and different ingredients all masterfully and beautifully placed on the plate.

“Our citrus fish is basically our fish of the day for the restaurant,” Kealoha explains. “It can be ono, it can be mahi, it can be anything.” The fish of the day sits atop a sweet potato puree sauce with a touch of honey, and the best and healthiest part of all? There’s no cream in it. The dish also comes with cut fingerling potatoes and a medley tomato ragu.

With so many restaurant choices on the island today, you want to make sure you’re eating healthy food that tastes delicious, and Dining Out thinks that Tropics at Hilton Hawaiian Village is doing things right and tasty.

Tropics Bar & Grill

Hilton Hawaiian Village Ground Floor, Alii Tower
2005 Kalia Road, Honolulu
949.4321 Ext. 42
Open daily, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.