A Sea of Starters at Ocean House
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Restaurants can be much like television shows. The best programs make no distinction between the stars and the secondary characters, blending both to create stronger and more entertaining story lines. Restaurants can be the same way. At lesser eateries, appetizers are simple snacks, secondary players to the main course. Yet, the ones that do it right put as much care into the beginning of the meal as they do any other part. Ocean House at Outrigger Reef on the Beach is of the latter — a restaurant that knows a meal cannot be of true quality unless each part is well made.
Edamame Hummus ($11.50) is a rock star dish with way too much flavor for something so basic.
Seasoned soy beans are pureed, and served with crispy tofu cakes and a balsamic vinegar emulsion. The creaminess and freshness are just wonderful and everything on the dish is light and flavorful.
Another too-good-to-be-an-appetizer appetizer is Escargot in Puff Pastry ($11.50). An insanely good mix of snails and mushrooms, the tender ingredients are sauteed in a white wine garlic butter cream sauce, topped with melted brie cheese and served between two light and crunchy puff pastries. What could be a heavy and rich dish is instead light, creamy and tender with the bottom pastry acting as a receptor of all the carefully blended flavors.
The more I eat sashimi, the more I appreciate this buttery fish. Ocean House has an outstanding version of the traditional pupu dish called Sizzling Ahi Carpaccio ($14.50). The tender ahi is served with Hawaiian sea salt, togarashi, Maui onions and radish sprouts. Just before serving, the fish is topped with a sizzling combination of sesame and peanut oil, which lightly cooks the exterior while imparting new flavors to the dish. Combined with the crunchy sprouts, and the thick and spicy chili sauce, the delicate fish provides a mix of flavors, textures and temperature levels.
One final recommendation is Coconut Lobster Skewers ($14.50), served on a wedge of Maui Gold Pineapple. Made with slipper lobster tail that is brought in fresh daily, the sweet and tender meat is covered in a coconut breading and served with a sweet chili lime dipping sauce. Try one, or try them all.
Outrigger Reef Hotel
2169 Kalia Road, Honolulu
Breakfast 7–11 a.m. daily
Dinner 5–10 p.m. daily