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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

A Sea of Exciting Eats

By Ali Resich Photos By Nathalie Walker
September 22, 2013

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Dining doesn’t get more fun than a meal spent at Oceanarium in Waikiki’s Pacific Beach Hotel. Since 1979, the restaurant has awed diners with its enticing menu of island fare presented in the most extraordinary of settings, complete with a fairy tale-like aquarium — which holds local marine life swimming in 280,000 gallons of water — flanking the dining room.

To enhance its magical setting, Oceanarium’s cuisine fuses western and eastern flavors and is marked by an expansive seafood selection. According to Patrick Faas, director of food and beverage, the eatery’s locally sourced ingredients from Lei Farms on the Big Island are key to its success. “We get about 80 percent of our produce from the farms … so it’s kind of farm to table, or Big Island to Oahu, if you will.”

Patrons may revel in the establishment’s daily buffets (breakfast: daily, $24.95; dinner: Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Sunday, $45.95, Monday and Thursday, $47.95; brunch: weekends, $33.95), especially executive chef Mariano Lalica’s dinner selection, which offers sushi, prime rib, action stations and more. The evening line up is also known for its seafood, from mussels and cocktail shrimp to fresh kajiki (Blue Marlin) sashimi. Steamed snow crab and Dungeness crab also dress up the daily spread, while Alaskan king crab is a special treat reserved for Monday and Thursday nights only.

If you prefer a la carte dining, Oceanarium’s menu overflows with elegant eats. Hawaiian Salt Crusted Angus Prime Rib of Beef ($33, 12 ounces), for example, is slow-roasted for four hours, served with au jus and perfect with creamy horseradish. Savory Pan Seared Chicken Breast ($22) is another must, with roasted garlic, sweet Ewa onions, sun-dried tomato relish and a dazzling balsamic fig glaze.

The restaurant also sports a full bar, where some of Waikiki’s most unique cocktails are created. For a cool twist on a Blue Hawaii, HI Blue Freeze ($11) delights with Svedka Colada Vodka, fresh pineapple chunks, a drizzle of blue curacao and more. Another signature drink is the Famous Smoking Pineapple Mai Tai, also known as Haleakala ($20), which is a gloriously large beverage served in a pineapple and placed atop a volcano-like bed of billowing steam.

Dessert at Oceanarium is something that simply cannot be skipped, either. “We’re one of the very few hotels left that actually has an executive pastry chef, (Fenton Lee), and he is extremely talented,” says Faas, who recommends Flourless Chocolate Cake ($8) from the a la carte menu, served with fresh berries and passion fruit sauce.

Whether delighting in the buffet or just grabbing a drink, Oceanarium ensures a whimsical culinary journey under the sea.

Oceanarium Restaurant

Pacific Beach Hotel
2490 Kalakaua Ave.
921-6111
Open daily, 6 to 10 a.m. (breakfast); Saturday and Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; nightly dinner buffet, 4:30 to 10 p.m.