A Season Full of Savory Steaks
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In the middle of paradise amid billowing palm trees and exquisite views of Waikiki, you’ll stumble upon a piece of the “Big Apple” at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse on the third level of Royal Hawaiian Center in Building C. Famous for its premier dry-aged steaks, this chic restaurant opened its doors in 2009, following in the path of other establishments across the nation bearing the founder’s name, Wolfgang Zwiener. A veritable icon with more than four decades of service at the legendary Peter Luger’s in New York, Zwiener built a solid reputation, which led to the opening of his very own steakhouse that now boasts USDA prime-grade Angus beef with superior marbling, tenderness, texture and flavor.
Dining Out recently sat down with Peter Zwiener, managing partner and president, and William Nickerson, general manager of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, ready to delve into sizzling steaks complete with a caramelized crust and dig into the meat of it all at this carnivore’s heaven on earth.
DO: When Wolfgang’s Steakhouse first opened on Park Avenue in New York City, it was an instant success. I guess you can say the rest is history, right?
Nickerson: Yes, all of a sudden Wolfgang’s Steakhouse took 400 dinners a night and you even needed reservations months in advance. Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Tribeca was the next to open and, of course, that restaurant was successful as well.
Zwiener: My father lives in New York and is still in fact very much involved with the restaurants. He will make his way to Hawaii next month while on his way to Tokyo for the opening there.
DO: More Wolfgang’s Steakhouses were next to make their mark on New York’s dining scene. Then, restaurants in Beverly Hills, Honolulu and Miami followed. More specifically, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Waikiki’s Royal Hawaiian Center opened in 2009. How has the response been from customers?
Zwiener: Wolfgang’s here in Honolulu is best described as an upscale casual dining experience that attracts a broad range of customers.
Nickerson: The response has been absolutely fantastic. We serve 250 to 300 lunches daily, and we turn around and do 450 to 650 dinners on average per night. Our clientele is a nice blend of both locals and tourists. The kamaaina really enjoy our lunch specials and happy hour (11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. daily).
DO: The main component at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is obviously its steaks. What is it about Wolfgang’s hearty steaks that allow them to stand out from the rest?
Zwiener: We like to consider the restaurant as a boutique-style steakhouse, and even though we’re expanding in number, we still like to portray a family-run type of business.
Nickerson: We have people in New York hand-selecting our pieces of beef. Consistency is key. You can expect the same from all Wolfgang’s Steakhouses worldwide — the best prime-grade beef. The meat is shipped to us on Hawaiian Airlines once a week, and then it’s put into our restaurant’s aging room for 28 days.
DO: What takes place during the aging process?
Nickerson: During that time evaporation occurs equating to condensed marbling. There are also enzymes within the beef that break down connective tissues, imparting a nice, earthy flavor and tenderness. Then it’s cooked on a grill at 1,600 degrees, which gives a nice crust to the beef, locking in the flavors. The quality is superior, so they don’t need a lot of seasonings — a pinch of salt is all that is needed.
DO: What are some of the most requested cuts of steak?
Nickerson: Our most famous cut is Porterhouse for Two ($104.95), as it offers the filet and the New York strip. Other popular selections are the 22-ounce ribeye, 22-ounce bone-in New York strip and 16-ounce prime filet. We serve the best of the best. Besides beef, we also have seafood offerings, including Seafood Platter ($29.95), and a slew of side dishes and salads, such as Wolfgang Salad ($16.95), to cater to every palate.
DO: Now, with the holidays in full swing, Wolfgang’s offers the perfect amenities for parties and a sumptuous spread of cuisine. Correct?
Nickerson: Yes, we have private rooms where people like to throw parties. One room seats 20 to 30 people, another seats 40 to 60, or you can combine both rooms for parties as large as 100 people. As for our Christmas specials — available Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — we will present a Prime Rib Dinner ($59.95) with creamed spinach, mashed potatoes and Caesar salad. And in celebration of the new year, we will offer Surf and Turf ($69.95), which features a 1-pound lobster and prime filet. A champagne toast is included with that as well.
Zwiener: The prime rib is definitely a big hit and it’s accompanied by au jus and horseradish. It’s perfect for special occasions.
DO: Guests can also order from the regular menus, and there are many a la carte side dishes to tempt your palate. What are some of the restaurant’s most popular sides?
Nickerson: People fall head over heels for our Lobster Macaroni and Cheese ($15.95). We also have German Potatoes ($14.95), which are like scalloped potatoes that are sauteed down and then put in the oven until they attain a nice crispy crust. However, in regard to standard steakhouse fare, creamed spinach and Idaho mashed potatoes most certainly would top the list. As for desserts, our most popular is Junior’s Cheesecake, which is brought to us from New York City. Then, we have a decadent chocolate mousse, creme brulee, Key lime pie, and assorted sorbets and ice creams.
DO: The new year is right around the corner, what can Dining Out readers look forward to in regards to Wolfgang’s Steakhouse?
Zwiener: In the upcoming year, we are looking forward to the grand opening of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Tokyo, Japan. The grand opening of the restaurant is scheduled for Feb. 4, and I believe this restaurant will attract corporate clientele and a majority of businesspeople. Looking ahead, we’re planning on opening up other locations in different parts of Japan, such as Osaka, and a restaurant in Panama is in the works.
Royal Hawaiian Center
2301 Kalakaua Ave.
Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. (last seating at 10:30 p.m.)
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. (last seating at 11:30 p.m.)