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Star-Studded Fine Dining That’s ‘Localicious’

By Alana Folen
March 1, 2015

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Let yourself fall into the lap of luxury at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, an oasis renowned for its sheer beauty, stellar service and award-winning dining. Arancino at The Kahala, Seaside Grill, The Veranda, Plume-ria Beach House and Hoku’s call The Kahala home. Under the direction of executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi, the noteworthy cuisine speaks for itself, as all facets of innovation and creativity are uniquely showcased at each venue.

Heralded for its Hawaii regional cuisine, Hoku’s was established in 1969, and after renovations, reopened in 2006, boasting globally inspired cuisine with island flavors.

“Hoku’s consistently is on the forefront of the food scene, but respects community support,” says Hirabayashi, who trained at Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Aside from its multi-level dining room presenting breathtaking panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean from every table, also competing for guests’ attention is the open studio kitchen, where chefs expertly handle fiery woks. And wood-burning ovens, along with a kiawe-wood grill and tandoori, make for an exciting backdrop in an atmosphere of warm elegance.

Freshness is all-consuming at Hoku’s, as Hirabayashi draws inspiration from fresh, seasonal ingredients — a mix of local produce, as well as imports from abroad. Striving to identify new trends, chef says, “We are in the middle of redefining new flavors with specials each evening.”

Hirabayashi directs The Kahala’s culinary operations, including banqueting and room service. He recently spent time with some of the nation’s top chefs, and carefully crafted an updated dinner menu for the restaurant.

“The ever-popular Hoku’s Ahi Musubi ($20), Short Rib and Avocado Frit, and Whole Fish Hoku’s-Style (market price) remain on the menu as local favorites. Our global guests also have influenced the menu with their travel stories and foods. We take what they share, make it our own (with an added local twist) and add it on the menu,” shares Hirabayashi.

Hoku’s also is a proud participant of Hawaii Agricultural Foundation’s March campaign, Localicious Hawaii. The monthlong campaign, which coincides with National Agricultural Day, aims to recognize local restaurants committed to buying local, while also raising funds to help develop future farmers in Hawaii through agricultural education. The goal? To raise $50,000 for HAF’s Ag in the Classroom Veggie U Program.

“A portion of the new menu is dedicated to the campaign, which means that the dishes feature locally grown, caught or raised products,” explains Hirabayashi, who adds that for every Localicious dish purchased, $1 will go to support Hawaii agriculture and agriculture education in our public schools. Chef’s Vegetable Display ($29) is what Hirabayashi describes as “vegetarian, fresh, pure and simple,” and Hoku’s Signature Waimanalo Valley Lettuce Salad ($14) is a revitalizing blend of seasonal garden veggies dressed in Maui onion vinaigrette and black sesame drizzle. For dessert, executive pastry chef Jeremy Choo presents a sweet, east-meets-west temptation of Island Coconut Mousse ($12) with aged rum poi sauce, coconut meringue sticks and lilikoi coulis.

Each restaurant that raises a minimum of $500 during the campaign will be able to adopt a DOE fourth-grade classroom wanting the agricultural program in their school. The monies will be used to purchase kits, provide stipends, arrange for air and ground transportation, and help develop training materials for teachers.

“We’re excited to share our Localicious dinner items. We always have been about giving back to our community,” says Hirabayashi.

As the quintessential establishment for fine dining, Hoku’s makes for a delightful dining experience.

For a restaurant that’s internationally revered, “you’d be surprised to know that a shuffleboard court used to stand where Hoku’s currently is,” the chef shares.

Hoku’s plays host to monthly Winemaker’s dinners, and Ken Bernards, owner and winemaker of Ancien Wines, will be the special guest March 18. While diners are encouraged to delve into the restaurant’s classics and new Localicious offerings, they also can look forward to updated furnishings and kitchen renovations slated for the coming year.

Photos courtesy of The Kahala Hotel & Resort

Hoku’s

The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
739-8888
Wednesday-Sunday, 5:30-10 P.M. (dinner)
Sundays, 10 A.M.-2 P.M. (brunch)