Mai Tai Bar’s Menu Makeover
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Starting this holiday season, locals and tourists alike can enjoy new cuisine at “The Pink Palace of the Pacific.” The Royal Hawaiian hotel’s Mai Tai Bar launched its new menu Dec. 2, and the change already has received considerable positive feedback.
“We’re trying to do more upscale bar food,” explains Colin Hazama, executive chef of The Royal Hawaiian. “We wanted to make our menu bar-friendly and attractive to guests, featuring local ingredients and dishes that are comforting.”
Since the menu change, Hazama notes four or five specific delights that have been extremely popular, such as Crispy Thai Calamari & Oysters ($21) and Chef Colin’s Market Fish & Chips ($23). The former includes red curry coconut powder, pickled chilies and Thai basil kaffir lime aioli; the latter features beer-battered mahi-mahi, original beet ketchup, Ho Farms yuzu pickles and malt-vinegar lattice-cut chips.
The chef took inspiration for the fish and chips from his original version of the dish ($20), which is offered at the hotel’s Surf Lanai and served with longbean fries.
“For the calamari and oysters, we make our own spices,” Hazama says. “The sauce is a cilantro and basil aioli, and we put it in a sauce gun to foam it, so it’s nice and light.”
Another dish that’s generated buzz among customers is Indonesian Ahi Nachos ($18), which presents an exotic twist on the traditional dish. It combines stir-fried island ahi with lemon grass, ginger, garlic, curry and kukui nuts, all served with crunchy cassava chips.
“This dish features spices that are familiar to the Southeast Asia and Indonesian area,” Hazama says. “The ahi is cooked to order; we top it off with a coconut yuzu sauce instead of sour cream. It still gets a little bit of shredded cheese for the nacho aspect, and it’s served with a cassava cracker, which is made in Indonesia.”
Raw Bar ($24) is a favorite of Hazama’s, and he explains that it showcases three different ways of preparing local fish. The dish highlights these catches with Asian poisson cru, cured Hamachi crudo and a modern spicy ahi poke.
“We bring in our hamachi from Japan; I sometimes use Kampachi, but that’s seasonal since it’s raised off of the Kona coast,” Hazama says. “I don’t put any mayonnaise in my spicy ahi poke, and it’s topped off with a little bit of bubu arare for that nice crunch and texture. For the Asian poisson cru, instead of putting lime juice straight on the fish, I do a yuzu-coconut base. The Hamachi crudo preparation is similar to what’s done in Europe, where it’s served nice, fresh and crisp by curing the fish.”
Hazama hopes the new menu is more attractive to locals and encourages kamaaina to give the dishes a try. “The Royal Hawaiian is such a prestigious hotel,” he says. “The prices are reasonable for what you’re getting served. All the food is homemade and a lot of fresh, local ingredients are featured.”
Mai Tai Bar
The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort
2259 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki
Bar Hours daily from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., with dining offered from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.