‘Pier’ Into A Fresh Take On Steak, Seafood
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For Rob McDaniel, executive chef at Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38, cooking is an art form. “I don’t paint or draw, but I can channel my creativity through food,” says McDaniel, who has spent the last four decades learning and refining his culinary craftsmanship.
Situated amid the bustling Pier 38 off Nimitz Highway, Harbor Restaurant offers island cuisine with a casual, rustic flair and Italian influences. And, with the restaurant located within walking distance of the daily fish auction, McDaniel is able to acquire seafood right off the boat without having to wait hours, or days, for catches to be shipped or trucked in by vendors.
“Excellent fish and great steaks rule the day here, so I make it a priority to get ingredients with super-fresh quality,” McDaniel explains. “Sometimes, I get my fish as early as 5-6 a.m., as soon as the boats come in.”
The vast kitchen at Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38 is built around the only two Brasa ovens in Hawaii. The Spanish-made appliances act as an oven, grill and smoker all in one. The dual-vented ovens are fueled by kiawe wood, and during peak hours, are stoked at 750 degrees to cook everything from steak to seafood to perfection.
Case in point, New York Steak & Lobster ($65) is the ultimate surf-n-turf combination that is as visually stunning as it is delicious. The dish includes a 1-pound, center-cut New York steak and an 8-ounce lobster tail grilled to glory and accompanied by roasted potatoes as well as garlic parsley and garlic-herb butters.
McDaniel and his team also craft an array of pasta dishes, including Brasa Grilled Shrimp Scampi ($29) that includes roasted peppers, capers, tomatoes, garlic, white wine, shallots, onions and olive oil sauteed in vegetable jus with squid ink pasta and served with Parmesan cheese and garlic bread.
Seafood enthusiasts will enjoy Furikake Crusted Salmon ($32) prepared with a shiro miso buerre blanc and served with vegetable of the day, a ginger soy glaze, bonito flakes and white rice. Fresh Catch Rockefeller (market price) is prepared with the day’s freshest fish — such as monchong — along with spinach Florentine, shaved Parmesan cheese, shallots, a white wine cream sauce and white rice.
As a special inside scoop for Dining Out readers, ask for the Chef’s Special: Seared Scallops on Asparagus Risotto ($30), a hearty blend of rich flavors and bold texture.
The restaurant features an expansive dining room with large picture windows that offer snapshots of busy Honolulu Harbor, high ceilings and a Copper Top Bar as its centerpiece. In addition to a full drink menu, customers can order multiple varieties of ice-cold beer via the “frost tap” system. General manager Winston Gample leads the front-of-the-house team and has created a comfortable “upscale-casual” vibe that lends to the ideal setting for enjoying special occasions and everyday meals.
“I can do anything in the kitchen, but not without my team,” says McDaniel, who has built a squad of 40 to run the kitchen. “It’s a great feeling to look out on a busy night and see the restaurant full, while the kitchen is cranking. It makes all the hard work we’ve put in since opening in May worth it.”
As diners at Harbor Restaurant can attest, the feeling is mutual, Chef.
The Wood Makes it Good
The Spanish-made Brasa ovens at Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38 make for incredible dishes, as the appliances serve as an oven, grill and smoker all in one. To power the super-hot ovens, and get them “humming” at 750 degrees or hotter, the heart-of-the-house team goes through more than 100 pounds of kiawe wood every day. The wood provides a rich, smoky flavor and adds that extra “sizzle” to every dish prepared in the dual-vented oven.
‘Huki pau’ time
From 2 to 6 p.m. daily, diners can take advantage of “Huki Pau” happy hour specials at Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38, including discounted beer, wine, cocktails and appetizers at the Copper Top Bar. Executive chef Rob McDaniel continues to add new food specials to the Huki Pau menu, including burgers and sandwiches. Stop in for a beverage and bite to eat after work, and take a break from traffic while enjoying plenty of free parking and a panoramic view of Honolulu Harbor.
Harbor Restaurant at Pier 38
1129 N. Nimitz Hwy., Honolulu
Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.