‘Slide’ Into Fresh Flavors Of Molokai
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It’s a glorious Friday evening on Oahu. After a busy week, our dinner party is weary and hungry. Even more, we yearn for a relaxing, delicious experience in a spectacular setting. We consider our options. One restaurant is too far; another too fancy. Another has great food, but no atmosphere.
Finally, somebody comes up with a winning idea. Soon we find ourselves at La Hiki Kitchen at Four Seasons Resort Ko Olina, amazed at our good fortune.
We happily sink into cushioned benches around a low table and take in our surroundings. Though we’re dressed in rubber slippers and pau-hana attire, we’re relaxed in this casually elegant space, with details like lauhala door panels, sconces wrapped in hemp and a bamboo-tile ceiling. Across the serenity pool, against the backdrop of the Pacific, a trio harmonizes divinely on a familiar old mele.
Our gracious server, Russell, begins to deliver dinner to the table. There’s a bit of good-natured sparring over the Chef’s Burger ($27), a half-pound Nebraska beef patty, with brioche bun, bacon jam, aged Gouda, pickles and a secret ingredient or two. But it’s enough for two to share, as is the richly flavorful Fried Chicken Sandwich ($26), with maple Dijon sauce and butter lettuce on a brioche bun.
The serving of Barbecue Pork Ribs ($39), big enough for everybody to enjoy, is smoky and distinctive with guava sauce, slaw and mac salad with Molokai sweet potatoes.
It’s all seemingly simple fare, but it’s created with impeccable ingredients by a chef whose childhood can be tasted in every recipe. Born and raised in Kaunakakai, Molokai, chef Jobbie Domenden grew up fishing and hunting boar and deer. “I always loved cooking, and watching my friends and family enjoying my food,” he says.
Domenden’s talent led him to the Western Culinary Institute of Le Cordon Bleu in 2001, and success as an executive chef. The Barbecue Pork Ribs are his personal favorite, inspired by his pig-hunting adventures back on Molokai. “The boars that spent most of their time in the guava patches tasted sweeter because of the guava they ate,” he says. “A guava barbecue sauce seemed like the best compliment for my dish.”
Every dish delivered yields mouthwatering discoveries. The Surf & Turf ($68), a 5-ounce filet served with Maine lobster tail, lobster mashed potatoes, and a charred pineapple chimichurri, is succulent and satisfying. We moan with pleasure over Miso Glazed Black Cod ($43), a superbly moist butterfish fillet over warm brown quinoa, with heirloom carrots, Waialua pea shoots and macadamia nuts.
Thanks to a couple of Milk Shakes ($12) — Oreo Cookie and Miso Butterscotch, both icily scrumptious — our cravings for dessert have been satisfied. And so have our hankerings for a relaxed, superbly prepared meal in one of the loveliest settings on Oahu.
“We’ve created a fun dining experience, with familiar dishes and local flavors — and validated parking,” says Daniel Bendett, La Hiki’s general manager. “You don’t have to be in-house guests (to eat here). We want locals to feel like they’re our ohana.”
This past spring, La Hiki Kitchen’s elaborate buffets for Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day attracted hundreds of delighted guests. They were so popular that the restaurant now hosts A Brunch For All Seasons each Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with prime rib, a raw bar with crab claws, a Bloody Mary bar and a supervised keiki buffet. The buffet is priced at $65 for adults, and $25 for keiki 12 and under. For reservations, call 679-0079.
La Hiki Kitchen
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina , lower lobby
92-1001 Olani St., Kapolei
Breakfast: daily, 6-11 a.m. (buffet ends at 10:30) Dinner: Friday-Tuesday, 5-9 p.m. (last seating at 9) “Shake It Up” happy hour: 5-6 p.m.
Closed for dinner Wednesday and Thursday