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Float Down Memory Lane

Cover Story

June 10, 2018

Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

Pagoda Floating Restaurant is surrounded by koi ponds and a Japanese garden.

Tradition is defined as the passing on of customs from generation to generation. This lovely word is especially meaningful at Pagoda Floating Restaurant, as the long-standing eatery has been the quintessential spot for gatherings and celebrations for decades in Hawaii, where the roots of extended families run deep and wide.

From weddings, baby luaus, proms and graduations, to anniversaries, retirement parties and memorials — the one-of-a-kind Pagoda has provided a beautiful setting for thousands of local families to mark their milestones.

Caprese Salad with heirloom tomatoes from the Father’s Day Buffet.

“Just think of the many years of people celebrating at the Pagoda,” marvels restaurant manager Tracy Yadao. “We cannot go back to how it was, but we can make new memories and celebrate tradition. Looking back as to why Mr. Hayashi built the place, I think it was for that purpose.”

A vision brought to life in 1964 by the late Hawaii hotelier H.T. Hayashi, the Pagoda is a unique circular restaurant surrounded by graceful walkways, romantic gardens and waterfalls, and ponds teeming delightfully with a rainbow of fish.

Smoked Beef Brisket

It has become a home away from home for its regulars, many of whom dine here several times a week. It’s a tradition for kamaaina from the neighbor islands; many wouldn’t dream of staying in any other Oahu hotel. Since the Pagoda opened its doors 54 years ago, countless guests have gathered here to laugh, cry, reminisce, sing, toast, dance, cheer — and to feast on family-friendly buffets that are both mouthwateringly lavish and reasonably priced.

As it has done for decades, Pagoda will host a very special Father’s Day Buffet on June 17 with a spread that includes favorite entrees like Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell, Island Sashimi, Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura, Alaskan Snow Crab Legs, Rosemary Roasted Prime Rib, Seafood with Thai Red Curry, Smoked Beef Brisket, and Baked Seafood Crusted Salmon. There’ll be an ocean-fresh Poke Bar, an elaborate Salad Bar, and an irresistible Dessert Bar featuring Coconut Cream Puffs, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Lemon Bars, Zenzai with Mochi, and Punaluu Sweet Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise.

Hamachi Molokai Style

The cost of this sumptuous feast for dads (and senior citizens ages 60 and older) is just $50.95. The cost for adults is $58.95. Keiki ages 5-8 may enjoy the buffet for only $25.95, and they’ll be thrilled to hear that Pagoda has included an Ice Cream bar just for them. Brunch will be served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m and dinners from 5 to 9 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended — call 948-8354.

“Especially for Father’s Day, we’d like to thank Mr. Hayashi for his vision for a place where kamaaina can gather for multigenerational celebrations,” says Yadao. “We are continuing to keep the same traditions of great food, a fun atmosphere for kids and the whole family with the fish and waterfall garden setting — all at the best possible prices. I think what Mr. Hayashi built is what we’re trying to carry on: We hope people come back and make new memories.”

Steamed Alaskan Snow Crab

KEEPING TRADITION ALIVE

An oasis of tranquility surrounded by big-city bustle, Pagoda Floating Restaurant is beloved by guests for its spectacular fishponds. Fed by a natural saltwater spring, the ponds are home to koi, ulua, papio, barracuda, moi, ducks and turtles, in a system carefully managed by the Pagoda’s curators. The fish are officially fed three times a day, but kids of all ages can purchase little bags of food for 50 cents and feed the colorful critters themselves.

Shrimp Cocktail, all from the Father’s Day Buffet ($58.95 adult, $25.95 children 5-8, $50.95 for all fathers and senior citizens 60 and older)

SEA OF POSSIBILITIES

Pagoda Floating Restaurant’s famed buffets regularly include “Local Favorite” entrees, but on Thursdays there is the added treat of Build-It-Yourself (BIY) Stations featuring different “building materials.” Customize your own poke bowls, tacos, hot dogs, hamburgers, pho and more. Check out the lunch buffet Monday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., priced at $16 per senior (60 years and older); $18.95 per adult; and $7.95 per child (ages 5-8). The eatery’s weekday dinner buffet, available Monday-Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., is also a bargain: $18 per senior, $20.95 per adult; and $8.95 per child. And don’t miss Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; $33 per senior; $38.95 per adult; and $15.95 per child.

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