Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Michel’s at the Colony SurfRestaurant Insider
September 1, 2019
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
Anne Lee, executive chef Hardy Kintscher; (Back row) Assistant manager John Hoffman, left, sous chef Toni Kitamura, bar manager Cristian Carvallo
A superior restaurant stands out with the quality of its cuisine and service, but also always led by a talented, dedicated crew.
Michel’s at the Colony Surf certainly boasts a team with many years of experience, among them bar manager Cristian Carvallo, general manager Philip Shaw, assistant general manager John Hoffman, executive chef Hardy Kintscher and executive sous chef Toni Kitamura.
Michel’s brings a wonderfully intimate experience to the Hawaii food scene. Featuring tableside attention for guests, a lot of the servers have been with the establishment for more than 40 years. They have a relationship with the guests and have seen their children grow up over the years. Servers spend careful interaction time with guests as the items are prepared and finished before their eyes.
Michel’s also offers a classic sidecar edition of a martini prepared tableside. The server will come to a guest’s table with a caddy, then the drink is prepared by the bartender in front of the diners and poured into the martini glass with select garnishes requested by the guest.
Best selling beverages are the establishment’s nine handcrafted cocktails, like the Sunset Daiquiri, named for the sunset view. Smoked infused cocktails, including a Manhattan, have also proved popular.
Signature items that Michel’s is known for are lobster bisque, Caesar salad, cherries jubilee and steak tartare. In addition, although not prepared tableside, the escargot is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Michel’s has also become favorably known for its exquisite souffles, including a delightful chocolate version.
Some members of the team at Michel’s share secrets of the restaurant’s success here:
AL: When did Michel’s first open?
PS: It opened 55 years ago, and the original owner was The Colony Surf, which was a hotel at one time. There were three floors that were condominiums, but three floors were a hotel unit. This restaurant served Colony Surf as the restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, room service for next door where the Lotus is, as well as another condominium that is no longer here.
AL: What is the goal to customers?
PS: When people walk into this restaurant, they always say “wow,” in many aspects. We make sure we take care of those guests, from the beginning to the end. “Wow” when they come in and “wow” when they leave.
AL: What type of cuisine can diners find here?
HK: We call it French Continental. Lots of French influence with the sauces and cooking techniques, but fresh and open minded to being local, supporting local farmers and keeping it fresh and modern, but with French roots. We are also now bringing brunch back, the first Sunday of every month, starting today. We are very excited about it — our guests will really enjoy it!
AL: What are some specialties or customer favorites?
PS: The item that is our most popular is our Iced Harvest of the Sea, sometimes it’s referred to as a seafood tower. Some people make it their whole meal, but many like to share among the table. It’s a top seller for us.
AL: What makes Michel’s stand out from others on the island?
JH: It’s somewhere you can come and celebrate with friends and family — location, location, location. We have a pretty good spot with the sunset and ocean views. The beach, the open air and the sound of the waves, it definitely embraces Hawaii. Waikiki is very unique already as a dining destination, but most of the restaurants are inside, some of them are close to the beach. We are unique where we are right on the ocean. And the history, the people, the memories, the staff — it’s more than just another restaurant, it’s a real sense of pride.
AL: Anything else you’d like to share about the restaurant?
PS: Although it doesn’t happen nightly, we often times have our monk seals that appear on the beach. Everyone also looks for the green flash. It’s when the edge of the sun just goes under the horizon. (It’s an optical illusion that happens because of the color of your eye.)