Set Sail for 53 By The Sea

Cover Story Features

September 23, 2012

Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: Leah Friel

For those wondering what had become of the former John Dominis Restaurant in Kakaako, the answer can be found at 53 By The Sea.

Following a multi million-dollar renovation, the new eatery at 53 Ahui St. features a picturesque setting that treat guests like royalty as they enter through ceiling-high double doors, walk by the grand staircase and are surrounded by columns and arches that create a feel of elegance and luxury. The awe-inspiring building includes two wedding chapels, multi-purpose rooms on the second floor for special events and parties, a private dining room flanked by an exquisite Italian-made Fazioli piano, a full bar and lounge area, a wine collection featuring more than 160 choices from around the world and room for more than 200 guests.

And, while the floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors offer guests unparalleled views of the South shore and Diamond Head, 53 By the Sea’s cuisine brings the experience to a whole new level. Executive chef Hiroshi Hayakawa showcases skills gleaned while training in Southern Italy, and infuses flavors from Hawaii and Japan while utilizing the freshest meats and produce in every dish.

“The restaurant focuses on fresh, locally grown produce and sustainability with the local resources here in Hawaii,” explains assistant manager and wine director Connor Barbaree. “Also, since we’re in Kakaako, fresh seafood is key and chef Hayakawa hand-selects all the fish that he wants to use for the day. Our fresh meats are only chilled, never frozen, which makes a huge difference as far as the quality, in terms of the texture and flavor profiles. We offer steak, lamb, free-range chicken, a few dishes incorporating homemade pasta and, of course, seafood and fresh salads.”

While 53 By the Sea was named partly for its address, Barbaree and general manager Shige Kikuchi explain that the moniker also represents the restaurant’s dedication to exceptional service and providing a memorable experience for its guests. The “5” is meant to encompass the five senses, and while taste is obviously clear when the cuisine is enjoyed, the open-air atmosphere allows the sea breeze and surrounding sounds of waves crashing against the rocks below to waft through the dining room while comfortable, sophisticated furnishings and a presence of natural light complete the overall experience.

The “3” represents three core values of customer service, including warm, welcoming hospitality, a sense of professionalism by the skilled staff on the restaurant floor, and proper preparation that leads to perfection every day with the goal of providing a consistent, memorable guest experience.

The 53 Seafood Showcase ($30) treats diners to a beautiful cocktail platter of the day’s freshest seafood selections. From succulent lobster to perfectly prepared ahi poke and sashimi served on a bed of eye-catching seaweed varieties, the dish piques all the senses. Similarly, Sliced Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and Hauula Tomato ($20) offers prosciutto along with a swath of flavors created by roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and capers.

Shrimp Scampi ($26) is just one of Hayakawa’s freshly made pasta offerings, and includes a fresh basil pesto, while seafood enthusiasts also will appreciate Pan-Seared Hawaiian Mahimahi with Lemon Butter and Marinara Sauce ($28) as the dish infuses flavors of papaya, Hauula tomatoes, asparagus and bacon.

“Chef Hayakawa wants to keep everything fresh,” Barbaree says. “He doesn’t want ingredients to arrive on a plane or a barge. We have so much to offer here, he wants to include that in his dishes.”

Ranchers Prime Rib Eye ($25 for 8 ounces, $56 for 16 ounces) epitomizes what a perfect steak should taste like. The steak selections include fresh seasonal vegetables, and diners may choose from five steak sauces, including bleu cheese and spinach, Marsala wine and shallot, and crispy sage and garlic.

“We invite everyone to come and enjoy the experience, as a lot of people don’t know what we’re all about and we’re slowly getting the word out,” Barbaree says. “Come down and check us out.”

53 By The Sea

53 Ahui St., Honolulu
Open daily
Lunch (service starting Sep.26) 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Dinner 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Bar 4 p.m. – Midnight (Sunday-Thursday), 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. (Friday-Saturday)
Note: Reservations are recommended and complimentary valet parking is provided.

Honolulu, HI 96813

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best