A Trip to the Tropics That’s Sweet as Can Be

Cover Story Features

December 1, 2013

Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: Leah Friel

Upon bringing his talents to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort six months ago, newly minted Executive Pastry Chef Jamon Harper felt right at home among his team of superbly talented culinary craftspeople.

The chef makes an effort to blend “whimsical and fun” concepts into his cooking, and looks at food and dining as a socially engaging activity — something much more important than simply “woofing down” what’s on the plate. Harper’s passion for cooking and creating shines through in every item he creates, as does the influence of his mother, who loved to cook as well.

“It’s a great team that we have here, they’re very creative and receptive to change,” says Harper, who is also tasked with designing and crafting pastries and other delectable treats for the entire 3,000-room resort’s collection of excellent eateries, as well as the property’s banquet facilities. “We’ve changed so many items from chocolate to the type of cocoa we use and the flour we incorporate — we’ve probably changed 30 to 40 products within the last six months.”

Situated just a fork’s throw away from the picturesque golden sand and glittering waters of Waikiki Beach, Tropics Bar & Grill brings together extraordinary culinary inspirations with a relaxing open air atmosphere and impeccable service. With gentle breezes passing through the open-air setting, and diners taking in the sights and sounds emanating from the glittering ocean and golden sands of iconic Waikiki Beach, it’s no wonder that the hit CBS drama “Hawaii Five-O” has featured Tropics Bar & Grill multiple times on the television series.

Tropics Bar & Grill resides on the ground level of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort’s Alii Tower, and serves up panoramic views that complete a memorable experience geared toward appeasing all the senses.

As a centerpiece of Tropics’ new dessert menu, Harper designed an eye-catching treat modeled after one of Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort’s most recognizable features. Rainbow Tower Torte ($10.50) is modeled after the resort’s own Rainbow Tower, which is currently undergoing a facelift that will be unveiled next spring, and features colorful layers of rainbow chiffon cake. The cake is layered with cotton candy-flavored butter cream — another one of Harper’s cunning creations that allow his desserts to stand out — and a lychee coulis shaped in the form of the Village’s signature beachside lagoon.

Harper explains that the original idea for the cake stems from memories of colorful “rainbow” cakes that his mother used to bake in Barbados, as well as rainbow chiffon cake that he was introduced to while working on Hawaii Island. The cotton candy was included because, as the chef notes, “who doesn’t love cotton candy?”

“You get the lychee, which offers a very fruity, tropical flavor along with the cotton candy — it’s just a kids dream,” says Harper of the limit-pushing stacked delight, which is already a hit with diners who have flocked to Tropics recently. The chef incorporates concepts and techniques gleaned from a background in architectural design and 15-plus years of culinary experience at AAA Fourand Five-Diamond Hotels when creating new and improved menu offerings.

Whoopie Ice Cream Pie ($12) remains on the menu as one of Tropics’ top sellers, and features vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two pieces of moist chocolate sponge cake along with fresh seasonal berries and whipped cream. Chocolate lovers will also be impressed by the new Chocolate Roulade ($10.50), a chocolate roll filled with Chantilly cream and chocolate sauce that resembles a large Ho Ho — a popular dessert snack that serves as a cousin to a Twinkie.

Harper has also dreamed up a slew of colorful and flavor-packed cupcakes available daily at Pronto Pickle Grab & Go station, which sits next to Tropics. The large cup-cakes are just $3 apiece, and are available in multiple flavor combinations the likes of Red Velvet Cupcake with strawberry cream cheese frosting, Coconut-Lilikoi Cupcake with lilikoi curd and coconut butter cream, Bubblegum Cupcake topped with Harper’s can-you-believe-it bubblegum butter cream and a gluten-free Passion Orange Guava Cupcake with guava-passion fruit preserves and orange butter cream.

A variety of French Macaroons also are available for special events and occasions (prices vary), and offer a host of flavor combinations including Strawberry-Guava and Lilikoi, in addition to rotating seasonal flavors.

Tropics, in accord with the Hilton property’s sister restaurants, puts an emphasis on utilizing locally grown and produced ingredients — a practice that has led to fresh takes on a host of island favorites.

“That’s where the focus is: utilizing as many fresh, local products as possible,” Harper explains. “It’s a lot of fun working with and incorporating local flavors. For such a large property, we still try to get down to basics.”

Upon learning of the new eye-catching treats now available at Tropics, diners are sure to “book ’em” with regularity.

Tropics Bar and Grill

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, Alii Tower
2005 Kalia Road, Honolulu
Open Daily
Breakfast: 7-11 A.M.
Lunch: 11 A.M.-5 P.M.
Dinner: 5-10 P.M.
Bar: 11 A.M.-10:30 P.M.

Honolulu, HI 96815

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best