The MAC daddy of comfort food

Columns Lite Bites

June 22, 2014

Story By: Yu Shing Ting | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

Since its opening 7 years ago, Mac 24/7 in Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel has become known for its tasty comfort foods, such as its No. 1 selling Mac Aloha Hawaiian combo plate, Chicken Fried Steak, Hawaiian Boneless Short Ribs, 7 Cheese White Mac & Cheese, and, of course, its famous pancakes.

But for those looking for some lite bites, there also are items on the menu that are light, refreshing and full of flavor.

To start, try Jalapeno Kahuku Corn Fritters ($9), which feature three pieces of perfectly fried Kahuku corn with celery, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic and green onion, served with a chili garlic corn salsa verde on the side.

My personal favorite is Mini Ahi Poke Tacos ($12.50), which also is very popular with customers since its debut last fall. Great for sharing, or to easily enjoy on your own, four mini taco shells are filled with fresh ahi, a cilantrowasabi avocado mousse and island salsa.

Dedicated to using local ingredients as much as possible, MAC 24/7 embraces the farm-to-table concept. A great example of that is its Kale and Roasted Beet Salad ($14), which was added to the menu just a few months ago. Completely fresh, this colorful dish features ingredients that are all locally grown, including truffled gold and red beets, Hauula tomatoes, pineapples, macadamia nuts, Naked Cow Dairy goat cheese, watermelon radish, and balsamic Maui onion dressing.

“These are definitely lighter alternatives,” says Mark Nelsen, director of restaurants for Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel. “The Kale and Roasted Beet Salad is very nutritious with the kale in there, and the Maui onion balsamic dressing is Island-inspired. It’s not a heavy, creamy dish, but very light, and pairs well with the yummy Mini Ahi Poke Tacos.

“Every time we come up with a menu creation or idea for an event, we utilize everything locally first, such as black Hawaiian sea salt, locally grown produce, beef and all of our fish. Ultimately, at the end of the day, this is our home, so we want to respect it and respect everybody in our community as best as we can, and offer the best products at the same time.”

Whether for the restaurant or an off-site event, executive chef James Aptakin and his team constantly challenge themselves to create new, fun dishes. Last week, they brought home the Best Taste and Best Presentation awards from the first annual Taste Awards, presented by Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association.

Their creation was a local-style Vietnamese wrap with tea-smoked Mongolian kalbi ribs, salt and pepper Kauai prawns, macadamia nut brittle, locally grown ‘Nalo greens, Big Island hearts of palm, water-melon radish and more. There also was a unique Kona coffee caramel shoyu dipping sauce.

“We’re putting it on the menu (by mid-August),” says Aptakin, who is representing Hilton’s culinary team at a tourism forum in Australia this month. “We’re also adding, by popular demand, a Truffle Ramen Spam that we did at Spam Jam, along with Waialua Chocolate Kona Coffee Flan.

“We’re always improving by getting ourselves out in the community, listening to the locals, challenging ourselves with the farm-to-table concept and listening to our guests. Also, we keep the passion alive through inspiration.”

Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel is located at 2500 Kuhio Ave. Validated valet parking is $3 for Mac 24/7 customers.

MAC 24/7

Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel
2500 Kuhio Ave., Honolulu
Open 24 hours daily

Honolulu, HI 96815

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best