All hail the aquatic imaginarium

Columns Veg'n Out

January 25, 2015

Story By: Andy Beth Miller | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

I can still hear her stern voice ringing in my ears, “Careful now, Miss Miller, you don’t want to let your imagination go getting the better of you, now do you?”

Ms. Gray was her name, and she was my elementary school librarian. I was convinced it was her life’s work to ruin my fun, as each time during library hour — while my friends gathered for that week’s installment of “Andy’s Tall Tales” (yes, that happened) — just as I was getting to the good part, Ms. Gray would interrupt the hilarity, sputtering that “too much imagination was the open door to disarray!”

I look back and realize it wasn’t me that Ms. Gray necessarily disapproved of, but the idea of imaginations running amok. But I wonder what she would say about a contained imaginarium — a designated place where your imagination is not squelched, but celebrated, and free to run wild, without wreaking havoc?

And what if I told you there was an aquatic imaginarium — filled with exotic animals and even a real life mermaid? At the Oceanarium Restaurant located at Pacific Beach Hotel in Waikiki, imagination and creativity are warmly welcomed, shown in its state-of-the-art, in-house aquarium and eclectic cuisine.

“Roughly 90 percent of our clientele wish to sit as near to the aquarium as possible,” says director of food and beverage Patrick Faas. “We offer a 280,000-gallon fish tank with a 180-degree view of the dining room. Every seat in the restaurant is able to view the wonderful sea life.”

And about that mermaid? “Our in-house Mermaid is especially worth seeing,” Faas assures. “She is very popular, especially with kids, as keiki of all ages enjoy our aquarium!” All ages, meaning adults too, as Oceanarium also boasts, according to Faas, “bountiful selections and menu options that attract all types of connoisseurs.”

With a daily buffet ranging in price from $45.95 to $47.95 (depending on the day), Oceanarium hosts vegetarians right alongside carnivores — and there’s room for everyone at this smorgasbord under the sea. The most popular vegetarian selections include Corn and Black Bean Salad, Fresh Tomato Mozzarella and Grilled Vegetable Rotini Pasta made with grilled squash, carrots, olives and Italian vinaigrette.

After tasting the delights of this near endless lineup, and marveling at that famous mermaid, I have to believe even Ms. Gray might be swayed to approve.

Oceanarium Restaurant

Pacific Beach Hotel
2490 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
Open daily, breakfast buffet 6-10 a.m.; brunch buffet Saturday–Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner buffet 4:30-10 p.m. (Kamaaina rates available)

Honolulu, HI 96815

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best