Bison’s Got Game

Columns Ono, You Know

February 26, 2017

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

The editor is more than impressed with Wisp's Bison Burger.

The editor is more than impressed with Wisp’s Bison Burger.

If you leafed through Dining Out last weekend, you may have came across our main story exploring the wonderful world of wagyu beef. Well, as you’ll see in today’s issue, the carnivorous cravings continue with a robust taste of another hot trend in gourmet meat — bison.

For those who have never tried bison before, the following Ono, You Know dishes offer an incredibly delicious introduction to the beef alternative, which is part of a growing trend in restaurants and steak houses toward offering more game meats, from lamb to venison. The perception of these bites is shifting from being thought of as “too gamy” to being appreciated for the wealth of complex flavors and only subtle gaminess today’s high-quality cuts have to offer. And diners are more open than ever to the full-bodied appeal of bison, in particular.

Plus, game meats like bison offer a range of health benefits to match their enticing flavors. They’re stocked with B vitamins, for example, but read on to find out more.

So let’s stick a fork in this bison — it’s done!


Wisp Restaurant & Lounge is one of Honolulu’s latest dining spots to open, and with that newness comes a fresh and exciting menu with on-trend dishes, including Bison Burger ($17).

Wisp's Bison Burger ($17)

Wisp’s Bison Burger ($17)

I have to say, trying this burger made me understand just how flavorsome bison can be. The juicy patty is well-seasoned to accent the meat’s inherently intricate flavors, and the burger is served on a grilled potato bun that’s nice and soft, yet firm enough to stand up to the bison. It’s all given a bright touch with Manoa lettuce, tomato and cheddar, while truffle aioli and crispy fried prosciutto bring yet more depth to the dish.

“With the prosciutto on top of it, it’s so good!” exclaims co-owner and general manager Lani Nakamura. “When we were coming up with our burgers, we were sampling different meats and the bison is what stood out. It’s not too gamy.”

Spiced-up waffle fries come on the side, and in addition to this burger, Wisp serves up an entire menu of Hawaii Regional Cuisine. How the chic eatery interprets that, according to Nakamura, is that “we have your traditional American dishes, but we incorporate local and Asian ingredients to make them unique to Hawaii.”

The restaurant is located on the second floor of boutique hotel Lotus Honolulu at the end of Waikiki, with views overlooking Diamond Head. It’s open for breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. and again for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Wisp also hosts happy hour daily from 4 to 7 p.m. and again during late-night service from 9:30 to midnight every night except Fridays and Saturdays.

Wisp Restaurant & Lounge

Lotus Honolulu At Diamond Head,
2885 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki

Honolulu, HI 96815


Ahead of the trend, Hy’s Steak House executive chef Justin Inagaki started introducing game meats onto the long-standing restaurant’s menu a while back. Now that first-class cuts of these exotic meats are in fashion, an increasing number of patrons have been catching on to the chef’s oh-so-tender Bison Ribeye with Herb-Bleu Cheese Compound Butter ($60).

Hy's Bison Ribeye with Herb-Bleu Cheese Compound Butter ($60)

Hy’s Bison Ribeye with Herb-Bleu Cheese Compound Butter ($60)

Available as an ongoing special, Hy’s créme de la créme of bison is sourced responsibly from Durham Ranch in Colorado, where the herds roam freely and feed on grass in the cool, natural and stress-free environment of the upper Rocky Mountains, which Inagaki says helps translates to the more natural taste and tender texture of the meat. When dining on bison, you also get the benefits of more protein and nutrients with less fat and cholesterol, not to mention fewer calories, as compared to beef.

Justin Inagaki, executive chef at Hy's

Justin Inagaki, executive chef at Hy’s

“It’s free-ranging bison, and there are no artificial growth stimulants; it’s all natural,” confirms general manager Marc Nezu.

When tasting a succulent bite of Hy’s 16-ounce bison for the first time, diners can expect the meat to be familiar in some ways, but nuanced with new flavors in others. “Bison is similar in flavor to beef, but slightly sweeter and richer in flavor. It matches really well with our kiawe grilling,” adds Nezu.

The editor is willing to share a bite (but not two) of her bison-filled burger.

The editor is willing to share a bite (but not two) of her bison-filled burger.

Game meat aside, Hy’s is in the midst of its 40th anniversary, which the local steak house is turning into a year-long celebration with monthly dining events running from April to November. It all starts in April with ongoing special wine dinners hosted by Master Sommelier Patrick Okubo; then in May, a farm-to-table chef’s dinner series will commence. Stay tuned for other anniversary events in the making.

Hy’s Steak House

Waikiki Park Heights
2440 Kuhio Ave., Waikiki

Honolulu, HI 96815

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best