Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Waiolu Ocean Cuisine

Restaurant Insider

January 14, 2020

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

(Left) Sous chef Demi Samson, left, Anne Lee and director of operations Jay Kitashima are ready to dive into a meal at Waiolu Ocean Cuisine.

ANNE LEE speaks with sous chef DEMI SAMSON and director of operations JAY KITASHIMA

I recently sat down with sous chef Demi Samson and director of operations Jay Kitashima at Waiolu Ocean Cuisine located at the five-star Trump International Hotel Waikiki. This beautiful restaurant, that opened its doors nearly 10 years ago, has an amazing unobstructed view of the ocean and is a coveted spot to watch the Waikiki fireworks show every Friday! Samson and Kitashima share more about what makes Waiolu Ocean Cuisine a must-try for visitors and kamaaina alike.

AL: What type of cuisine does Waiolu specialize in?

DS: Waiolu translates to “clean waters,” our specialty is seafood, you do not see a lot of seafood-focused restaurants in Waikiki. We source from local fish resources, fresh island fish that varies daily. We support local. Our seafood dinner menu offers the freshest of seafood that includes Maine Lobster, Alaskan king crab legs, Kona abalone, and moi fish. We also have a sushi bar, with our very own sushi chef, Hiep Au, that offers traditional nigiri and new wave sushi options using the freshest catch sourced from the Pacific.

AL: What is your goal to its customers?

DS: Our motto at the restaurant is we never say no (within reason). We try to attract local guests, and we also try to keep our guests that are staying here at the resort to dine
with us. Depending on the season, we do have about 50 percent local clientele and lots of families, also many couples. We are the type of restaurant that is non-pretentious and accessible, very inviting warm and friendly. Our team is here to help our guests navigate the menu and address any questions they may have. From the sake options
to the different seafood options, we are here to help every step of the way.

JK: I would say our five-star service is the goal. It takes time and dedication from all members of the team to achieve the Forbes 5-Star Award. Our daily goal is to provide guests with the experience that comes with such a prestigious honor.

Omakase 10 Piece ($50)

AL: What is the most popular dish and other specialties?

DS: Bouillabaisse for Two ($99) — it’s a very generous portion that’s actually more than enough for two and priced very well. This is very popular among customers as it has a mix of many different options of seafood, which includes lobster, king crab, shrimp, abalone, clams and scallops. It is prepared in a lemongrass tomato broth, in which we roast our tomatoes fresh and boil it and strain it twice, then we add the seafood and let it boil together. We have two different happy hour promotions daily. The first is Waiolu Sunset Happy Hour from 3 to 6 p.m. where guests can enjoy featured daily selections, happily priced on our Waiolu Sunset Fare menu. Diners can find an array of delicious appetizers to share with some sunset-inspired liquid artistry options from this happy hour menu. Then, 9-10 p.m. is the Late Night Happy Hour where everything on this menu is priced at a 50 percent discount. Options (just to name a few) include a 10-ounce New York steak pupu style ($18), sake flight ($18), and whiskey flight ($24). These are all very popular with our guests. Also the Omakase chef’s choice of sushi is pretty popular — this ranges from six pieces at $30, eight pieces for $40 and 10 pieces for $50. The Day Boat Catch (of the day) ranges from $32-$36 depending on the catch. The Firecracker Sushi Roll ($24) is our most popular roll. It has crab and ahi inside and ahi on top. The Sake Flight is a taste of three sakes — pictured here is a variety of Dassai, Hakkaisan and Kubota Junmai Daiginjo in this flight.

Firecracker Sushi Roll ($24, eight pieces)

AL: Any special promos coming up?

DS: We have our Valentine’s Day dinner promo coming up. We are a destination for special events and holidays. When guests celebrate a special occasion with us, the restaurant sends out a nice “dessert gift” from the chef.

AL: What is your favorite part of your job?

JK: The daily interaction with both my team and hotel guests. When you are lucky to be a part of a special group of individuals that all have the same goals and mindset, it makes work that much easier. This then translates to unforgettable guest experiences. To be able to welcome back a family for their 40th stay, that’s a special opportunity.

DS: I enjoy learning, picking everyone’s brain in the culinary role, and the overall growth process.

AL: Anything else you’d like to share?

JK: Waiolu offers four hours free valet, and perfect seating for fireworks every Friday evening.

DS: Guests can buy out the entire restaurant for an event. From having a barbecue experience on the terrace to having a wedding reception — diners can call our special events department to get more information.

Day Boat Catch


8 ounce fillet of local snapper (skin off deboned)
1.5 ounces garlic butter sauce
1/2 cup sauteed mushroom w/spinach
1/2 teaspoon capers Salt and pepper to taste
Ululoa Micro Greens for garnish
Lemon 1 wedge, juiced (added on the dish before serving)

Garlic butter sauce (yields approximately 1 cup):

1/2 cup Chardonnay
2 tablespoons small diced shallots
1 tablespoon small diced garlic
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 pound butter cold chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


Add wine, shallots and garlic to a medium sized pot and reduce until au sec.
Add cream to pot and reduce to au sec and reduce heat to low.
Slowly incorporate the butter with a whisk, making sure to not separate the butter from the cream mixture.
Once all the butter is incorporated remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
Strain the sauce in a chinois and keep warm.

Sauteed mushrooms with spinach:

1/4 pound chopped shimeji and enringi mushrooms
1/2 pound baby spinach
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Honolulu, HI 96815

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