Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: SKY WaikikiRestaurant Insider
March 7, 2021
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: REID SHIMABUKURO
ANNE LEE speaks with SKY Waikiki co-owner and CEO HIDE SAKURAI
SKY Waikiki is open and has an amazing rooftop view. The style and vibe is fresh and modern, and very inviting. Under the new ownership of CEO Hide Sakurai, who is a well-known restaurateur in Hawaii, the el evated seafood raw bar, signature drinks and ambiance are all well worth the trip. Hide and I discussed the concept, what the popular items are and what is on the horizon — we can’t wait to see what else he can create!
AL: SKY Waikiki opened in August 2015, and recently, you have taken over. How have you elevated the guest experience here?
HS: SKY is very marketable. You can see the blue ocean, blue sky during the day and catch a beautiful sunset. During the evening you can see a sky of stars. That is the vision that I saw when taking on the task of ownership in March, right before the pandemic hit.
This was definitely a place that tourists like to visit. My intention was really enticing locals to come here — that is first and foremost something that I wanted to change.
I incorporated the concept of an oyster bar, a raw bar and also offering things unique to Hawaii, such as sashimi, poke, shrimp cocktail, blue crab — more seafood options.
Every major city has an oyster bar, so I wanted to also incorporate a “Bubble Bar” which is a champagne/sparkling wine bar. Due to the pandemic, we are offering varieties of bubbles by the glass instead of a bar. We have a red bubbly from Italy: Emiglia Romagna, a deep purple and elegantly fizzy drink, with aromas of crushed berries and a savory richness for $15 a glass or $65 a bottle.
AL: What do you think makes SKY Waikiki unique to the restaurant scene here in Hawaii?
HS: Traditionally, the local community would come to Waikiki for celebrations, especially when they have out-of-town guests. I really want this experience to be accessible to the locals any day of the week. The uniqueness of this rooftop experience, offering a seafood raw bar and delicious cocktails in a beautiful setting on a premier one-of-a-kind setting.
AL: Do you have an executive chef?
HS: Chef Arnoldo Masa Gushiken. He has been with me since my Diamond Dining days at Bread + Butter. Chef Masa was born and raised in Argentina, he has Japanese blood, and speaks fluent Japanese and Spanish, and just a bit of English.
AL: Can you tell me more about the overall menu?
HS: We both collaborate on the menu. I create the framework and he executes it well. Our seafood is fresh, we get some from Hokkaido, some from the West Coast or East Coast. It just depends on what the item is. We aim to get the best items to provide to our guests.
AL: What are the bestselling items and customer favorites?
HS: We will be featuring our fresh seafood platter consisting of local ahi sashimi ($17), local chu-toro sashimi ($28), hamachi sashimi from Japan ($18), shrimp cocktail ($5), oyster of the day (starting at $4), and salted ginger scallion hamachi poke ($12).
Our Wagyu Steak ($45) is very popular and chef Masa knows how to prepare meats. It’s a 10-ounce coulotte-roasted wagyu steak with seasonal vegetables, shiso chimichurri and homemade truffle soy butter.
Off our signature cocktails menu, one of our bestsellers is the Icy Mai Tai ($12). It’s a slushy drink made with light and dark rums, orange Curaçao, orgeat, lime and lilikoi, and rimmed with macadamia salt.
Mezcal is on the rise, and our Smoke On The Water ($14) is a combination of Blanco tequila, mez cal, lime, yuzu zest, pineapple and a touch of serrano pepper.
Our Rye’m & Reason ($14) is made with Bulleit rye, local orange, lemon, orgeat, mint and angostura, and topped with bubbles and bitters.
My personal favorite is the Bottex Vin Du Bugey Cerdon ($16, glass) from France. It’s a sparkling bubbly rosé made with mountain apples and has a touch of sweetness.
AL: Can you please tell me a little bit more about the new dining concept you are currently working on for the indoor portion of the restaurant?
HS:We are planning to open a new restaurant later this year. Named La Bettola, the forthcoming space will be located on the same floor, and will feature Italian cuisine by chef Tsutomu Ochiai.