Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: d.k. SteakhouseRestaurant Insider
October 3, 2021
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
ANNE LEE speaks with d.k. Steakhouse founder D.K. KODAMA
Many famous steakhouses start with an owner or family name. d.k Steakhouse is a Hawaiian regional steakhouse that offers a version of local surf-and-turf — options for diners to order steak and sushi from owner D.K. Kodama’s popular Sansei Restaurant that’s also located at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. His appreciation for the resort lifestyle and his passion for steak led to the opening of this restaurant in 2004. Today, he operates d.k Steakhouse, as well as Vino, and Sansei, which is set to reopen in mid-October. This week, D.K. shares what makes his namesake restaurant so special.
AL: Why did you want to open a steakhouse?
DK: When we found this location at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, we knew that the space was too large for just Sansei. A friend of mine had a steakhouse in Massachusetts and I didn’t see any steakhouses opening up in Hawaii. I really appreciate the resort lifestyle, everyone has fun and wants to eat out. That’s why I opened my first Sansei restaurant on Maui. I also love steaks and I felt opening d.k Steakhouse would be a good complement. We have included Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar to the mix as we moved from our Restaurant Row location. Now you can have Italian, sushi, seafood and dry-aged steaks under one roof.
AL: Tell me about your team at d.k Steakhouse.
DK: My executive chef Bert Balbas has been with me for over 20 years. He cuts all the meat to exact specs. Our general manager is Mark Okamoto, and we have our wine girl and assistant manager Jewels Ross, who works with Chuck Furuya to develop our wine lists. We have a great regular and reserve list of wines and an amazing reserve list that offers high-end California wines such as Colgin.We also have our first-world Bordeaux wines and high-end burgundies.
AL: What is your goal to your customers?
DK: We focus on great quality and consistency. We want guests to leave their dining experience and remember how great it was. We guarantee our steaks. Steak costs can vary from $60 to $80, so that steak better be good. If it’s not good, like chewy, we ask that you send it back. Locals will not send it back as that is the local way, but I encourage you to send it back because of these reasons: it’s a lot of money, they need to have a good dining experience, and we can look at all the other steaks that were cut from this particular loin and discover if those steaks were also not the best cuts. I don’t know exactly how to explain a good steak, but it has to be seasoned well, broiled just right, the flavor of the meat has to come through — it has to be something better than you can make at home or in your backyard.
AL: What makes this steak different from others here in Hawaii?
DK: Our steaks are all-natural 100% USA Source Certified with no growth hormones, antibiotics or steroids. Our high-heat double broiler seals in the juices and enhances natural flavors. We are also the first on Oahu to dry-age steaks in-house and use 100% USA Source Certified Nature’s Natural Beef Steaks from Arizona. We searched all over to find the perfect steak to offer our guests.
AL: What did you prepare for us?
DK: I decided to choose the items that I would order when coming in for dinner here, which are also our top sellers. We start with the Sashimi Trio ($19.75), featuring the freshest ahi, hamachi and salmon; Hamachi Carpaccio ($17.95) with a truffled ponzu sauce; and Classic Caesar Salad ($11).
Last but not least is the No. 1 selling 22-ounce Dry Aged Rib-Eye on the bone ($71). The suggested temperature is medium rare, and this only needs a little bit of salt and pepper.
For the steak connoisseur, there are Prime 22-ounce dry-aged bone-in rib-eyes ($78, 15 days; $82, 30 days). The side dish I selected is our Lobster & Shrimp Mashed Potatoes ($27), featuring sautéed cold water lobster tail and jumbo shrimp in a tarragon cream sauce.
AL: Due to the pandemic. how did you rethink the daily operation strategy?
DK: We had to space out the tables; and ask our guests to show proof of full vaccination with their cards and IDs, or a negative COVID-19 test result taken within the previous 48 hours (exemption for children under 12).
All of our staff members are fully vaccinated and professionally sanitize our restaurant frequently. I feel that we will still have takeout and that will be a part of the dining culture.
AL: Anything else you’d like to share about your restaurants?
DK: Sansei in Waikiki is scheduled to reopen mid-October. We will be bringing back our popular happy hour (reservations only). We also have our steaks available at our Sansei locations on Maui. In Kihei, we have a broiler and steak carving area similar to the one we have in Waikiki.
In Waikoloa, the name of our restaurant is Sansei Seafood Steak & Sushi Bar. We sell a lot of steaks — in one night we can go through 40 rib-eyes easily.
AL: Any fun facts most people wouldn’t know about d.k Steakhouse?
DK: We have a large catering arm. We can create stations, buffets or sit-down (whatever the customer wants) and offer accessibility to all the wonderful dishes available from each of our different restaurants.