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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Waiolu Ocean Cuisine

Restaurant Insider

November 14, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

ANNE LEE speaks with Trump International Hotel Waikiki executive chef JOSEPH ROSE

There are delectable things happening at Waiolu Ocean Cuisine.

Resort/hotel dining tends to cater to everyone, but Joseph Rose, executive chef at Trump International Hotel Waikiki, has his philosophy of being the best at who they are, and that is a high-end seafood restaurant.

Responsible for all culinary aspects for In-Yo Café (the open-air restaurant offering breakfast daily), in-room dining, amenity programs and banquet/ catering events, I was invited to sit down with this talented chef to try the new dishes and find out more about his style of cuisine and what guests can expect from the new menu.

Seared Scallops ($18)

AL: Tell me about some of the new additions to the menu.

JR: When I was at the Trump Hotel in Chicago, the executive chef at the time (Frank Brunacci) had a huge influence in what I created, and his style was more Asian dishes with spice, like Thai and Malaysian. I gravitated toward this type of cuisine and the spices but more Japanese, as I liked the simplicity of the cuisine. The new dishes that we are featuring are a balance of the two.

On our small plates menu, I have prepared three dishes. The Sesame Tuna Tataki ($19) is fresh tuna from the fish auction. We press it with sesame seeds, sear it a bit, and place the ahi on yuzu aioli to give it a bit of creaminess. It’s topped with pickled onion, fried garlic, daikon and around it is a housemade sweet ginger dressing. For the Seared Scallops ($18) we use U-10 scallops from Hokkaido. I like Thai curry and wanted to incorporate this on the menu, and the scallops were a perfect fit, as they can take the spice. We use red curry, coconut milk, chili and Kaffir lime, with a little bit of edamame hummus with pickled chilies and cilantro. This is a bit on the spicier side, but not too spicy to make your mouth hurt. The Grilled Tako ($16) was Korean influenced. We add gochujang marinade, chile peppers, shoyu and ginger. We sous vide it for a bit then char it on the grill, and place it on top of the marinade, mixed with a bit of mayo and served with a side of wakame cucumber salad.

Sesame Tuna Tataki ($19)

From our large plates menu, I have prepared three items. For the Kona Kampachi ($29), we crisp the skin in brown butter, a ginger beurre blanc and flavor it with a little lemongrass oil. The crispy potatoes that are served with this dish is a favorite; it’s like au gratin style, about 30 layers of thinly sliced potatoes with a bit white cheddar cheese and bit of clarified butter. For the luxurious Lobster Miso Ramen ($68) — my daughter and I love ramen, and we eat a lot of it — I take a full pound-and-a-quarter of fresh lobster and blanche it in a bit of dashi and poach it in butter. It’s served with gailon, a poached egg, soy, mirin and shiitake mushrooms. The broth is tedious to make, but this is what makes it so good. The Roasted Pacific Sea Bass ($35) is pan-roasted in butter. It’s the fall season and we wanted to add something heartier. I add kabocha squash and purée it, grilled Thrive Farms bekana, and dress it with yuzu shichimi.

Kona Kampachi ($29)

We have also added new sushi rolls. The Rise of the Phoenix Roll’s ($25) name was created from the salmon belly. This is usually something that is thrown away or used in nigiri, so we wanted to use it and have it rise again. It’s Alaskan crab, smoked salmon belly, ahi, hamachi, avocado, yuzu aioli and aji amarillo. The Red Dragon Fire Roll ($26) has some heat. It’s tempura shrimp, avocado, cucumber, spicy mayo with ahi and unagi, spicy ahi, and kabayaki sauce.

AL: What are the future plans for the restaurant?

JR: The idea of chef’s tasting menus and omakase dinners is something that I want to incorporate next on the menu. It will be either eight to 12 courses, a mixture of kaiseki-style and based on the seasons.You will have a bit of sushi, a fried item and steamed item.

Roasted Pacific Sea Bass ($35)

Our executive sous chef Yoshi Ohata is very talented and helps me oversee the restaurants. Born in Japan and raised in Hawaii, it is nice to work with someone with a similar vision but also a different style. At the end of the day, it helps to build what we are trying to achieve.

Lobster Miso Ramen ($68)

AL: Anything else you’d like to share? JR: We will be offering a three-course traditional turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. I wanted to make this available for our hotel guests. For $65, we start with a Sensei Farms lettuce salad with roasted squash, toasted mac nuts, dates and brown butter balsamic vinaigrette. Second course is herb-roasted turkey served with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, herb stuffing, green beans, cranberry jam and sage turkey gravy. Dessert is homemade pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Rise of the Phoenix Roll ($25)

We want to be a destination that people want to come to for our seafood, in a casual setting. You can be in shorts and slippers and dine with us or enjoy the breathtaking sunsets from our lanai with cocktails.We have also increased our sake options, including the Heiwa Shuzo “KID” Junmai ($15).

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