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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Orchids

Restaurant Insider

December 5, 2021

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

ANNE LEE speaks with Orchids chef de cuisine CHRISTIAN TESTA

Halekulani’s Hawaiian name translates to “house befitting heaven.” It was named by the locals when area fisherman were welcomed to rest at Robert Lewers’ two-story home, where the main building sits today.

Reopened as of Oct. 1, chef de cuisine Christian Testa of Orchids has introduced a new lunch and dinner menu. We had a chance to try some of the new dishes and hear more about what’s in store for this beautiful oceanfront, open-air restaurant.

Onaga Carpaccio ($28)

AL: What changes have you made to Orchids?

CT: When I first arrived at the hotel in October 2016, I completely changed the menu. Now, maybe it’s every four to five months, and I always try to have good balance on the menu. Whatever ingredients are available is how I determine what I keep or add.

Lasagnette ($30 lunch; $42 dinner)

AL: How would you describe your inspiration for the menu offerings?

CT: It’s healthy, light and fresh; not heavy, less cream to cover main ingredients and clean to emphasize flavor. The mission for all of Halekulani is to provide gracious hospitality with the highest standards of quality and personalized service experience, while keeping true to our indigenous surroundings. Orchids enriches the perfect atmosphere with attentive and gracious service for every occasion.

Hamachi Crudo ($28, dinner appetizer)

Our menus infuse Mediterranean cuisine with an Italian influence harnessing traditional and contemporary techniques. Artisanal handmade pastas are prepared daily and are thoughtfully accompanied by offerings such as grilled seafood sourced from island waters and other luxurious delicacies like truffles. Our vast selection of old and new global vintage wines has been carefully curated to complement the cuisine. Our award-winning Sunday brunch features the classics, as well as an inspired selection of local favorites.

AL: What inspired your current menu?

CT: Pizza and pasta are not the only Italian cuisine. Although it’s challenging at times to get authentic Italian ingredients, we use local produce and try to enhance the flavors of the food without covering it up. For example, pesto is different from Génova, where I was born. Having lived around the world, I am able to bring different flavor profiles, and respect traditional original flavors that I grew up with and make combinations.

Crab Lobster Salad ($32)

Orchids is right in front of the ocean, so of course we will use the best local seafood available. Onaga Carpaccio ($28) is fresh with lemon, olive oil and sea salt. For the simple sashimi (chef Testa style), I appreciate the local ahi, onaga and monchong, and respect these ingredients.

My Favorite dish is the Lasagnette ($30 lunch; $42 dinner) — my grandmother’s recipe from Génova — with warm avocado, shrimp and scallops, and very difficult to make.

I also love the squid ink pasta. I am proud that all of our pasta is handmade in house from scratch. We use high-quality flour and eggs, and high-end ingredients.

AL: What did you prepare for us today?

CT: We are starting a two-course lunch menu. Choose your entrée and choice of a starter or dessert. We will also have dinner options like a five-course prix fixe tasting menu (inquire for cost).

Hamachi Crudo ($28, dinner appetizer) features citrus-marinated hamachi, orange supreme sea asparagus and pressed watermelon. The local, fresh Onaga Carpaccio ($28) has Ho Farms tomatoes, jalapeños, chives, red Hawaiian salt and a lemon olive oil dressing. The Prime Beef Filet Tartare ($28) is made with 24-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, lemon zest, truffle aioli and seasonal truffles. The lightly spiced Lasagnette ($30 lunch; $42 dinner) features fazzoletti “handkerchief” pasta, prawns, scallops and avocado.

I have also prepared the Crab Lobster Salad ($32), which includes lobster, crab meat, celery, shallot chives, lettuce. It’s mixed in mayo and served with mixed greens on a whole wheat croissant.

One of the options on the five-course prix fixe tasting menu is the Branzino alla Mediterranean (sautéed artichoke, pearl onion and veal jus).

For dessert, our signature Halekulani Coconut Cake ($12, a la carte) is a chiffon cake filled with coconut amaretto cream with raspberry coulis and crème anglaise.

AL: Can you tell me about the other restaurants?

CT: All of our restaurants and lounges are open. Visit halekulani.com or call 808-923-2311 in advance, as hours are subject to change.

House Without A Key, sunset cocktails, 5-8:30 pm., entertainment starts at 5:30 p.m.

La Mer and L’Aperitif (Hawaii’s only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes five-star restaurant), 5:30-8:30 p.m., Wednesdays-Sundays.

Lewers Lounge, 8 p.m.-midnight, Fridays and Saturdays, featuring pianist Tommy James, former conductor/director of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, who has worked with Grammy Award-winning artists such as Maureen McGovern, Roberta Flack, Nell Carter, Melba Moore and Grandmaster Flash.

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