Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Plumeria Beach HouseRestaurant Insider
January 9, 2022
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
ANNE LEE speaks with DANNY KALEIKINI
Aloooha! Danny Kaleikini, the Ambassador of Aloha (former Gov. John Waihee gave him the moniker in 1988), was born into a family of eight children. Raised in Papakolea, his humble roots taught him how to share the aloha. Everyone in their household contributed by doing their share. In fact, a 5-year-old Danny sold copies of The Honolulu Advertiser and also shined shoes by Hawaii Theatre to help his family.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort will honor him at a special event from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 26, commemorating his 30 years of dedicated service and the renaming of its front drive to Danny Kaleikini Square.The evening will feature Plumeria Beach House’s menu with all of Danny’s favorites to order a la carte. There is limited seating; reservations are required online at kahalaresort.com. A portion of the proceeds of the event’s sales will be donated to the Danny Kaleikini Foundation. Don’t miss this special dinner.
AL: How did you get into this music industry?
DK: Growing up, our friends and family would gather in our backyard with instruments, and we would play music, sing, and share food and drink. It was really on-the-job training. At Kawananakoa Middle School, I learned to play the trumpet and it started from there. I attended Roosevelt High School and joined their choir, and my grandfather taught me how to play the nose flute.
AL: Where was your first performance?
DK: I started at The Waikiki Sands, which was owned by Ruddy Tongg, founder of Aloha Airlines. I was working in baggage and one of my co-workers encouraged me to go and perform there. This led to The Kahala and I signed a large contract. I was so honored.
AL: Through the years, there have been so many things you’ve seen and famous people you’ve met. Tell me about this experience.
DK: Many locals would come and watch my performance, and many movie stars — Sylvester Stallone, Donny and Marie Osmond, Dolly Parton, Michael Jackson, John F. Kennedy, Prince Charles and Lady Diana — we went to their suites to sing for them. One of my dearest friends, Jesse Takamiyama, would come and watch me play from Japan, and I would sing in Japanese for them. I got to sing to Imelda Marcos, and she would stand up and sing the song with me. Doing two shows nightly back then, the second show would always sell out with our Japanese visitors.
The Lord blessed me with a gift that allowed me to be able to communicate to everyone. If we had guests from France, I would sing a song in French. Growing up in Hawaii, you get to meet people from all walks of life and able to fit in and learn how to adjust and share the aloha. I was able to travel the world and go to places I never dreamed of. It was a wonderful experience and education. I even traveled to Cuba to perform for Fidel Castro’s brother, Raúl.
AL: What is your favorite thing to cook at home? What are some of your favorite foods?
DK: I like to take a can of sardines, cut them, fry them up and throw them on a bowl of rice with a bit of chile pepper water with kimchi on the side. I am Hawaiian, Korean, Chinese and Irish. My brothers and I would meet my dad every Friday to eat Chinese food in Chinatown, and one that we liked was Tin Tin. Those days, Chinatown was a place everyone went to kau kau.
I like bloody marys, too; I can make a good one. Hot dogs are also a favorite. If you buy 2two packs, there was plenty for everybody in our household. Hawaiian food is also something I love: pipikaula, poi and tripe stew from Helena’s. I really like the noodles from Little Village Noodle House, and for Korean food, I like to go to Cho Dang near Ala Moana.
AL: What are your favorite items at Plumeria Beach House?
DK: I was so lucky performing at The Kahala, I could walk into the kitchen and grab a spoon and check to see if what the chefs were cooking tasted good. Here’s what else I like: Broiled Misoyaki Butterfish ($39) made with Hamakua mushroom and Matsuri rice, steamed MountainView Farms baby bok choy and pickled ginger beurre blanc; Fried Ahi Poke Musubi ($25) with sweet soy, ogo and Asian remoulade; and Kahala Classic Coconut Cake ($14) featuring layers of haupia cream, vanilla chiffon and shredded coconut.
From the breakfast menu: Delicate Thin Pancakes ($18) with choice of maple or coconut butter; and Corned Beef Hash ($18) with sunny side-up eggs, grilled onions and toast.
AL: Who has had the biggest impact on your life?
DK: My father and mother. My dad was a rubbish collector and they both worked very hard to raise and support our family of 10 people. The Rev. Abraham Akaka from Kawaiahao Church was also someone that impacted my life and got me on my way. He always set me straight and taught me ukulele. The four strings are representative of the people of the world: black, white, yellow and brown. When you are young, you think you know everything, you need people to guide you and stay on the right path.