Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Kani Ka Pila GrilleRestaurant Insider
April 10, 2022
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
ANNE LEE speaks with Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort executive chef DEAN KAMIYA
Dean Kamiya, executive chef at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, is a new addition to the team, but not to the culinary world. With more than 34 years of experience in the industry, his proven ability to create delicious cuisine for large groups as well as a small intimate dinner for two is what shines at this popular resort. The role to oversee the food and beverage execution for this property is not an easy task.
One dining experience in particular is the upcoming Easter Sunday prix fixe lunch at Kani Ka Pila Grille on April 17. This will feature free Easter keiki cupcake decorating. The lunch menu will offer a choice of a starter, entrée and dessert. Chef Kamiya prepared some of the items for me to try as we talked more about the details of his restaurant journey.
AL: What are the dining options at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort?
DK: We have the catering/events side that has been ongoing since we reopened the hotel about a year ago. The poolside menu is mostly the full menu offered at our signature restaurant, Kani Ka Pila Grille, with slight modifications. We also do offer in-room dining for our guests at the resort, Starbucks will be reopening eventually, and we will be anticipating the arrival of Monkeypod Kitchen sometime in 2022. Kani Ka Pila Grille features live Hawaiian music with award-winning contemporary performers every night from 6 to 8 p.m., something that our local community as well as our guests staying with us enjoy and look forward to.
AL: How did you get into the restaurant industry?
DK: When I was 16, I worked at a plate lunch place called Ono’s Drive Inn in Kaneohe. The menu was breakfast, lunch and dinner, so the items I prepared were different. I started to really enjoy cooking, and I realized I could make this a career with something that I had a passion for. This appeased my parents but also allowed me to have an opportunity to learn hands-on with some of the best in the industry.
AL: Can you describe the cuisine and culture at Kani Ka Pila Grille?
DK: It is very welcoming and open. Coming out of a pandemic, it has changed perspective for everyone. We have always had a local crowd, and the menu that we have set is for that palate. Guests can expect comfort local fare, as well as a little different twist at the same time. Fresh and local are what is important to us. I like to eat fish and cook it, and I make it a point to work with local fisherman to get the best catch on the menu.
AL: How did you come up with the special Easter prix fixe lunch menu ($45)?
DK: We wanted to highlight the season that Easter falls on, which is spring. We have lighter fare and created dishes that please the local palate as well as guests staying on property.
Starters are Spring Deviled Eggs with chives and bacon; or a Garden Salad with local greens, tomatoes and cucumbers with choice of dressing.
Lunch entrées are: Prosciutto, Melon & Crispy Goat Cheese Salad made with cantaloupe; Braised Lamb and Roasted Tomato Eggs Benedict over poi English muffins, and served with sun-dried tomato hollandaise and herb-roasted potatoes; or a Pineapple Glazed Ham with pineapple-cranberry glaze and a medley of vegetables and herb-roasted potatoes. Dessert is a Grilled Pineapple, Coconut Sorbet & Macadamia Nut Crunch.
We also have a great bar program with a talented group of mixologists that create special libations monthly, and for Easter, it’s the Strawberry Grapefruit Mimosa ($16) with a hint of fresh thyme.
AL: Tell me more about the Easter cupcake decorating.
DK: For our hotel guests that are staying with us, we will be offering Easter cupcake decorating at our Club Lounge. We will also be offering this option to keiki dining at Kani Ka Pila Grille. They will each receive their own cupcake to decorate to their liking during our Easter prix fixe lunch service or until we run out! For more information, please contact our restaurant for specific details as they’re subject to change.