One true pairingCover Story
September 18, 2022
Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
As a Maui native, Kari Takaoka grew up in the local restaurant industry, as her family owns and operates the iconic eatery Tasty Crust in Wailuku.
After making her way to Oahu to finish college, she got a job at Duke’s Waikiki and the rest, as she says when looking back, is history.
“I started out selling T-shirts at the logo stand but got moved up to serving and then management, which turned into my career,” says Takaoka, who currently serves as the bar and beverage manager at Duke’s Waikiki. “Thankfully, our parent company, T S Restaurants, invested in me and my passion and helped me to get my level two sommelier certification. I then helped to oversee the wine program for the eight T S Hawaii locations, but we have since consolidated all 13 of our locations across Hawaii and California, and I now collaborate with Jimmy Chavez, the general manager at Duke’s Malibu.”
Duke’s Waikiki offers a casual beachfront setting fronting the surf where Duke Kahanamoku practiced his craft as a legendary waterman. The delicious cuisine pairs perfectly with a stellar array of wines, including Panko Crusted Calamari ($18.50) and Rocket Salad ($13) coupled with Mohua Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand (price varies by amount). The panko-crusted calamari is served with guava cocktail sauce and Meyer lemon caper remoulade, while the roasted beet, goat cheese and arugula salad is topped with Duroc bacon, pickled Maui onion and white balsamic vinaigrette. The tropical fruit and herbaceous character of the wine pairs nicely with the salad’s peppery notes and the capers in the calamari sauce, while the creaminess of the goat cheese balances the wine’s acidity.
Fresh Fish Tacos ($23) are accented with tomatillo sauce and pico de gallo served with fresh tortilla chips. The entrée pairs with Tyler Chardonnay Santa Barbara, California (price varies by amount) as the stone-fruit character of the wine coupled with the fresh acidity and minerality pair well with the Cajun-spiced grilled fresh fish.
Guests also rave about pairings including Falafel Naan Sandwich ($17.50) with Poema Extra Brut Cava Spain (price varies by amount); Ribs & Chicken Plate ($25) coupled with Head High Pinot Noir Sonoma County, California (price varies by amount); and Duke’s Cheeseburger ($18.50) along with Cape D’Or Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa (price varies by amount).
“Sitting at one of our tables as you look out at Diamond Head and the beach boys giving surf lessons and canoe rides, you get a true sense of place and history enhanced by live music and electric atmosphere here at Duke’s,” Takaoka says. “We constantly strive to provide a memorable experience and aloha to everyone that walks through our doors, whether they are celebrating a special occasion or simply enjoying pau hana at our bar. We are a busy location, in the middle of bustling Waikiki, but somehow when you sit down, this sense of relaxation takes over and really exemplifies the beauty of visiting or living in Hawaii.”