Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Kani Ka Pila Grille

Restaurant Insider

October 16, 2022

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: Anne Lee

ANNE LEE speaks with Outrigger Hospitality Group executive vice president/CCO SEAN DEE

The team at Outrigger Hospitality Group has a lot to celebrate this year, including marking 75 years in the marketplace and the recent unveiling of the newly transformed Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort. From the moment you step foot onto the resort, you are met with a singular canoe hale arrival experience lit by traditional fishing basket lanterns, giving one a feeling of coming to a Hawaii beach house. The result is a place for locals and visitors to truly embrace aloha, taste local cuisine, enjoy Hawaiian music and learn more about local culture.

Fresh Catch Tacos ($20)

I was able to have lunch and talk about the upgrades with Sean Dee, Outrigger Hospitality Group executive vice president/CCO, at Kani Ka Pila Grille. The property’s signature restaurant is centered around a stage, where award-winning local musicians perform every night.

AL: There was a recent renovation at Outrigger Reef. What changes have been made?

SD: This was more than a renovation; this has been a complete transformation. We have invested over $80 million and nearly three years of hard work by an incredible team of architects, designers, contractors and, of course, Outrigger hosts to transform a famous but tired Waikiki beachfront resort into what we believe is now one of the most iconic resorts in Hawaii. The early feedback has been fantastic, as we have renovated every guest room, public space, restaurant, club lounge and retail corridor. Highlights for me include the new cultural center (Aunty Luana’s new hale), the artwork, new Coral Reef Penthouse suite (located in the reopened Diamond Head Tower), and the new Cyril Pahinui stage at Kani Ka Pila Grille.

Ahi & Avocado Poke ($21)

AL: There are tiles with Hawaiian words placed strategically along the walkway as soon as you enter from valet. What are those Hawaiian words and meanings?

SD: We thought it was important to add key Hawaiian language details to reinforce our commitment to our host culture. There are 31 tiles placed along the guest journey with a welcome message (e komo mai) and until we meet again (a hui hou). It’s the Hawaiian word and meaning next to it; something for guests to take back with them. See the full list in the sidebar.

Local Boy Burger ($20)

AL: What is Kani Ka Pila Grille famous for?

SD: Kani Ka Pila Grille literally translates to “let’s play music,” and we were blessed to be given the restaurant name by legendary slack key master Cyril Pahinui. We present live Hawaiian music from some of the most iconic local musicians every night. And, of course, the food and drinks are legendary as well.

AL: What did executive chef Dean Kamiya prepare for us to try?

SD: Ahi & Avocado Poke ($21) with ogo, green onions, avocado, Maui onions, sesame oil, soy sauce and taro chips, drizzled with Sriracha mayonnaise. (You can make it a poke bowl with steamed rice.)

Pineapple Crème Brûlée ($13)

Fresh Catch Tacos ($20), featuring pan-seared catch of the day, Asian slaw, sour cream, chipotle aioli, lomi lomi tomatoes and jalapeños.

The Local Boy Burger ($20) has a locally grown beef patty, cheddar cheese, Portuguese sausage, smoked bacon, grilled pineapple, caramelized Maui onions, guacamole and teriyaki sauce.

For dessert, the Pineapple Crème Brûlée ($13) has caramelized pineapple, vanilla custard, burnt sugar and fresh strawberries.

We also wanted to prepare Kani Ka Pila Grille’s signature beverage, the Coral Reef (contact for cost), featuring Ocean Organic Vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Paina Guava and sour mix. This cocktail is named after Outrigger’s ocean + coral reef conservation initiative, OZONE. To learn more, visit outrigger. com/ozone.

AL: Can you describe the experience at Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort now that the remodel is complete?

SD: We are pleased with the nearly completed renovation, and feel we’ve created the most authentic yet contemporary Hawaiian beach resort in all of Waikiki. We’ve always been known for our unparalleled local hospitality and commitment to culture, and now we have a beautiful resort for kamaaina and guests from around the world to enjoy. From the original Herb Kane artwork we’ve lovingly restored, to the newly installed Kamea Hadar large-scale mural, we’ve completely reimagined all of the guest touch points throughout the property with incredible Hawaiian storytelling around every corner.

2169 Kālia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best