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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Makana Lani

Restaurant Insider

June 4, 2023

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

ANNE LEE speaks with Makana Lani’s owner LIZ HATA-WATANABE and executive chef ERWIN MANZANO

One of the questions I often get asked is, “Where can I find a restaurant that offers really good food with ambience without breaking the bank?’

Coconut Crème Brûlée ($15)

Makana Lani offers just that. Located on the second floor of the Alohilani Resort, this restaurant features a wide variety of dining options with locally sourced ingredients from area farmers, including a weekly breakfast buffet, a weekend buffet for brunch and dinner, and an unbelievable a la carte menu.

Chef’s Caramel Cream Flan ($16)

This is all made possible with owner Liz Hata-Watanabe’s vision and executive chef Erwin Manzano’s culinary direction. With more than 50 years of restaurant experience combined, this duo offers an incredible dining experience created to welcome visitors and to bring kamaaina back to Waikiki. With a 15% off kamaaina discount and free three-hour validated parking, there’s countless reasons to try Makana Lani.

Key Lime Pie ($13)

AL: Liz, can you tell me how you came up with this concept?

LHW: I wanted to have a restaurant that offers amazing food priced affordably, with the local kamaaina in mind. This location made sense, then when chef Erwin said he would come on board, we had like two weeks to create the menu — but he did it, he’s that good.

Ube Cheesecake ($14)

For us to invest in local resources for a buffet, it’s costly, but we wanted to make sure that we offer the best food out there.

AL: Can you tell me which a la carte dishes we are going to try?

EM: I wanted you to try some of my signature items from our a la carte dinner menu, and a few items from our breakfast a la carte menu.

Miso Butterfish ($42)

To start, this was something Liz wanted to do, the Makana Lani three-inch Hawaiian French Toast ($17) — it’s very unique, stuffed with our special whipped cream cheese and bananas, served with bruléed banana and fresh berries. Its breaded with corn flakes, so you have a crunch to it. I wanted to create a different type of loco moco with our Mile High Loco Moco ($22) made with my homemade kalua pig. You can order it with whatever kind of egg you desire, and then we put a little bit of crispy onion on top. You can also order a vegetarian option.

Portobello Mushroom Napoleon ($35)

Working at steakhouses, I like to make sure we have some great meat options on the menu. We have a 40-ounce Tomahawk ($125). This was a specialty item, but our guests kept asking for it.

40-ounce Beef Tomahawk (serves two) ($125)

One of our appetizers is the colossal Shrimp Cocktail ($24) — it’s three huge pieces of shrimp with house made cocktail sauce. Then, we have the Baked Escargot ($24) coming from a steakhouse experience. It’s butter, garlic, herbs and some blue cheese, and is served with crostini to dip into all the goodies and melted butter. Our Miso Butterfish ($42) is one of our popular items. It’s served on a bed of baby bok choy, glazed with shoyu shiitake mushroom and then garnished with onion, red bell pepper and roasted sesame seed.

Mile High Loco Moco ($22)

My signature Portobello Mushroom Napoleon ($35) is an eye-catching vegetarian dish. It’s a stack of grilled vegetables, including portobello mushrooms, yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers and carrots that are topped with a roasted red bell pepper sauce.

Colossal Shrimp Cocktail ($24)

We can’t forget the famous desserts — everything’s made from scratch, no frozen stuff here. We have the Coconut Crème Brûlée ($15), Chef’s Caramel Cream Flan ($16), Key Lime Pie ($13) and, my specialty, Ube Cheesecake ($14). It’s not on the menu, but guests that know me ask for it.

Baked Escargot ($24)

AL: Liz, Makana Lai will be celebrating one year on Aug. 4. Will you be doing anything special?

Hawaiian Stuffed French Toast ($17)

LHW: Yes, most definitely. I’m going to have a few nights with all proceeds going to a local charity, and we will do a celebration for the public.

I feel that food is something that brings so many people together. We’re such a melting pot — and we want to represent chef’s culture, my culture and all the cultures that mesh here in Waikiki. The dining focus will be “around the world” and each station will represent a traditional dish that represents a different place in the world. This is still in the planning stages, but the theme will be a culinary journey around the world. Please check our website for more details.

2490 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best