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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: House Without a Key

Restaurant Insider

January 28, 2024

Story By: Anne Lee |

Up Country Rib Eye Steak $56

When I’m asked where to take guests for a memorable experience, I often think of House Without A Key at Halekulani. The restaurant features beautiful ocean views in an outdoor setting, delicious cocktails and award-winning cuisine. Plus, magical stories and events have taken place here.

The signature mai tai and hand-crafted cocktails pair nicely with the food prepared by House Without A Key’s chef de cuisine, Jarrin Otake, who uses locally produced ingredients to make his delicious dishes.

Indulge in everything from shrimp to crab cakes at House Without A Key.

AL: How long have you been in the restaurant industry?

JO: I started my culinary journey 30 years ago when I attended Kapiolani Community College’s culinary arts program while simultaneously working under local influential chefs such as Sam Choy, Elmer Guzman, Michael Longworth, Tom B.H. Wong and Guido Ulmann.

AL: There is a new menu rolling out. Can you tell me about it?

JO: We are excited to roll out new items on our menu such as our various pizzas made in our brick oven that use fresh ingredients such as the Arugula & Prosciutto pizza, Vegetarian pizza and my personal favorite, The Melted Memories pizza, which includes four different types of cheese — mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan and blue cheese — and is drizzled with Big Island honey. Pizzas range between $26 and $30.

Indulge in everything from shrimp to crab cakes at House Without A Key.

AL: What is your inspiration for these dishes?

JO: My personal style would be more Hawaii Regional Cuisine. I like to help promote and use fresh, local ingredients, and being able to work with local farmers, ranchers and businesses.

Indulge in everything from shrimp to crab cakes at House Without A Key.

AL: This restaurant has quite a history here in Hawaii. What can you share?

JO: American novelist Earl Derr Biggers wrote House Without a Key in 1919 while vacationing in Hawaii where the modern-day Halekulani and the namesake restaurant, House Without A Key, is located. In the novel, he launched the internationally acclaimed Chinese detective Charlie Chan, inspired by real-life police detective Chang Apana.

Over the years, the venue has become an internationally renowned gathering spot with the backdrop of a 100-plus-year-old kiawe tree and nightly Hawaiian music and hula. It is still considered the ultimate place to experience sunset cocktails with Halekulani’s signature mai tais and other delectable favorites.

The iconic poolside restaurant offers all-day dining featuring local-style comfort food from various cultures — just like Hawaii itself, with its diversity of ethnicities and experiences.

Halekulani recently added Earl’s Pool Bar (named after Earl Derr Biggers himself), offering extraordinary cocktails by the sea, reminiscent of Hawaii’s golden age of travel.

For Ernest Hemingway fans, be sure to reserve Table 97 — a table near the ocean boasting views of Diamond Head. It’s the same table the legendary author would frequent during his stays at Halekulani in the 1940s.

Indulge in everything from shrimp to crab cakes at House Without A Key.

AL: There is local entertainment nightly. Can you share the lineup?

JO: We feature nightly Hawaiian entertainment. The Hawaiian music is 5-8 p.m. with a hula dancer performing from 6 to 8 p.m. We have now extended our hours to include a solo artist who performs from 8:15 to 10 p.m.

The musicians change nightly, so refer to our website for the most current entertainment roster (halekluani.com/hotel/events-calendar).

AL: There are beautiful cocktails on the menu. What is the most popular drink?

JO: Our Mai Tais (contact for price) are always a hit but please come down and try some of our new cocktails. The Yellow Umbrella (contact for price) — made with tequila, mezcal, lilikoi juice and coconut matcha syrup — is nice as well as the Earl’s Daiquiri (contact for price) — with rum, lime, yuzu and salted demerara syrup — which is a new favorite.

Photos courtesy Halekulani

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