We just can’t get enough of each other.
The four of us who traveled to Greece a couple of weeks ago planned to meet up with another friend, Dara Lum, who just started a new job as communications director at the posh Hakeulani.
And, of course, we had to eat.
So we decided to check out a new art exhibit at the Waikiki Parc, a swanky boutique hotel on Helumoa Road across the street from the beach.
For the past year and a half, the hotel has partnered with the University of Hawaii at Manoa to transform what used to be a bare walkway through the hotel into a quaint gallery space to showcase student and alumni work. (It’s called the Parc Promenade.)
For the next three months — the art changes that often! — the works of Nathan J.H. Ditzler of Kailua (above), who graduated from UH and is now a graduate student at West Virginia University, will be on display (and for sale). This is his first solo show.
His sculptures show a tension between the natural and the constructed — and with a clear sense of humor. I mean, just look at the ones above!
My favorite — and Ditzler’s, too — is “Shaka Mudra” (above), constructed from stoneware and metallic glaze. “It lends itself to art history but has this subversive element,” he explained. “I have to think this historical figure would have had a sense of humor.”
I love this open-air restaurant for a lot of reasons, namely the view and the live music. It’s that classic Waikiki scene visitors romanticize about: the sun setting behind a trio of Hawaiian musicians with a former Miss Hawaii gracefully dancing under a century-old kiawe tree as you sip on your Mai Tai. How does it get better?
The view from our table was perfect.
We started with drinks — of course — and I had to sample the restaurant’s famous Mai Tai. Such a classic — and perfectly crafted.
But once the sun dropped behind the Pacific Ocean, we headed to Orchid’s, the hotel’s signature restaurant. Best known for its Sunday brunch, Orchid’s has a stellar dinner menu, too, that’s definitely worth checking out.
We started with the lobster bisque, a decadent soup starter that’s a must-not-miss.
Next, we sampled the grilled Romaine salad, the greens slightly charred and warm. It was nicely paired with feta cheese, cucumbers, onions and a lemon-oregano dressing. But it was the tomato chutney that was out-of-this-world. I could eat that with just bread and be happy.
The server recommended this tuna and foie gras croquette, with a tomatillo salsa and green apple-frisée salad.
A standout appetizer is the seared scallops with cauliflower mousseline — like a Hollandaise sauce — with caviar and gribiche cream. The scallops were buttery delicious.
Another popular dish — and rightly so — is the olive oil-poached salmon paired with Big Island goat cheese and pistachios and roasted beetroot. This was so unexplainable delicious — must have been the olive oil poaching prep — that two of my girlfriends who don’t care much for salmon absolutely loved this. That says a lot!
Easily the most popular dish here — actually, it could be its signature — is the steamed onaga (long-tailed red snapper), done Chinese-style. It comes with shiitake mushrooms and green onions, sizzled with sesame oil and shoyu. Melt-in-your-mouth perfect.
Here’s the ravioli using Kahuku shrimp and asparagus from Waialua and topped with a lemon verbena butter.
My girlfriend and I split the beef ribeye and tenderloin (shown), which came with root veggies and mustard cream. The tenderloin, as expected, was lean and a bit dryer than the fatty ribeye, which exceeded expectations. I will think about that ribeye for awhile.
For dessert, we tried the organic chocolate plate with a rich chocolate cream paired with roasted apple bananas and organic white honey. Interesting, for sure.
I ordered the ice cream sampler, all made in-house. You can pick from vanilla, nougat, Kona coffee, coconut and chocolate.
But the star of the dinner is Halekulani’s signature coconut cake, a slice of heaven, really. This chiffon cake features coconut-amaretto cream, whipped cream and shredded coconut. And if you don’t like coconut, don’t worry. Most of us weren’t coconut fans — but we gobbled this up in no time. There’s a reason why this cake is legendary. It’s THAT good.