Monday, March 3, 2014

Hau Tree Lanai: Pacific Rim Cuisine in Waikiki

A spectacular Hawaiian hau tree shades the stone porch of this popular Pacific Rim beachfront restaurant, The Hau Tree Lanai, one of the most romantic dining spots in Honolulu, especially at night. Nestled at the base of Diamond Head along Kaimana beach at the end of Waikiki, the Hau Tree is the perfect place to enjoy the sunset from one of the restaurant's coveted beachside tables. And it was under the historic hau tree at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, where author Robert Louis Stevenson lounged and once wrote, that we were fortunate enough to enjoy our dinner, and sample some of Chef Rene Caba's delicious Pacific Rim creations, all made with fresh local ingredients. A graduate of the Kapiolani Culinary Arts Program, Chef Caba recommended his Sampler Trio — "a great appetizer with lobster, petite ahi tartare, and seared scallops" — and I followed his suggestion, but not before starting with some island cocktails: a Hau Tree Mai Tai and Blue Hawaiian, just to get into the aloha spirit.

The perfect beachside table for two at the Hau Tree at the Otani, 
a lovely culinary gift from my aunt and cousin for my husband and I this past Christmas

Nestled right under the famous Hau tree itself!

A family of tiki lights frame the outdoor lanai, creating a romantic and exotic ambiance

The extensive menu features a wonderful selection of Hawaiian specialties

The Hau Tree Wine list

An island specialty — the 'Blue Hawaii' cocktail, features rum, vodka, blue curaçao, pineapple juice and sweet and sour mix

A basket of delicious warm dinner rolls

A glass of Italian Pinot Grigio

Chef's Ocean Trio Seafood appetizer with Seared Scallop with Pernod, Salmon-Ahi Tartare and poached Lobster with Avocado Relish

Salmon-Ahi Tuna Tartare and Poached Lobster

Portuguese Bean Soup

The island-inspired menu features an extensive selection of Fish & Seafood entrées including six fresh catch of the day including Opakapaka, Mahimahi, Ahi, Onaga, Opah and Ono, as well as a Seafood Mixed Grill with Grilled Lobster, Jumbo Shrimp, Scallop & Fresh Island Fish, Miso Sake Salmon, Seared Scallops and Scampi Provencal. There's also a selection of appetizing entrées from the grill, such as Harris Ranch Black Angus Filet Mignon, Colorado Lamb Chops, Hawaiian Pan-Seared Pork Chops and Hawaiian Grilled Chicken. We decided to select two of the highlights from Chef Caba's menu, the Sautéed Opakapaka with lemon beurre blanc sauce and the Hawaiian Pan-Seared Pork Chops — both outstanding, and from our oceanside perch under the impressive boughs of the hau tree, the evening was as romantic as could be imagined. As we wandered back to Waikiki through Kapi‘olani Parki, a burst of fireworks suddenly exploded in the sky and serenaded us home to the Moana — a spectacular finish to a delicious evening in paradise.

Sautéed Opakapaka with lemon caper beurre blanc sauce, North Shore beans and Israeli couscous

Hawaiian Pan-Seared Pork Chops marinated in a Mango and Herb infused concoction topped with Pineapple Chutney

A spectacular show of fireworks serenade us along the shoreline in Kapi‘olani Park, 
as walk back to the Moana Surfrider after our dinner at the Hau Tree