ABC Stores Serving Wagyu Steak and Craft Cocktails? Yes!
The Hawai‘i-based chain is venturing into upscale dining with Basalt, which opened this week in Waikīkī.
Basalt, an upscale restaurant anchoring the new Dukes Lane Market & Eatery, opened Wednesday at the Hyatt Centric Waikīkī Beach.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
On the corner of Seaside and Kūhiō avenues, Dukes Lane Market & Eatery looks more like a local-style Eataly—not a fancy food court run by the Hawai‘i-based convenience-store chain ABC Stores.
But that’s exactly what it is.
The chain, best known for its army of stores that blanket resort areas selling straw mats, sunscreen, Hawai‘i tchotchke and Spam musubi, has opened a sprawling, 13,000-square-foot food hall with a gourmet bakery, raw seafood bar, burger grill and the 150-seat restaurant Basalt. Dukes Lane opened in the bottom floor of the new Hyatt Centric Waikīkī Beach on Wednesday.
Named after the bedrock of Hawai‘i, Basalt is the signature restaurant in the new food hall, which also features a gourmet bakery, burger grill and an upgraded market Store that sells gourmet cheeses and cured meats.
This is the first foray into fine dining for the chain, and the restaurant, named after the bedrock of the Islands, is helmed by Kalihi-born chef Kelly Degala, who returned home from Seattle to open this new concept and anchor restaurant. (He has worked with chefs Charles Phan of Slanted Door fame and Seattle star Tom Douglas.) We got a preview of the restaurant last week before it officially opened on Wednesday.
Basalt is unexpected. The dining area is split between an indoor space surrounded by the other shops in the food hall and an outdoor seating area flanking the narrow, one-way Duke’s Lane. The split space gives the restaurant a spacious yet intimate feel, despite accommodating up to 150 diners.
Degala crafted a menu that focused on two things: freshness and flavors. He sources as much as he can locally, from Kualoa Ranch oysters on the half-shell ($22 for six, $44 for a dozen) to the smoked, 10-ounce rib-eye steak from Makaweli Ranch ($29). All the pasta, bread, ice cream and sorbet are made in-house, and most of the veggies are locally grown.
“Freshness is very important,” Degala says. “When you use great ingredients, you don’t have to do too much to them.”
Last week Friday—the night we dined there—was reserved for family, friends, vendors and other guests including chef Alan Wong and Nalo Farms’ Dean Okimoto. Every seat in the restaurant and at the bar was filled, and the servers were scrambling to take orders, refill water glasses and explain a menu that was brand-new to them. I wasn’t entirely surprised that service was clunky, with only some tables (unfortunately not ours) receiving complimentary crackers to nosh on, or that the starters we ordered didn’t arrive until after our entrées. It’s a new restaurant, we get it.
Thankfully, we were able to sip on delicious craft cocktails while we waited. The Dukes Lane Basil Refresher ($12) lived up to its name: Sauza Blue tequila punctuated with muddled Thai basil, lemongrass and lime. Super fresh and tasty. I enjoyed the Kula Strawberry Liliko‘i Daiquiri ($10) made with Cruzan Rum and lilikoʻi purée, Kula strawberry syrup and lime served over crushed ice. It’s a quintessential summer drink. (Maybe the bar can source Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum in the future?)
The drink menu also includes a guava Pisco Sour ($11), a barrel-aged Negroni ($14) using Maui's Fid Street gin, a classic Old-Fashioned ($13), and a slew of local and craft beers. (Mocktails, Ono Pops sodas, and local teas and coffees are also available.)
Unfortunately, on the night of our demo dinner, the restaurant ran out of the Hudson Valley foie gras starter, served with brioche points and a mango-chili jam ($19). Instead, we tried the duck confit ($15), an enormous portion of juicy duck served with charcoal-infused, steamed bao and a side of plum sauce. The black buns provided an interesting color contrast and this dish was our favorite of the night.
The duck confit starter is the size of an entrée. The duck is served with charcoal-infused bao, which creates an interesting color contrast on the plate.
The summer rolls had the unexpected addition of local pork belly—the restaurant uses pork from 2 Lady Farmers in Wai‘anae—and prawns, mixed with daikon, carrots, cilantro, Romaine lettuce and mint. And the red and yellow beets ($14) are a Degala favorite. The beets are braised in a herbaceous bath before they’re peeled, tossed into a Spanish sherry vinaigrette and finished with baby arugula, local goat cheese and fresh shallots. “It’s so simple, but so good,” says Degala, who hated beets until moving to the Mainland. (He only ate beets out of a can.) “I could eat [this dish] every day.”
The raw-bar menu features an assortment of fresh seafood dishes, including ‘ahi sashimi with a watermelon coulis and soy-jalapeño sauce ($17), and charred tako dressed in tomato water, lemon basil and fried shallots ($18). We enjoyed the fresh, bold flavors of beautifully plated kampachi tiradito (a spicy Peruvian raw-fish dish similar to crudo) with Big Island yellowtail, topped with crispy garlic, fish sauce and Sriracha.
The Big Island kampachi tiradito is beautifully plated and garnished with local micro cilantro.
For dinner, we skipped the A-5 wagyu New York strip loin ($75) in favor of the Makaweli Ranch rib-eye, smoked with guava wood and served atop creamed corn. In highsight, we should have gone with the pricier, fattier, more flavorful cut of beef.
We ordered the kasu-marinated Alaskan black cod—think of this as miso butterfish—served with onigiri, savoy spinach and a soy-mirin glaze ($17). While perfectly cooked, it lacked the bold flavor of other dishes. Next time, we'd opt for either the uni with house-made charcoal linguine and caviar ($22) or the butter-poached Kona cold lobster with a mascarpone risotto ($45).
The Makaweli Ranch rib-eye is smoked with guava wood and served with creamed corn.
The kasu-marinated Alaskan black cod is served with onigiri, savoy spinach and a soy-mirin glaze.
Executive pastry chef Mayumi Yamamoto created a simple dessert menu with four singular dishes and a few frozen treats, including frozen custards and sorbets. The pot de crème ($9) featured a creamy blend of 100-percent Kona coffee-infused custard and República del Cacao milk chocolate with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and chocolate-covered espresso beans.
The Okinawan sweet potato dessert ($9) paired a savory sweet-potato mousse with a crunchy candied macadamia nut brittle (that was more like a cookie), mascarpone ice cream and a goat-cheese caramel sauce. We felt this dessert was more savory than sweet—and we really wanted sweet.
The bright purple Okinawan sweet potato mousse pops on this plate.
The pot de crème blends Kona coffee-infused custard and República del Cacao milk chocolate.
Degala is fully aware that the restaurant needs some time. He also oversees the other kitchens at Dukes, including the burger grill and bakery, and the market, which is an upscale version of an ABC Store, selling gourmet cheeses, cured meats and fine wines. He’s had to deal with construction delays, staffing shortages and equipment problems.
And, on that Friday, he celebrated his 58th birthday, while overseeing this massive debut.
“This is a pretty extensive [project], honestly,” he says. “Trust me, I’ve been a busy man since I got here ... It’s a beast.”
Basalt, Dukes Lane Market & Eatery, 2255 Kūhiō Ave., (808) 923-5689, dukeslanehawaii.com