This Waikīkī Restaurant Might Be the Next Bourbon Destination for Locals
The Marriott’s revamped Kūhiō Beach Grill may draw more locals.
‘Ahi poke “musubi”
Photos: James Charisma
The Kūhiō Beach Grill is a (somewhat) new restaurant specializing in buffets, small plates and a quality bourbon experience, with a second-floor view overlooking Waikīkī Beach. We say somewhat new because it’s been open to the public for several months, but the final bits, including all the custom furniture and wood trim décor, took a while to arrive in Hawai‘i. Like the fine whiskeys offered at its marble bar, the place has taken time to fully develop.
“We had been working on it for a while, to have this signature restaurant here,” says Chris Tatum, vice president of Marriott International and area manager for Marriott in Hawai‘i. “The space has a great environment with high ceilings, no pillars and a great view. It’s ideal and everything you’d want in a restaurant.”
In 2014, the Kūhiō Beach Grill was the Lē‘ahi Ballroom, an infrequently used 4,400-square-foot event space that doubled as the hotel’s buffet and breakfast spot for guests. It was a tucked-away piece of the past—the layout and structure had been left relatively the same from when the hotel opened in 1971.
The Pink Guava Fizz
All that changed as part of a $22 million, two-year renovation to the Waikīkī Marriott. In addition to completely redesigning its main lobby and meeting room, the hotel built new ballrooms, moved the line kitchen upstairs, redirected gas lines and electricity and removed thick curtains over the windows that had blocked the view. “It gave us an opportunity to have a clean, open restaurant that overlooked Waikīkī Beach. You just can’t beat that,” Tatum says.
The Kūhiō Beach Grill had a soft opening in September, at which staff members introduced the refurbished space as well as the new menu of à la carte entrées under the direction of executive sous chef Dion Danao. Items include hapa paella, with Kaua‘i shrimp, fresh clams, chicken breast and Portuguese sausage; ‘ahi poke “musubi,” featuring poke on a neat mound of matcha rice, with unagi glaze, Sriracha mayo and sprinkles of arare; and the Marriott’s signature slow-roasted prime rib.
The hapa paella
There’s still a buffet for breakfast and dinner, but these new dishes are meant as a small-plate sharing experience.
“When you think of Hawai‘i historically, people think of Mai Tais and piña coladas, which we still have available at the Moana Terrace up on the pool level,” Tatum says. “Kūhiō Beach Grill is relaxing but you wouldn’t necessarily come in with a swimsuit and slippers. When you sit here, you can have a nice quality bourbon or whiskey—or Guinness on tap, which I’m a fan of—and have some good conversations with people.”
New cocktails include the Pink Guava Fizz with Aviation gin, guava liqueur, cranberry and soda, Mr. Lava Lava with Svedka colada vodka, Kula strawberry, pineapple, coconut water and mint and “Your Very Own” Old Fashioned, made with Knob Creek bourbon, simple syrup and your choice of orange, cherry, walnut, Angostura, Fee Brothers or Peychaud bitters.
Mr. Lava Lava
The Kūhiō Beach Grill also prides itself on its selection of more than 40 varieties of whiskey, including small-batch bottles and 15 bourbons. Inspired by whiskey bars in Chinatown, Tatum realized there weren’t any comparable bourbon destinations in Waikīkī.
“This is the relaxing end of Waikīkī,” says Tatum. “You’ve got the zoo, the aquarium, we’re right next to Kūhiō Beach and it’s easy for locals to get in and out through Kapahulu.”
2552 Kalākaua Ave., 921-5171, marriott.com