From Décor to Dining, Hōkū’s is Reborn

The signature restaurant at The Kāhala Hotel & Resort is renovated, reinvigorated and ready for service.


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Chef de cuisine Eric Oto refreshed the menu at Hōkū’s after major renovations to the signature restaurant at The Kāhala Hotel & Resort. The project took seven weeks and the restaurant has recently opened with a new look, new menu and a whole new vibe.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox

 

Really, the only thing that remains from the old Hōkū’s after a $2 million renovation that wrapped up in April is the view.

 

Everything else—the fixtures, furniture, floors, moldings, the entire kitchen, even the front door—is different. More modern and inviting, sleeker and chicer. Glittering light orbs hang from the ceiling, symbolizing stars. (The restaurant’s name means star in Hawaiian.) The dining room seats fewer people—75 compared to 100 prerenovation—giving the space more breathing room. The warm tones with dark woods, earthy upholstery and coconut shells fitted like tile into the walls and front door make the restaurant feel welcoming and approachable.

 

New table décor at the restaurant, which now seats 75 instead of 100.

 

The $2 million renovation added bronze marble inlay, custom-made light orbs that resemble the stars, and booths with curved partitions reminiscent of waves.

 

Coconut shells are embedded into the walls and front entryway of the restaurant.

 

The menu has been refreshed, too. Chef de cuisine Eric Oto, who joined the kitchen in August 2017, added personal recipes to the menu, including a crispy moi dish that’s served with a lemongrass-soy vinaigrette inspired by his dad, a fisherman and farmer.

 

SEE ALSO: New Chef, New Menu, New Flavors at Hōkū’s

 

Oto designed the menu based around four themes: ka lawai‘a (fisherman), ka holo kahiki (voyager), ka kilo hōkū (steersman) and ka mahi’ai (farmer). Each category features a mix of new and classic menu items.

 

The first category—fisherman—is comprised of dishes from the sea, including the popular fried ʻahi poke musubi (yes, it’s still on the menu) and a new Kona kompachi crudo with aji amarillo, spicy pineapple, sliced red jalapeño peppers and crispy garlic ($17).

 

The second category—voyager—is where Oto says the staff can have fun. These are dishes inspired by global flavors and ingredients. “It’s our playground,” he explains. “I didn’t want to limit myself or the team, to have just one style of food. I wanted [the menu] to be more global. It allows us to explore.” Examples include a Sichuan oxtail ragu tagliatelle with pickled red onion ($34) and a charred spiced octopus prepared with a classic French soubise with locally grown ʻōlena (turmeric) and Peruvian potatoes inspired by the traditional Peruvian dish lomo saltado.

 

New to the menu is this spicy Kona kampachi crudo with aji amarillo and crispy garlic.

 

The beautifully plated charred spiced octopus is inspired by the Peruvian dish lomo saltado.

 

The third category—farmer—showcases the bounty grown on Hawai‘i farms in home-style entrées with a modern twist. There’s the duo of chèvre from Surfing Goat Dairy on Maui with roasted beets and avocado mousse ($17) and a Hawaiian salt- and herb-crusted Colorado rack of lamb with a tasty piquillo pepper hummus (with a hint of ‘ulu), roasted eggplant, heirloom tomatoes and a pomegranate-mint gastrique infused with lamb jus ($68).

 

The final category—steersman—features Oto’s personal favorites, inspired by his Island upbringing. “There’s a story behind each dish,” he says. He remembers catching his first moi at Bellows Field Beach Park in Waimānalo when he was 8 years old. “I was so excited to show my dad,” he recalls with a smile. “I was the proudest kid ever.” The fried fish fillets are served with long beans, Hāmākua aliʻi mushrooms and a mixed rice infused with dried scallops and nameko mushrooms.

 

The crispy moi features a lemongrass-soy vinaigrette inspired by a recipe from Oto’s dad.

 

The piquillo pepper hummus, with a hint of ‘ulu, is a perfect match to the salt- and herb-crusted lamb rack.

 

Hōkū’s dinner service features new breads, too, all baked in house and exclusive to the restaurant. There’s a semolina roll prepared similar to a croissant—a laminated dough that’s layered with butter and rolled and folded to create a crispy, flaky texture. The kitchen also bakes a whole-wheat sourdough that’s tangy and soft. It also serves a rice cracker that’s devoid of nuts, eggs, gluten and dairy.

 

Pastry chef Michael Moorhouse revamped his dessert menu, too, offering a new Hawaiian dark chocolate crémeux with crisp macadamia nuts, a light white chocolate mousse and a creamy tangerine sorbet ($14). I need to come back and try the jasmine rice-scented panna cotta with strawberries and basil crème ($14) and the Big Island goat cheesecake with lilikoʻi, coconut sable and raspberries ($14).

 

Every three or four months, many of the dishes will change, Oto says. The restaurant’s Sunday brunch is also being upgraded.

 

The renovation at Hōkū’s is part of a propertywide refresh, which included upgrades to The Veranda, which serves afternoon tea daily.

 

SEE ALSO: The Veranda Afternoon Tea Serves as Respite During Hotel Renovations

 

5000 Kāhala Ave., (808) 739-8760, kahalaresort.com

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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