Top of Waikīkī Takes Local Fare on a Tasty Spin

Executive chef Lance Kosaka is bringing back the classics—with a twist—to the only revolving restaurant in Hawai‘i.


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New to the menu at the top of Waikīkī are these KOREAN TACOS FILLED WITH KALBI-MARINATED BEEF AND PICKLED VEGGIES.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox

 

Move over, fish tacos.

 

The Top of Waikīkī has launched a new menu that replaces the usual Waikīkī fare with the comforts of local flavors.

 

“These are dishes we felt like we wanted to add to the menu,” says executive chef Lance Kosaka at a media preview yesterday. “Something familiar but different.”

 

Kosaka, who took over the helm here three years ago, has infused the menu with touches from his Pineapple Room past that highlight local flavors, sourced from local farms, ranches and dairies.

 

Executive chef Lance Kosaka, a 17-year veteran of Alan Wong’s Restaurants, has been at the helm here for the last three years. He’s infused local flavors and ingredients into the menu, which has helped lure locals back to the revolving restaurant.

 

He says he’s seen more locals dine here, enjoying the 360-degree view of Honolulu, from Punchbowl to Diamond Head. The restaurant, located on the 18th floor of the Waikīkī Business Plaza, makes just one complete rotation every hour—good news for anyone who suffers from motion sickness—and offers a happy hour menu, a prix fixe menu at sunset, and a fun assortment of craft cocktails by mixologist Jennifer Ackrill. (The restaurant won top honors at the just-announced Hale ‘Aina Awards in the category of Best Restaurant with a View.)

 

SEE ALSO: 2017 Hale ‘Aina Award Winners: The Best Restaurants in Hawai‘i 

 

The new menu is available now through the end of the year—longer, if the dishes prove to be popular.

 

One of our favorites is the Korean tacos ($10 for three pieces), a local-style departure from the usual fish tacos you see on many Waikīkī menus. Thinly sliced bavette steak soaks in a kalbi marinade, then grilled and topped with kim chee and pickled vegetables on a tortilla. This appetizer, on the restaurant’s happy-hour menu, gets the flavors right and makes for a tasty pau hana treat with a pint of Kona Longboard.

 

Kosaka plays with the classic crab rangoons ($12) filled with bacon and local goat cheese and served with a five-spice dipping sauce. He also changes up the traditional veal Oscar with pan-roasted beef tenderloin topped with a butter-poached merus cut of king crab legs ($65). It comes with asparagus and roasted red bliss potatoes dressed in veal jus and bearnaise sauce.

 

Filled with bacon and local goat cheese, these deep-fried rangoons are paired with an interesting five-spice dipping sauce.

 

The Filet Oscar features pan-roasted beef tenderloin topped with butter-poached crab legs and topped with veal jus and bearnaise sauce.

 

Another playful dish is the porchetta ($28), a play on the Filipino dish lechon kawali with tomatoes and onions. Lechon kawali is very similar to Chinese roast pork; pork belly is boiled and deep-fried until the outside is salty and extra crispy and the inside is moist and fatty. This dish has all of that, plus a mung bean risotto that Kosaka says blends Italian and Filipino cuisines.

 

His homage to classic local fare is evident in the Hawaiian Style “Huli Huli” Chicken ($34). A half Jidori chicken is glazed in a sweet, local-style barbecue sauce, then grilled and paired with a warm potato salad and veggies. He even managed to “local-fy” foie gras with an appetizer that combines a decadent duck liver mousse on a toasted, house-made brioche dotted with—what else—guava jelly ($16). The combination is fresh and addictive.

 

The Filipino-inspired, slow-roasted porchetta is served with a mung bean risotto and a tomato-and-onion relish.

 

The local-style barbecue sauce topping this Jidori chicken is sticky and sweet. The warm potato salad—in lieu of a mayo-laden mac salad—is a great companion to this elevated plate-lunch dish.

 

The foie gras mousse with guava jelly on a toasted house-made brioche is Kosaka’s take on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

 

He’s added a panzanella salad ($16) with fresh burrata cheese and house-made croutons, locally grown tomatoes and arugula and a pomegranate vinaigrette; and a vegetarian-friendly gnocchi with fresh veggies ($27) that’s finished with a green garlic butter and Parmesan cheese.

 

For dessert, Heather Bryan, formerly of Vintage Cave and Nobu Waikīkī, elevates everyday favorites. Her pineapple shave ice ($9) is a refreshing combination of super-fine, pineapple-flavored shave ice with a scoop of coconut sorbet, vanilla bean tapioca, strawberry syrup and sweetened condensed milk. Her house-made doughnuts ($10) are as tasty as they are fun. Fried yeast doughnuts are filled with liliko‘i curd and served with strawberry ice cream.

 

The house-made gnocchi—perfect for vegetarians—comes with seasonal veggies and dressed with green garlic butter and Parmesan cheese.

 

A fresh take on shave ice, this dessert has coconut sorbet, vanilla bean tapioca, strawberry syrup, sweetened condensed milk and fresh fruits.

 

How fun are these deep-fried yeast doughnuts filled with liliko‘i curd and served with strawberry ice cream?

 

This new menu really makes dining in Waikīkī fun again.

 

Top of Waikīkī, 2270 Kalākaua Ave., 923-3877, topofwaikiki.com

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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