New Restaurants Open on Oahu
New Releases: We check out three new restaurants, two big time, one better.
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The coolest things about Ama Ama came right at the beginning and the end of the meal.
To begin, I ordered an Aulani Wave, a cocktail only a tourist would order: coconut rum, a mango-and-passion-fruit liqueur, and pineapple juice.
The menu promised that the drink came with a “Souvenir Multicolored Glow Cube.” I had no idea what a multicolored glow cube was, but, deep in my immature heart, I knew I had to have one.
You could see the drink coming across the dining room, flashing alternately blue, red and orange.
“Oh, whenever someone orders one of these, everyone in the dining room suddenly wants one,” said our waiter, Kevin. (Technically, Disney does not have waiters; Kevin was our “cast member.”)
How was the drink? Not bad, though I had insisted it be made with plain instead of coconut rum. At the bottom was a frosted plastic “ice cube” stuffed with LEDs. True to its word, Disney let me keep it, and it’s blinking redblueorange on my desk as I write this.
Flash forward to the end of the meal. Patrick Callarec, Aulani’s executive chef, wandered into the dining room. We’ve known each other for decades, most notably when he was cooking up a French storm at Chez Paul in Olowalu, perhaps the best restaurant ever in the middle of nowhere.
“You didn’t email me you were coming,” he said accusingly. Well, no. He brought us out a couple of extra desserts, hardly necessary because my wife and the girls had already ordered almost every dessert on the menu.
Still, he was a huge hit. He set down a chocolate-covered cookie sandwich shaped like Mickey Mouse, filled with cookie-and-cream mousse, with a banana milkshake on the side. Decades seem to roll backwards: The girls were suddenly 9 and 10 again. “This wasn’t on the menu,” they said.
“It’s on the keiki menu,” said Callarec. They turned and looked at me, like, How come we never got to see the kid’s menu?
Next time, they get Breakfast with Mickey.
I suppose I ought to mention what we ate between cocktails and dessert. Expensive hotel food, nothing bad, nothing that made church bells ring and fireworks go off. Safe food.
Among the appetizers: A chopped tomato salad atop a creamy burrata. A Maui onion and apple-banana soup that disoriented me at first because it was pumpkin-pie sweet. Finally, best: battered croquettes of melted Manchego cheese atop Romesco sauce, topped with strips of Serrano ham, and underscored with a rillette of kalua pig. (A rillette is similar to a pâté, and usually eaten on something like toast.) Lots of flavors in this bowl, though they remained separate flavors, not an integrated dish.
Among the entrées: A perfectly nice filet mignon with amazing potatoes, perhaps the only touch of magic. They looked like fingerling potatoes, but they were thin, hollow, crispy and salty shells. “These may be better than McDonald’s french fries,” said my oldest daughter, high praise in her book.
The grilled Keahole lobster was wonderfully presented, but entirely conventional. It was propped up on what was billed as a Korean pancake. I love Korean jun. But this one rose up as a thick, gooey, unpalatable round, serving mainly to hold the lobster higher on the plate.