Dining: Alternative Lanai
There's luxury hotel dining on Lanai, but fortunately that's not all.
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Here are some things John Heckathorn had to say in past months. Visit our Dining page to read more reviews!
• BeachhouseMoana Surfrider, 2365 Kalakaua Ave., 921-4600
“The [Beachhouse] dining room is calm, beautiful, comfortable, one of the best in the entire state,” notes John Heckathorn. He suggests starting off with the seafood tower, complete with lobster tail, king crab legs, king prawns, oysters, ahi sashimi, as well as baby abalone and hamachi at the surf and turf eatery. For steaks, Heckathorn recommends the American Angus beef, “reasonably tender, [with] a rich, classic steak flavor … a little al dente.”
Reviewed in our March 2008 issue.
Lanai City sits at 1,700 feet above sea level, and this is just the sort of stick-to-the-ribs dish that a chill in the air demands.
However, if it sounds too much for you, Davis does something else interesting with the shanks. He pulls the pork, adds a little pork belly, chili and cheese, and makes the whole thing into wontons as an appetizer, with a dipping sauce made of sweet chili sauce and housemade Boursin.
Similarly, the blackened ahi with coconut soy drizzle is available as an appetizer, topping a salad and on noodles as an entrée.
Good as these things are, the appetizer not to miss is the beet carpaccio, Big Island beets slow-roasted with sea salt until they are both sweet and savory. Sliced, they are topped with arugula and warm goat cheese tied up in a crispy phyllo bundle. The plate is sprinkled with pistachios.
“This is your idea of simple?” I asked.
“It’s doable,” said Davis.
Since I was on Lanai, I couldn’t order anything but the venison. However, unlike the old days, it wasn’t Lanai venison, even though the island is full of Axis deer and Davis, a bow hunter, could provision his own walk-in.
It was a mild, farm-raised venison from Colorado, because there’s no one left on Lanai to certify locally killed deer as fit for a restaurant kitchen. “It’s a technicality,” says Davis, “but why risk getting shut down over it?”
The venison may not have had that metallic tang of the homegrown variety, but it arrived arranged over one of the most deeply flavored, nicely textured risottos I’ve ever encountered. Davis makes two duxelles of mushrooms, one chopped fine to cook the rice in, the other chunkier, which he adds later for more flavor (it contains porcinis) and biteability. He hits the finished product with truffle oil, Parmesan and a little demiglace he cooks down from bones on a back burner.
This is food. There were four of us at dinner. For one of us, comfort food meant steak, a tender Angus filet and a potato cake enriched with aged cheddar. The filet was topped with a just-off-the-burner Béarnaise that reminded us Davis could have cooked at the Four Seasons if he hadn’t been handed his own small kitchen.
I don’t know how we found the room, but we ordered all the desserts, a molten German chocolate cake, a pecan pie with a touch of peppermint and, my favorite, banana lumpia, the bananas brought in by the employees, atop vanilla ice cream and a killer almond caramel.
The wine list runs heavily to California, and probably a rich cabernet works best with the food. Appetizers run $11 to $12 and entrées from $28 to $39. Since this is Lanai, where almost everything has to be flown or barged in, the meal would be a remarkable value even if the food wasn’t this fabulous.