2009 Hale Aina Awards
Welcome to our 25th anniversary Hale Aina Awards, Hawaii’s oldest, most prestigious dining awards. In the following pages, you’ll meet this year’s winners, as voted by the subscribers of HONOLULU Magazine.
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• Best Place to Take Visitors, Gold
• Best Bar, Bronze
Our subscribers seem to love taking out-of-town guests to Duke’s. And why not? It’s on the beach at Waikiki and devoted to Duke Kahanamoku—the father of modern surf—who even non-locals are bound to know. So, it’s fitting that Duke’s won Best Place to Take Visitors, gold, and a bronze for Best Bar.
“For many who come here it’s a sense of place,” says Keith Kong, the executive chef for seven years. “It’s in a wonderful location and a great presentation of Duke’s legacy.” Lately his diners have favored Duke’s healthier baked fish dishes, such as the new Szechwan baked salmon. Or try the Kona filet mignon brushed with a sweet chili soy glaze and sweet potato au gratin.
Alan Wong’s Restaurant
• Restaurant of the Year
• Best Service, Gold
• Best Place to Take Visitors, Finalist
• Best Dessert, Finalist
Almost as soon as Alan Wong won Restaurant of the Year for the 10th time in his 13 years of operation, he was off to Japan to help prepare the winter menu for his restaurant in Tokyo. Wong’s overseas experiences, in which he’s usually accompanied by one of his staff, result in what he calls “light-bulb moments.”
“I’m kind of a curious person and always try new things,” he says. “Being with another culture and eating with them inspires me.” Often what begins as a concept and palate memory materializes on his menu.
Wong says it’s his customers and especially his staff who keep him going. “I really appreciate and am really proud of their success stories,” he says. He notes that his restaurant is not an easy place to work, but even people new to the business have found their own ways to shine. “Wade Ueoka,” says Wong, “who’s been here 13 years, came in from Zippy’s. And Lance Kosaka, he used to be a construction worker. He’s now the executive chef of the Pineapple Room.” He also mentions Barbara Stange, the manager of the Pineapple Room, originally from Toledo, Ohio, and Michelle Karr, the pastry chef of the King Street restaurant, “Came here not knowing how to boil water,” he jokes. Wong adds that he’s still thinking of a way to celebrate this year’s win with his staff. “But we don’t do it to win an award. We do what we do to provide food, beverage and hospitality to our customers.”