Nico’s Pier 38 Sells Platters and Plates To Go—But Don’t Call It Catering
The winner of the gold Hale ‘Aina Award for Best Restaurant That Caters keeps it simple.
Photo: Courtesy of Nico’s Pier 38
“I am surprised when I got this award,” says Nico Chaize, the French-accented proprietor of his eponymous Pier 38 restaurant, fish market and, recently, a new Kailua outpost. Charming and self-deprecating is Chaize’s style, but he’s not just being modest about the phone calls pouring in since he was announced as winner of the Best Restaurant That Caters category of the Hale ‘Aina Awards. He’s a little concerned.
“We don’t do food service catering, where you go out, you have staff, maybe you serve a wedding. ... We have nothing like that,” he explains. “We don’t even deliver.”
Fans of the Nimitz Highway landmark voted with their taste buds anyway, vaulting the restaurant over silver medalist Chef Chai, bronze Poke Stop, finalists 12th Ave Grill and Highway Inn, and top write-in The Pig & the Lady. It was the first time the category was offered, reflecting a nationwide trend and generally elevated expectations about catered food.
In what was undoubtedly a Hale ‘Aina first, after the awards ceremony, “I called Chai,” says Chaize. “I said, ‘I will be a finalist.’” Humility isn’t normally a strong suit in French chefs, but that’s Chaize, who admits he’s having nightmares about callers who expect the kitchen and fish market to produce platoons of waitstaff in black-and-white outfits.
Still, you can get those sashimi platters—call 24 hours in advance—in either 12-inch or 16-inch sizes, prices varying according to market availability. “We sell poke and plate lunches,” he adds. “Sometimes people order 20 plate lunches, maybe that’s another reason,” for the votes. In addition to a market price daily plate, there’s an Aloha Friday Hawaiian Plate ($13.25), and grilled pork chops ($11), hoisin barbecue chicken ($10.25), orange-fried chicken ($10), chicken katsu ($10.50), loco moco ($11.25, mini for $7.50), beef stew ($10.25) and a combo plate ($11.25).
The hearty choices hint at the lunchtime spot’s popularity with waterfront workers. Of course, there’s plenty of fish and other options for lunch as well—Pier 38 ‘ahi specials, sandwiches, burgers, soups, and salads including crab cake, fried calamari and the famous furikake ‘ahi.
The ambitious Pier 38 dinner service takes full advantage of Chaize’s early morning foraging at the fish auction. In addition to a variety of ‘ahi treatments for pūpū and dinner (furikake pan-seared, sesame-crusted takaki, poke, fried belly and deep-fried “ribs”), there’s swordfish, steamed clams, diver scallops and more. Chaize also reaches into his national repertory for bouillabaisse and steak frites, plus a rosemary-scented prime rib on Sunday.
In other words, there’s plenty to eat for everyone. Just don’t expect it served poolside at home.
Nico’s Pier 38, 1129 N. Nimitz Highway, (808) 540-1377 main, (808) 983-1263 fish market (platters), restaurant hours Monday through Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., fish market hours Monday through Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., nicospier38.com
Nico’s Pier 38 Kailua, 970 N. Kālaheo Ave., (808) 263-3787, lunch Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., fish market 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., dinner 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday buffet brunch 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., nicospier38.com/kailuatemp/