Hoku’s New Menu and Chef de Cuisine Are Full of Surprises

The Kāhala Hotel and Resort’s Asian-Mediterranean-Hawaiian fusion restaurant begins a new era with an innovative chef and a totally revamped menu.
Kaffir lime ginger cheesecake at Hoku’s.
Photo: Courtesy of The Kāhala Hotel and Resort


When Hoku’s unveiled a new menu this month, designed by recently appointed chef de cuisine Hiroshi Inoue, it seemed a bold move. In its 19-year history, Hoku’s has tweaked its offerings, adding or removing dishes, but never completely refreshed the menu as a whole. Now is as good a time as ever, with Inoue’s knack for creativity and experience from Michelin-starred and fine dining restaurants all over the world inspiring his vision and pulling in a new crowd of diners.


Chef de cuisine Hiroshi Inoue prepares a “Splendido Tree.”


At a recent media preview of the menu, we were surprised to see such playful items brought before us in the Kāhala Hotel and Resort’s beachside restaurant. Even the amuse-bouche, a “Splendido Tree,” whimsically strung assorted veggies from wires over a vegetable caviar and sea urchin dip. And we couldn’t stop eating that dip. Seriously. We poured it on our bread and maybe drank a little when we ran out of veggies. It was that good.


The creativity didn’t stop there: Each dish was plated with an eye toward artful presentation, incorporating white space and playing elements off each other. This was especially true in the desserts. We loved the delicate, mousse-y cheesecake, sprayed with kaffir lime and placed atop a shortbreadlike cookie, with dots of shimmering coulis adorning the plate. And by shimmering, we mean there were flecks of edible gold in it. So fancy!


Black-pepper-and-sesame-crusted rare ‘ahi steak, sous vide guinea hen breast, hamachi shot.


But it’s not just the way dishes are presented that makes us feel Hoku’s is ready for a new generation of diners. The menu emphasizes local flavors alongside international influences, using seasonal ingredients. And the dishes are delicious. Take the black-pepper-and-sesame-crusted ‘ahi steak: The crunchy outside and rare, tender flesh, with a side of sun-dried tomato chutney and a balsamic-soy reduction, was one of the highlights of the night, along with a dish called “138°F,” a guinea hen cooked sous vide to absolute perfection. The moist, melt-in-your-mouth meat basically dissolved as soon as it hit our tongues. Our favorite, though, was the “Hamachi Shot,” with avocado, ginger, micro greens, ponzu vinaigrette and a not-so-secret ingredient to kick it up: truffle oil. Try it with the Sohomare junmai sake from Tochigi. There is also a Kurobuta pork and mushroom risotto, grilled bison rib eye and grilled A5 Miyazaki Wagyu strip loin available.


While the menu might appeal to a new crowd, fans of Hoku’s can still order three classics the chefs just couldn’t part with: the ‘ahi musubi, the seafood tower and the special Hoku’s-style presentation of fresh fish cooked whole and served with vegetables atop jasmine rice. But don’t be surprised if the new items soon become classics, too.


Hoku’s at The Kāhala Hotel and Resort, open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30 to 10 p.m., and brunch every Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 739-8760


Join us for Cirque du Cuisine! Dine on circus-inspired dishes from 13 award-winning restaurants under the stars in Waikīkī at the 2016 Hale ‘Aina Awards Celebration. Get your tickets to the event now.