Umi Is Vikram Garg’s Fine-Dining Tribute to the Ocean

Garg is back across the street from the Halekulani, this time with his own seafood-focused restaurant.


Foodies have been waiting for the opening of Umi by Vikram Garg, the former Halekulani executive chef’s latest independent restaurant. Garg, who spent the last several years cooking at TBD at the other end of Waikīkī, is now back across the street from the Halekulani: Umi is inside its sister property, Halepuna Waikīkī.


Garg said he chose the name because umi means ocean in Japanese and mother in Arabic, a significant definition for dishes that celebrate Hawai‘i’s surroundings. Most of the dinner menu is seafood, and you can choose from various tasting menus or order a la carte. All will change seasonally according to what is available, and while they veer away from the seafood theme, breakfast and brunch menus are also available. We previewed dishes from both at recent media events.


Umi Oysters Pc Melissa Chang

Photo: Melissa Chang


Oysters are oysters, but the four in this appetizer ($18) are prepared with cold smoke and topped with tosazu gelée, which awakens our taste buds for the meal ahead. Local diners will find comforting flavors in the scallop carpaccio ($25) served with cucumber namasu. Garg recommends you sip the dashi broth, which is brilliant—it’s almost sweet, almost sour and almost salty, creating an ocean-like essence as the super fresh scallop melts in your mouth.


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Umi Ksmpschi Pc Melissa Chang

Photo: Melissa Chang


We are also impressed with the tuna crudo ($27), beef tartare ($26), and beautifully presented kampachi with fennel and jicama topped with a squid ink tuile.


Umi Abalone Pc Melissa Chang

Photo: Melissa Chang


If nothing else, get the abalone ($26) or ask to have it served last: Once it arrives, dinner is OVER. The tender abalone is topped with an umami bomb of a mushroom-miso crust, plus ogo and sea asparagus. Everyone at our table swoons, then struggles to willingly share the dish with fellow diners.


Don’t miss the crisp-tender fish and chips with house-made taro and sweet potato chips ($29), and surprise your palate with the arugula salad ($18) with onion tempura and tamarind vinaigrette.


Umi Ora King Salmon Pc Melissa Chang

Photo: Melissa Chang


A favorite from the main course menu is the seared scallops ($49) with foie gras gyoza and kabocha, which is rich and silky. I love the moist Ora King salmon ($43) with sesame eggplant, Maui onion and a dollop of ikura, but I am too full to truly enjoy the monchong ($45) with miso crust atop a creamy watercress essence. The rest of the table delivers moans of approval.


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Umi Sundae Pc Melissa Chang

Photo: Melissa Chang


Save room for dessert! The Umi is undoubtedly the signature, since it looks like rocks in a tide pool. It’s actually black sesame, ginger, butterfly pea and a matcha “sponge.” If you want something lighter, the liliko‘i pavlova is a good choice after a big dinner. My favorite is Garg’s riff on an ice cream sundae, with brown butter and vanilla bean ice cream and leaves that are reminiscent of a waffle cone, but better.


Umi’s breakfast and brunch dishes also reflect Garg’s international touch. To his surprise, he says, breakfast draws a lot of local patrons to Waikīkī.


Umi Loco Moco Melissa Chang

Photo: Melissa Chang


Our unanimous favorite, although not the most photogenic, is the masala omelet ($23), whose flavors reflect Garg’s Indian heritage. My second favorite is between the shakshuka ($24) with its Mediterranean tomato sauce and eggs and house-made sourdough, and the loco moco ($29) with Koshihikari rice, a savory beef patty, egg and Hamakua mushroom gravy. For a sweet breakfast, try the Instagrammable fluffy Mai Tai pancakes ($23) or the French toast ($21). And there is seafood: If you’re feeling like a baller, I can vouch that the $99 Osetra caviar on eggs in Parmesan cream, finger lime and buttered toast is well worth it.


Umi Chariot Du Pain Pc Melissa Chang

Photo: Melissa Chang


No matter what, don’t pass up the chariot du pain ($7), the trolley with the day’s selection of bread and pastry. Its seasonal preserves, milk jam, chocolate spread and cultured butter are all house-made. Slather one of these on your bread and grind a smidge of flaky salt on top. You’ll want to always start your day with this.


Breakfast daily from 7 to 11 a.m., dinner Wednesday to Sunday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Validated parking is available.  2233 Helumoa Road, (808) 744-4244,, @umi_vikramgarg