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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel graces Hawaiian monarchy in Honolulu, Hawaii

Princess Victoria Kaiulani Kalaniniuahilapalapa Kawekiui Lunalilo was born on October 16, 1875. Her parents were Princess Miriam Likelike, sister of King Kalakaua, and Archibald Cleghorn, from Scotland and once the governor of Oahu. Kaiulani was given an estate, called Ainahau, in Waikiki by Princess Ruth Keelikolani, the last surviving member of the Kamehamehas. Princess Kaiulani’s short life included highs and lows, befriending Robert Louis Stevenson, education aboard in England, the end of the Hawaiian monarchy, and Hawaii named as a republic of the United States. She would have been the next in line for the throne, but will always be remembered as young, beautiful, charming, and wise beyond her years.

The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani now graces Ainahau, Princess Kaiulani’s estate in Waikiki. The hotel rises above Waikiki with beautiful Makai (ocean), Mauka (mountain), and city views. The hotel has 1,142 rooms (including 10 junior suites) and has two restaurants, Pikake Terrace and Splash Bar and Bento. There are also on-site activities like ukulele lessons, Hawaiian quilting, lei making, kukui nut bracelet making, and more. The Ainahau Showroom also has evening show performances. Check their event calendar for more details.

  • Travel tip: Sign up for the SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) program. It’s free and you receive points for your hotel stays at all Starwood Hotels. Points can be redeemed for future hotel stays. Some of their hotels have floors just for SPG members as well.

If your room isn’t quite ready upon arrival, the Splash Bar & Bento is a great place to grab a bite and hang out next to the pool. “Flavors of Hawaii” Volcano Chicken Salad sautéed in a special marinade with lettuce, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, bell pepper, seasonal greens tossed in oriental dressing, and garnished with papaya and crispy taro chips. The salad is a good mix of local vegetables and fruits. The chicken would be better grilled than sautéed to help caramelize the marinade. Rating: 4/5

Kalua Pork Sandwich is smoky pulled pork served on focaccia bread with homemade BBQ dipping sauce, a trio of melted cheeses, and served with celery, carrot sticks, and ranch dipping sauce. If you like BBQ pork sandwiches, this sandwich is for you. I am more of a purist when it comes to kalua pig and like it plain or with cabbage. The BBQ sauce is overpowering. The portion is also huge so sharing would be more than adequate. Rating: 3/5

Waikiki activities to do/visit within walking distance (if you don’t have a rental car):
  • Waikiki Beach is right across Kalakaua Avenue.
  • Kings Village Shopping Mart is across Kaiulani Avenue. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, there is a farmer’s market with fresh island fruits and local artisanal foods for purchase. Eat some while you’re walking or take back to your room for a snack later.
  • Honolulu Zoo
  • You can also purchase tickets for the Waikiki Trolley with unlimited boarding privileges with four different routes and over 30 stops.

Ainahau Tower has cozy rooms with balconies and all of the creature comforts of a resort hotel: comfortable beds, air conditioning, mini refrigerator, TV, in-room safe, coffee maker, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, ice bucket and drinking glasses, and internet access. The room itself is a little small but the balcony helps open up the space. In the afternoon/evening, live Hawaiian and contemporary music from the pool can be heard in the High Ocean View, Tower Partial Ocean View, Pool View, and Deluxe Ocean View rooms. Relax on the balcony with a drink, let the ocean breeze erase the cares of the day and listen to music, all in the comfort of your own room.

Pikake Terrace has a wonderful dinner buffet with flavors that will make everyone in your party happy. Here are some items you might find on the buffet: snow crab legs with drawn butter, grilled steaks, kalua pig and cabbage, Caesar salad, ahi poke, and haupia for dessert. The culinary presentation itself, is a visual feast. The mix of local food and continental cuisine is perfect. Hopefully, your tummy will tell you when to stop. Rating: 5/5

If you are looking for hotel in Waikiki where you don’t need a car, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is the perfect place.

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 4 out of 5 stars
Food: 4 out of 5 stars

For more information:
120 Kaiulani Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815

Monday, March 30, 2015

Roy’s Hawaii Kai is the “Original Roy’s” in Honolulu, Hawaii

It all started here in 1988, when Roy Yamaguchi infused Hawaiian cuisine and ingredients with international flavors and techniques. The Hawaii Kai flagship restaurant location also has a beautiful view of Maunalua Bay. The Roy’s spans the Hawaiian Islands with 5 locations plus 21 on the mainland.

Menu changes daily based on availability of local ingredients. Here’s are some items you might see on your visit:

Prix Fixe appetizer plate includes Blackened Ahi, Chicken Spring Roll with Maui pineapple sweet and sour chili sauce, Kiawe Wood Smoked Szechuan Spiced Baby Back Rib, and Mini Hawaii Kai Style Crispy Crab Cake with spicy sesame butter sauce. Beautifully seared ahi was bright reddish-pink and succulent. The chicken spring roll was crispy on the outside with perfectly cooked vegetables and chicken inside. The szechuan pork rib was tender with a sweet and spicy Asian barbeque sauce on the outside. The mini crab cake resembled a croquette and bursted with lots of crab flavor and meat. Rating: 5/5

Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi was served atop a Maine lobster essence and served with red potatoes and asparagus. The plating was just stunning with ying and yang color effect. The fish was succulent and the macadamia nut crust added a contrasting crispy texture. Rating: 5/5

Classic Trio includes Blackened Ahi, Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi, Jade Pesto Steamed Monchong. The ahi paired well with the peppercorn brandy lobster sauce. I loved the garnish of pickled ginger, cabbage, and ogo. The monchong paired perfectly with the pesto and contrasted well with the bok choy in sizzling shoyu. A furikake musubi was served as a side item but I was way too full to eat it. Rating: 5/5

Macadamia Nut Tart was topped with vanilla bean ice cream. The tart shell tasted like Hawaiian-style shortbread cookies. The macadamia nut filling resembled a Hawaiian version of pecan pie. The nuts on top were caramelized imparting a sweet roasted flavor. The ice cream was very creamy and paired well with the macadamia nuts. Rating: 5/5

I must say, I have been to many Roy’s locations on the mainland, but nothing compares to the caliber of flavors and presentation at Roy’s Hawaii Kai. If you’re a Roy’s fan, this is a must stop when in Honolulu.

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
6600 Kalanianaole Hwy
Honolulu, HI 96825
Hours: Monday through Friday from 5:30pm, Saturday and Sunday from 5:00pm

Roy's on Urbanspoon

Merriman’s Waimea is home of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine in Kamuela, Hawaii

A little more than half way between Hilo and Kona, Hawaii is an upcountry town of Waimea. Chef Peter Merriman began his flagship restaurant, Merriman’s Waimea, over 20 years ago where locally sourced produce, meats, and seafood are only minutes away. From the exterior, it looks like a country store, but inside a tropical, fine dining journey awaits you.

Menus change with the trade winds and seasons. Here are some creations you might see on the menu.

Wine Flight du Fortnight is your opportunity to try four related but vastly different wines together. The flight totals 8 ounces of wine. On this visit, these wines were on the menu: Descendientes de J. Palacios “Villa de Corullon” (Bierzo, Spain) 2007, Elena Walch, Lagrein, D.O.C. (Alto Adige, Italy) 2008, Grant Burge Wines “Holy Trinity” (Barossa Valley, Australia) 2003, and Finca Sandoval, Manchuela (Manchuela, Spain) 2006.

Amuse bouche of edamame and pea puree is served with purple potato chips. The puree reminded me of guacamole with its green color and texture. But the flavor is more starchy than buttery. It is a stunning little palate of color. Rating: 4/5

Hirabara Greens topped with brown butter lilikoi dressing, Pepeekeo Peppercorn Brittle, Honopua beets, Nakano tomato and cucumber, and Big Island goat cheese. The ingredients have the perfect balance of flavors from sweet beets, brittle, and tomato; creamy and earthy goat cheese; and refresh and crispness of the cucumbers. It’s hues of color are also so beautiful! Rating: 5/5

Peter’s Original Caesar Salad is made with Hirabara Farms baby romaine, shaved parmesan, and croutons. The dressing is creamy but needs a bit more anchovy and garlic flavor. The lettuce is crisp and slightly sweet. Rating: 4/5

Hirabara Farm Earth Grown Lettuce Salad is topped with fennel, cucumber, radish, sweet onion, Waimea tomato, fresh squeezed lime and extra virgin olive oil. It is a simple salad with a lot of flavors. The lettuce varieties used have qualities of greenness, sweetness, and slight bitterness all their own. The lime and olive oil accentuate the flavors of each vegetable for an umami flavor. Rating: 5/5

Pan Roasted Mahi-Mahi is served atop Ninole heart of palm, Goo Farms peppers, bamboo-steamed sticky rice, and tamarind-lemongrass fumet. The mahi-mahi is perfectly roasted and it is soft and silky like butter. The heart of palm, peppers, and tamarind-lemongrass fumet give this dish an Asian flare. All of the juices that are left can be soaked up with the sticky rice with no drop to waste. Rating: 4.5/5

House Cured Pipikaula is sliced Kahua striploin sliced and served with cream corn, roasted eggplant, Nakano onion rings. The pipikaula is saltier than I am accustomed to. The meat was perfectly grilled, but had to be immediately paired with the cream corn to balance the flavor. The onion rings were the star of this dish with light, tempura-style batter with a juicy, sweet onion in the middle. Rating: 3/5

Macadamia Nut Crusted Ono is served with Hirabara Farms ginger sautéed broccolini, black forbidden rice, roasted Hamakua mushrooms, and miso-white wine truffle reduction. The macadamia nut crust adds a crisp texture on the outside and also helps seal the juices in the fish. The black forbidden rice has a nutty flavor which works well with the fish. The miso-white wine truffle reduction is luxurious! Use the rice to sop up the sauce. You don’t want to waste a drop! Rating: 5/5

Low Line Cattle Company Local Beef “Butcher Cut” is served with whipped potatoes, sautéed sweet corn, grilled Waimea asparagus, and red wine-roasted shallot sauce. The beef is so tender and juicy. Even though it resembles a “meat and potatoes” dish, it is much more than that. You can taste that everything is so fresh from the meat, the potatoes, and the vegetables. It’s amazing how the rich volcanic soil on the island makes everything so vibrant. Rating: 5/5

Hawaiian Hogs Berkshire Pork “En Vise” is a perfectly pan-roasted pork chop with pork “meatloaf” topped with roasted tomato served with stewed vegetables and polenta. The pork chop is meaty, tender, and juicy. The outside is perfectly caramelized from the pan.  The meatloaf ball had an Italian flavor profile to it. The roasted tomato acts as the “marinara sauce”. Polenta is a perfect side dish as it helps clean the palate between bites for the uber pork experience. Rating: 4.5/5

Merriman’s Original Work Charred Ahi is seared on the outside – sashimi on the inside. The ahi is top notch. Definitely sashimi-grade as it is so soft and tender. The fish on its own has a sweetness to it and a dip in the shoyu makes it perfect. The black forbidden rice is okay as a side, but would be better with just plain sticky rice. Rating: 4.5/5

Waimea Strawberries served with Hanaoka Farms passion white chocolate sabayon and Original Hawaiian Chocolate Shortbread. These are the best strawberries I have ever had! They are so sweet and juicy. The only strawberry that I have had that even come close are grown in Oxnard, CA. The sabayon is creamy and tastes like a crème brulee without the ramekin. The shortbread cookies are light, but buttery in flavor. Rating: 5/5

“Original Hawaiian Chocolate” Purse served with red wine caramel and vanilla ice cream. If you are a chocoholic, this is the dessert for you. The presentation is presented like a wrapped gift of chocolate dreaminess. With sweet and sour wine caramel mimicking a raspberry coulis, it works well with the chocolate. The vanilla ice cream is creamy and acts like a cream anglais that balances with the chocolate and wine flavors. Rating: 5/5

Get your okole out of the hotel and follow the rainbow to Merriman’s Waimea!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 4 out of 5 stars

For more information:
65-1227 Opelo Rd
Kamuela, HI 96743
Hours: Brunch – Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 1pm; Lunch – Monday through Friday from 11:30am to 1:30pm; Dinner – nightly from 5:30pm to 9:00pm

Merriman's on Urbanspoon