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Top of Waikiki

July 31, 2014

The day we arrived in Waikiki after a 4 night stay in Kona on the Big Island was a gorgeous, clear, sunny Hawaiian day.  There had been the threat of an afternoon storm bringing some showers, and while rain did fall on the North Shore of the island of Oahu, it never materialized over Waikiki.  We were in for a beautiful sunset that night and my husband and I decided we wanted to be able to enjoy the pretty view over dinner.  So, we chose a restaurant about 2 blocks away from the hotel called the Top of Waikiki.


Located on the 21st floor of the Waikiki Business Park, is a 360 degree revolving restaurant and bar called the Top of Waikiki.  Making a full 360 degree rotation with a full view of Waikiki beach and the hills over Honolulu in one hour, this is a terrific spot for people to come and enjoy the sunset and the lights come on over the city.  From the main drag in Waikiki, take the elevator up to the 18th floor, and then follow the signs for the escalators up to the restaurant.


When you reach the restaurant itself, you’re rewarded with a gorgeous view of Waikiki Beach.  Directly in front of us, the shorter pink building is the historic Royal Hawaiian hotel, and to the right of that, the tallest building is the Sheraton Waikiki, our hotel.  And beyond that is nothing but famous Waikiki Beach and the gorgeous, blue Pacific Ocean.  We had our reservations for dinner about 45 minutes before sunset so that we could have a view of Waikiki during the day, and also at night.  We came here expecting the view, and that’s what we got.  We weren’t sure what we should expect for the food, but it’s the view we were after so the food would just be icing on the cake.


We’re in Hawaii, right?  Let’s start the night off with some drinks!  I found myself a nice, fruity, tropical, non-alcoholic drink to enjoy.  Lilikoi Orange Bang, made with passion fruit puree, orange juice, lemon wedge, vanilla syrup and soda water.  There’s that vanilla syrup!  After having been to the Hawaiian Vanilla Company, I could automatically taste the vanilla syrup in the drink and I loved it.  It really helped to round out the flavor of the passion fruit puree and the tang of the lemon wedge.  This is exactly the type of tropical drink that I think off when I think of Hawaii.  It was cool, refreshing, tropical and fruity and perfectly hit the spot!


My husband decided to order the restaurant’s most popular drink, the Naughty or Nice?  Made with Cruzan strawberry rum, strawberry puree, sweet & sour, fresh mint, Serrano pepper slice and coconut water, my husband was in love with the first sip.  And then 10 seconds later, he was even more in love with it.  Ultimately, my husband said that this is his most favorite drink ever, and he’s had some drinks in his day.  Generally, my husband isn’t a fan of the sweet mixed drinks, and normally doesn’t drink rum at all because it’s too sweet.  However, it’s the mix of sweet and spicy in this drink that completely won him over.  On first taste, the sweet and fruity of the fresh strawberries and the strawberry puree really gets you.  But after that, it’s the sting of spice with the Serrano peppers in the end that seals the deal.  And my husband loved the bite of the Serrano peppers.  They were not, enough to burn a bit on the tongue, but not too hot.  This was an out-of-this world drink in his book.


To start dinner, my husband wanted to order the garlic fries appetizer.  This restaurant, like much of the food in Hawaii, has a little bit of an Asian-inspired, Asian-fusion style.  So the French fries were tossed in a soy and garlic butter sauce.  That mixture of the soy and the garlic butter was a terrific combination.  The sauce was “sticky” enough that it didn’t seep through the crunch French fries to make them all soggy.  The fries retained their crunch, but were coated in sweet and savory garlic sauce.  I would never have thought to combine soy with garlic butter, but this works.  It was great bar food to munch on before we got to our food.

After looking through the menu, my husband and I each agreed to order from restaurant’s prix fixe menu.  Luckily, they actually had 2 different menus to choose from and after looking at what you get with each menu, we discovered that one menu was definitely more to my liking and the 2nd menu was definitely more to my husband’s liking.  We figured this way, we would get the best of the best without actually having to make any decisions on what to order and we’d also get enough food along the way that we could try a variety of different dishes.  It seemed like the best of both worlds.

The prix fixe menu I chose came with 1 appetizer, 2 entrees and 1 dessert.  The prix fixe menu my husband chose came with 2 different appetizers, 1 salad, 2 entrees and 1 dessert.  I know it sounds like a lot of food, but the portions for each course were small, so it wasn’t that overwhelming.


For my first starter, I was served day boat scallops which were pan roasted and set atop sautéed local corn with applewood smoked bacon and topped with a balsamic and curry oil sauce.  I was a bit worried about the curry oil sauce as I’m not the biggest fan of curry oil, and while I could ultimately taste the curry oil, it actually wasn’t that bad and really did help to balance out the sweetness of the scallops and corn and the saltiness of the applewood smoked bacon.  I thought that the combination of the perfectly pan roasted scallop with the sautéed corn and bacon was perfect.  The corn was perfectly cooked so that it was still a bit crunchy rather than being soft and mushy and the bacon and the scallop worked well together.  The balsamic sauce also helped to add tang and a bit of spice to the dish.  This first course was much better than I expected the food at this restaurant to be.


The starter for my husband was a Korean inspired poke.  After our experience with poke at Rays on the Bay, my husband was really excited about this poke.  I admit that it also caught my eye, but I knew I would not really enjoy it because it was served with a really spicy Korean sauce.  According to the menu, the dish consists of fresh ahi (yellowfin tuna) with onions and jalapenos in a soy ko chu jang sauce and served in a Kula baby romaine lettuce leaf.  One bite in my husband told me I definitely wouldn’t want to try this as it was rather spicy.  However, for him, he loves spicy food so he didn’t have a problem with it at all.  My husband enjoyed the different flavors of this poke and thought that the tuna was really fresh and the soy ko chu jang sauce just enhanced the flavor of the fish.


My husband’s 2nd starter was a lump crab cake served with housemade tartar sauce.  As I’m a big fan of crab cake as well, my husband actually let me have half of his crab cake.  I thought the crab cake was just ok.  Certainly not the best crab cake I’ve ever had as I felt like the inside of the crab cake was a bit undercooked therefore causing it to feel a bit mushy whereas I prefer that my crab cake is more dry with bread crumbs and crunchy both inside and outside.  This crab cake seemed to be golden brown and crunchy on the outside but that was lacking on the inside, though the cake was packed full of crab flavor.  But this is probably more personal preference rather than anything wrong with their crab cake.  That, of course, didn’t prevent my husband and I from finishing off the crab cake though.


The salad that came with my husband’s prix fixe meal was a pear salad with port poached d’anjou pears and fresh Asian pears with Ma’o Farms organic sassy mix, candied walnuts, cambazola lumpia, and a port raspberry vinaigrette and balsamic reduction.  I really liked the fresh Asian pears with this salad as it gave it a crisp texture and fresh taste.  The port raspberry vinaigrette and balsamic reduction worked well with the greens, the pears and the candied walnuts.  My husband loved the idea of the cambazola lumpia.  Serving the cheese for the salad in that form was unique and creative.


By the time our appetizers and salads had been served, the sun had set over Waikiki Beach and the lights of Waikiki and Honolulu started to twinkle.  The view was gorgeous and romantic and exactly the atmosphere we were looking for when we decided to dine at Top of Waikiki.


On to the entrees.  My husband’s first entrée was called yukari and bubu arare crusted onaga (long tail red snapper).  The fish was served with Kombucha and shrimp risotto and picked Japanese vegetables.  The presentation gorgeous with a very colorful plate.  The picked vegetables surrounded the fish and the snapper sat atop a bed of shrimp risotto.  I’m not sure my husband really touched the picked vegetables, or if he did, he ate little of it, but he certainly loved the flavors of the flaky white long tail red snapper and he thought that the Kombucha and shrimp risotto matched nicely with the fish and complimented it well.  I certainly heard no complains from him on his first entrée.


My first entrée was pan roasted ahi (yellow fin tuna) seared with Hanakua Eryngi mushroom relish and served atop kai choy sauce.  Although I’m not a big fan of mushrooms, the mushroom relish actually wasn’t that bad.  The kai choy sauce added great flavor to the dish but also made it visually appealing.  Kai choy is green mustard cabbage, often used picked to make soups in Asian dishes, this time it was pureed into a colorful and vibrant green sauce that actually married well with the seared ahi tuna.  The tuna was cooked perfectly and pretty much melted in my mouth.


The second entrée brought out for my meal was the soy miso short ribs.  I was really looking forward to this dish.  Soy miso braised short ribs were served with wasabi mashed potatoes and a shrimp and corn relish.  The wasabi mashed potatoes were outstanding.  The wasabi added enough flavor and interest to the mashed potatoes without being extremely overpowering.  There was only a hint of spiciness in the aftertaste.  The shrimp and corn relish was a great contrast in flavors and textures to the creamy mashed potatoes and the melt-in-your-mouth short ribs.  But the soy short ribs were definitely the star.  The meat was so tender and luscious and the braising liquid that was served over the dish was just the right amount of sweetness and saltiness for the dish.  This dish, for me, was a real winner.


My husband’s second entrée was surf in turf.  The dish was beautifully presented as three small helpings of pan roasted beef tenderloin topped with Hamakua Eryngi mushrooms atop Twin Bridge Farms with Waialua asparagus and bacon and truffle jus, Kona cold lobster half tail and fingerling potatoes covered in a soubise cheese sauce.  My husband gave me half of the Kona cold lobster tail and I fell in love with it.  The lobster was so sweet and succulent and perfectly cooked.  I think once my husband had his half of the lobster tail he probably regretted giving me half of it because that meant there was less for him.  The beef tenderloin was tasty and tender and the portions of all 3 components of the surf and turf were just the right size.  Of course, the fingerling potatoes covered in cheese sauce, how could my cheese-loving husband not enjoy those?


Finally, we make it to dessert.  The dessert that was served with my meal was chocolate macadamia nut art with vanilla gelato and salted caramel sauce.  Personally, I wasn’t expecting much out of this dessert because a chocolate macadamia nut tart would be something I just wouldn’t order for dessert.  To me, it’s kind of like pecan pie, I just don’t like nuts that much that I’d order something with nuts for dessert.  The vanilla gelato was delicious, and combined with the tart it made the tart palatable.  But let me tell you, this tart was jam packed with macadamia nuts, to the point that the chocolate was really second fiddle.  I imagine if you liked macadamia nuts, you’d probably love this tart.  But, I was good with the gelato, and only ultimately finished about half of the tart.  Luckily, my husband wasn’t about to let a good tart go to waste, so he swooped in to the rescue and finished off the rest of the tart for me.


My husband’s dessert was mango crème brulee made with a creamy mango puree topped with a caramelized vanilla bean sugar topping.  The entire dish was then topped with some sort of fresh mango relish.  Like my dessert, my husband thoroughly enjoyed his creamy mango dessert and devoured the whole thing.  He liked the flavor of the mango crème brulee and felt that they made it with fresh pureed mangos, which is a good thing.

All in all, our dinner at Top of Waikiki was terrific, much better than either of us had ever expected.  We went for the atmosphere and the views, and ended up loving the food and the drinks as well.  This was a terrific setting for a nice, romantic dinner in Waikiki while we watched the sun set over the gorgeous beach and the lights of the city come to life.  The food was delicious and well prepared and cooked.  The drinks were over the top fantastic.  What a way to spend the evening with my husband during our Hawaiian vacation.


One Comment leave one →
  1. leumas permalink
    August 2, 2014 10:43 pm

    I’ve had that drink before and it is definitely top shelf.

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